The ‘Gypsy Chef’ behind cult bun show, ADRIFT, talks to What’s On about true burger greatness…

Burgs, glorious burgs, but should they be smashed, flame-grilled or grease fried? Whilst we’re on the theme, Potato-bunned, brioched, and pink inside? Just thinking of juice-drip squidge, condiments are the next question… Then double patties, with cheese on top, worth potential indigestion?

What’s On is committed to tackling the deep philosophical quandaries of our times, and on today’s plate is the debate topic ‘does the perfect burger exist?’ Is there an objective ‘ultimate meat sandwich?’ Or is it just a matter of taste? Can we find a common base, golden burger principles, or universal toppings to which we all subscribe?

To help us answer that question, we’ve enrolled the help of a true expert on the subject. A man versed in many culinary disciplines, but possessed of a forever love, for the humble burger — celebrity, Michelin-recognised ‘Gypsy Chef’, David Myers…

Set ADRIFT on a burgery bliss

His cult burger joint, ADRIFT proved to be a ‘smashed’ hit at Expo 2020, and now, just days away from the opening of the brand’s first permanent UAE location at Yas Mall (the shutters come up on Tuesday, May 2), we’ve got the inside scoop on both the science, and the art, behind what the New York Times called ‘the perfect burger’.

You’ll also find a list of some of those covetous menu items below.

What’s On: Where did your search for the perfect burger take you? 

David Myers: No further than my family’s kitchen. I was very lucky growing up. My mom made, what I consider, the perfect burger which was super simple with great ground beef, high quality cheddar cheese and a secret sauce which was amazing. That to me was the perfect burger. I tried many burgers all over the US, certainly around the globe – from super fancy with truffle and foie gras, to the simplest burger with mustard and pickles. And I still think what my mom made was the perfect burger.

WO: What makes the perfect burger for you, what are the core elements, and what can there be flexibility on?

DM: The perfect burger for me is about simplicity. It starts with great quality meat and the right balance of fat and texture. I think the simpler the condiments on it, the better. The bun I prefer soft, but firm enough to hold the meat and hold all the juices in. At home I prefer to grill my burger over Bincho-tan, so it has a nice flavour to it.

WO: Your individual restaurants celebrate a wide range of cuisines, what international elements have made their way as influences into your burgers? 

DM: The ADRIFT Burger is the perfect example. We do a tomato and ajwan jam, which was inspired by wanting to put a burger on the menu in Singapore that really exemplified the feeling of being in Singapore but also having that Californian heartbeat. We added an herb aioli, pickled jalapeños, as well as arugula. The tomato and ajwan jam is a great representation of what a melting pot of cultures and cuisines Singapore really is. The Indian influence of the ajwan spice with a bit of sundried tomatoes, which is very Californian, really exemplifies it and tastes awesome.

WO: What’s something that a lot of burger chains get wrong? 

DM: I tend to focus on what we can get right within our own group. To me, that is a very authentic story around the burger – something that comes from a place of history. That’s what we have with the burger that my mom used to make for me as a kid. Keeping it super simple with the best ingredients and delivering it with your own heartbeat. I think that ADRIFT Burger Bar gets it right on so many levels with an authentic story, high quality ingredients, done as simply as possible.

WO: Are there any forbidden burger varieties for you? 

DM: Not really, each to their own. Everyone has their own taste. For me personally, I don’t see myself putting pineapple on a burger anytime soon.

What’s On the menu..?

  • The DM Burger: The brand’s signature serving — now recognised as a true Cali classic — a medium-rare patty topped with bougie-oozy Vermont cheddar cheese, shaved onion and lettuce, topped with a secret sauce, crowned with a brioche bun
  • The 1940s Classic Burger: Taking it old skool, this is Myers’ homage to the iconic meatcwhich from the glory days of the American diner, a straight-up, no fluff, cheeseburger with classic ‘fixins’ and house sauce.
  • ADRIFT Burger: Order up! One medium-rare burger topped with a sweet ‘n’ sour tomato ajwan jam, heat from pickled jalapeños, a creamy herb aioli, peppery arugula, *makes Italian gesture* authentic Parmigiano and a sharp hit of gruyere cheese
  • Impossible Earth Burger: The 1940s Classic – but make it good for the planet, here you get all that old-timey Americana magic with a plant-based patty, vegan cheese and mayo on a vegan potato bun.
  • Good Morning Burger: Because what’s the point of exercise if burgers can’t be breakfast? This AM special comes loaded with a 5oz beef patty topped with a fried egg, gooey gruyere cheese, tomato ajwan jam, herb aioli and arugula.

ADRIFT Burger Bar, Level 1 Yas Mall, Yas Island, Sun to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thu to Sat 10am to midnight.

Images: Provided