Toronto’s newest underground chef competition, The Burger Brawl, is back – and this time, the stakes are higher: the winner of the second Burger Brawl will compete against the first winner, Chef Vittorio Colacitti, on June 10 at Canteen. Then, things get real. The winner of that brawl will be flown to Vancouver (care of Samuel Adams) for a chance to compete against Chef Trevor Bird at Fable Kitchen on June 11.
So who are the two lucky guys competing Wednesday, May 20? For round two, Chef Eric Wood (Chopped Canada, Maple Leaf Tavern) and Chef Dennis Tay (Top Chef Canada, DaiLo) are battling it out at Queen West’s La Palette. Both chefs have reputations for making people’s heads turn when it comes to food, so expect something unexpected.
Chef Eric Wood has made waves in Toronto especially during his time at The Beverley Hotel, where this chef had a burger that was the talk of the town (think haloumi and watermelon). Since then he’s competed on Chopped Canada and, more recently, has become the executive chef at Port and Maple Leaf Tavern. We have no doubt Chef Tay is in for quite the brawl.
In his own light, Chef Dennis Tay is no stranger to competition. He competed in Top Chef Canada Season 3, getting eliminated early and then brought back a few shows later only to make it all the way to the end. Since then he has opened the wildly buzzy DaiLo with Nick Liu and has successfully managed to make it one of Toronto’s best new restaurants.
These boys are no joke and we expect the second edition of Burger Brawl to create a stir. We sat down with both chefs to talk burgers. Both humble, the pair feels pretty confident about taking the other on. It’s anyone’s guess who will take the cake.
When you’re craving a burger, what is your ideal creation?
Eric Wood: I love a good cheese burger, and any variation on that. I’ll get my butcher to grind me something in the shop, maybe some dry-age trim in there too, and I have a wood grill at home, so that really makes it the best. That and some good-aged gouda or cheddar, pickled onions and some fresh aioli. Nothing better. The Burgers Priest and Holy Chuck are two of my favourite “faster” food burgers, especially the really bonkers over the top ones. The trick for me is a cold beer or a coke with it. That’s nostalgia.
Dennis Tay: I love an old school dirty burger. Simple just done right. Juicy patty cooked properly, gooey cheese, lightly toasted soft bun, fresh lettuce, tomato and onion, ketchup, mustard and the pickle is so key.
What condiments are a must-have to make a burger even more delicious?
Eric Wood: Pickles. It’s all about the pickles. You need that briny goodness to cut through the meat, and that’s the ticket for a good burger to me. Be it dill pickles, pickled mushrooms, or onions. The only thing that’s off base would be green relish. That’s disgusting.
Dennis Tay: Like I said earlier, keep it simple with the classics and the pickle is of utmost importance.
What secret ingredient makes or breaks a burger?
Eric Wood: 100 per cent, the bun is the biggest make or break. Too bready, no good, and if it splits or falls apart, no good. The bun should be proportional to the meat, and should be the right texture. There’s a science to this, but I can’t reveal more without … you know.
Dennis Tay: I don’t think there are any secret ingredients when it comes to a burger. Anything is fair game and has been done before. It’s how you use and pair those ingredients together that will either bring your burger to the next delicious level or not.
What do you know about your opponent’s cooking style?
Eric Wood: Dennis has me guessing a bit. Is he gonna throw out some Sick Filipino flavour, which I hope he does, or is he going to go more classic and dialed in, which I know he’s got. He’s the real deal, super talented and a real competitor. He’s gonna give me a run for it, but bring it. I am ready and I’ve got a plan, either way.
Dennis Tay: I know he’s very talented, passionate and can cook pretty much any style. I have a lot of respect for Chef Wood.
Since you are in the dark about what protein will be available the night of the brawl, what’s on your wish list? What’s on your “please not that protein” list?
Eric Wood: I have an inkling as to what it will be due to the location of the battle, and I’m all for it. As long as it’s got some fat content, and we don’t have to do too much knife-work to clean it, I can make it work with anything. Only hoping it’s not something like an octopus or quails. That would suck.
Dennis Tay: To be honest I’m down for anything. I know I can make a pretty tasty burger out of pretty much any protein.
What about your burger creation do you think will knock your opponent out?
Eric Wood: I’ve got a couple tricks up my sleeve, I think. It’s all about the details and balance. Depending on the meat, there’s going to be some variation, but seasoning, balance and layers of BIG flavour are going to be my approach.
Dennis Tay: Although I love to eat a classic burger, I’m going to be thinking outside the box for this one, I think. I’m hoping creativity and execution will win over the judges.
Apart from your own, what/where is the best burger you’ve ever had?
Eric Wood: It’s hard to compete with the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern in NYC. It’s perfect, all about that meat, and really simple, but every facet is dialed in. You don’t need foie gras or some silly Bao bun to make it interesting.
Dennis Tay: My favourite burger is the burger at Richmond Station. Braised short rib stuffed and everything done so well. It’s a burger I’ll never get sick of.
Who do you think will take home the big win? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.