The culinary mastermind behind the Momofuku restaurant group, PBS’ The Mind of a Chef, and Lucky Peach was cooking up some burgers in Santa Monica on Monday night—thanks to Budweiser.
The inaugural Bud and Burgers Championship launch event attracted 50 or so of L.A.’s most rabid beer-that-comes-in-30-packs enthusiasts, all crammed around communal tables eagerly awaiting chef David Chang’s four-course pairing menu. The Budweiser-branded centerpieces looked like they jumped out of an episode of Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee, but in a good way.
Don’t mistake this for your typical case of chef-begrudgingly-meets-endorsement-deal—Chang has been one of the world’s most outspoken and genuine macro-brew advocates for some time.
“Cheap beer is, no joke, the champagne of beers,” Chang declared in a piece he wrote for last October’s GQ. “In my fridge, the only beer—practically the only foodstuff I’ve ever purchased for home—is Bud Light bottles.” According to a Budweiser rep, that article was the driving force behind the union of the two juggernauts.
Dinner kicked off with a variety of hand-passed appetizers, an heirloom tomato salad, and hand-cut chips with pimento cheese. But the main attraction, the dish that made entire tables collectively grab for their cameras and scramble towards diffused light, was the ground short-rib burger with American cheese and bread-and-butter pickles—a main course as simple, craveable, and red-blooded-American as the beer it accompanied.
When Chang addressed the crowd to explain the dish and answer to its resounding minimalism, he made his burger politics extremely clear: “If you want vegetables, make a salad.”
That was the general tone of the night: A sort of hardcore commitment to anti-craft while still paying obsessive attention to detail.
Budweiser’s attending brewmaster explained that the Signature Draft filling our cups was kept 7 degrees colder than most beers to create a foamier head and a creamier mouthfeel. I never thought about Budweiser’s mouthfeel before that night—but damn if it wasn’t creamy.
The Bud and Burgers Championship will be seeking out the best home-cooked burger from 10 events all across the nation, culminating on July 4 with the grand finale held at the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis. The champion will receive $100,000, a feature on Esquire network’s upcoming reality show The United States of Burgers, and—most important—chef David Chang’s undying respect.