Images 1-10 by Essen A Taste magazine© – Imgs 11-21 Campagne e scatti di Burgez©
If you think you know what a hamburger is you’re probably wrong. There’s never been one in Milan. There are only gourmet hamburgers; the ones, which the Milanese Imbruttito (real locals) would call giargiana (foreign) burgers eaten at street food vendors, are very few. Sure, sure, except for a couple of places (it’s worth remembering at least Denzel kosher on Viale Washington).
Well, here at Burgez, you eat a good quality burger, a good height as per the wall posters, with real organic meat. Everything simply cooked. 6 varieties: big, mush, chicken, smoke, cheese and burger. Cooked according to strict rules; few ingredients but extreme quality and knowledge; the meat is from Bavarian cattle under 30 months of age that are allowed a prolonged grazing; the bread is made from potato flour with very fine openings that are able to absorb all the juice of the fillings; even the water is carefully selected, Acquapax, that is spring mineral water at a PH of 7.1; coffee is served as in the US – and you can finally take away to keep your hands warm and without burning yourself thanks to the supporting band on the cup – just a few things and it’s already a success. Finally a mixed public like we haven’t seen for centuries in the capital of the north.
Who prepares them? Simone and Martina are in the kitchen, helped during rush hour by a pair of smart family collaborators. Both kitchen experts (Martina worked for Shake Shack, the lucky New York small chain, Simone has contact with the best national chefs thanks to his work in OVO and to his co start up of the video and kitchen production Hitchcocque srl bistart-up). They’re socially active – on Instagram everyone posts their burgez campaigns – and maybe thanks to friends, testimonials, the location in Tortona, and to a natural form of communication they’re already part of the citizens’ culinary panorama, their word of mouth and habits. Located in via Savona 15 they’re not afraid of the disorientation of other small businesses that go from locally brewed beer to soups to okyon…
It’s a place where finally you can dine without stress and eat well, queuing for the right amount but maybe spending less than the right amount. Things done well and without the pressure of showing who’s best or the most popular.
Simone Ciaruffoli, who has a very extensive career mainly in cinema and artistic direction, told us his story on food, places to eat and Burgez of course.
Why do you think there’s a proliferation of gourmet premises?
The gourmet versions of simple and popular products give permission for kitchen novices to call themselves chefs, obviously being novices they tend to go for ‘low’ products, giving them a high re evaluation (the opposite would be desirable): the gourmet piadina, the gourmet kebab, the gourmet hamburger, the gourmet pizza, etc. The other motive resides in the fact that catering entrepreneurs often have an easier life if they approach an ‘easy’ product meaning that they are often the front line food entrepreneurs who often witness a flourishing rebirth of the market as they dive into it headfirst.
So do you think it’s about cheap entrepreneurs, not about passion in any way?
Cooking has become a lifestyle and as such it doesn’t come from a real passion, or urgency, but from market demand. The Chef Company thus creates a need that we prepare less of our own food, as I said earlier, similar to what all big companies have done over the centuries, like in cinema, contemporary art, music, etc. A lifestyle, which is a way of living, is like an ideology and whoever follows one promotes a system that restricts freedom of thought and action. When ideologies such as fashion, cinema or art in general become modalities and are no longer a pure and organic instrument, they have the power to divide into sectors and attract followers that would do anything for them. Look at cinema for example, for many years now intellectual cinema has belonged to marginal countries, Iran, Korea, Muslim cinema, it’s a trend, you feel intellectual if you partake, even Inarritu for example, has become a prophet for the hipsters, fashionistas, clubbers, designers, not to mention Wes Anderson, but passion for cinema is something different. And cooking is also something different. It’s the companies that decide on young people’s tastes, never the other way round, and it’s the same people who make them believe they have their own tastes when in reality they’ve been subtly slipped into their pockets without their knowledge.
So it’s always only an economic matter according to you?
So, going back to gourmet, lowering the gourmand threshold, or rather, making even canned tuna gourmet, creates another fundamental mess: an increase in the price of products that in reality would cost 2 or 3 times less. A bit like Big Pharma who imposed a lowering of individual health levels so that people now reach the cholesterol threshold sooner and a disproportionate amount of medicine is sold to lower cholesterol. Gourmet does inversely; it raises the price of the piadina to sell it for 8 Euros, meanwhile where I’m from (Marche-Romagna) an exceptionally good piadina costs half as much. Yes it’s almost entirely an economic matter.
What’s an example of Milanese gourmet that you don’t like?
Obviously the gourmet hamburger. Italians have gone from eating hamburgers at the pub to a gourmet hamburgers without passing go, I mean, without trying a real hamburger. They just don’t know what a real one is or how to make it. It’s for this reason that the worst hamburgers are in Italy. Apart from the United States, excellent hamburgers are eaten in Great Britain, Germany, Spain, but not in France where when it comes to refining basic products they are almost as bad as us. They believe in putting in special meat (Fassona, Chianina, Kobe) or special products such as buffalo mozzarella or pate’ or other things to the standard noble hamburger, which by its very nature incorporates maximum goodness and nobility in its popular and simple existence. Mortadella is mortadella and it’s good because there’s nothing above it. Would you ever put an oyster in a bun? Would you ever make a gourmet mortadella or a gourmet finocchiona? Food is good not only when you use great ingredients, but it’s also good when it’s good and that’s it. Special meat such as Kobe and Fassona are amazing on the plate, not minced and put in a bun, for this practice there are other cuts. And now it’s also time to dispel the ‘km zero’. If a good product is 1000km away and one of lesser quality is at your house, it’s obviously better to get the one that is 1000kn away. Therefore, it’s all about the ‘good km’ not the ‘km zero’.
But hey, isn’t the aesthetics of a dish another element of gourmet?
Exactly. These days presentation counts for a lot. Many restaurants are only gourmet in virtue of their presentation. If you like, it’s ruin of contemporary cuisine, it’s done more damage than the Nouvelle Vague cinematography; in any way, from Bonvesin de la Riva onwards Italy started to disproportionately appreciate extreme presentations, but it’s also true that in the 2000s things began to get seriously worse. When I talk about presentation, I’m obviously referring to the extreme side of things, like when someone says “the plate has to be like a painting” say what? You eat a painting? When you express the phrase “this dish is so beautiful it’s a shame to eat it” you have just declared the defeat of the chef who made it, in actual fact it’s a real shame to ruin the presentation because that dish seems to have been made to be kept in a museum or a photo shoot on social media. If there’s a beautiful naked lady in your bed and despite her beauty you stay looking at her for too long without making a move, there’s something that’s not right, either with you or with her. The greats, the real greats, make dishes presentable to be eaten in a nano second, it’s not even a presentation but rather a taming of the random. The more seconds that dish stays intact on the plate the greater the defeat of the recipe that underpins it. Instead I think about the marvellous presentations of Nadia Santini, Fulvio Pierangelini, Lucio Pompili, Gianfranco Vissani up until the pinnacle of Uliassi, for example, and their amazing organic efficient and loving presentations.
This extreme struggle for presentation is to make a dish gourmet but it’s also to present oneself differently from others. Don’t you think?
Certainly. Today, the extreme research of diversity, to do that which has never been done, has been stepped up a notch, but it can only be done in new or naturally obsolescent fields such as technology, cinema and a few others. To do that which has never been done is not necessarily a virtue, actually, doing it often means setting aside efficiency and losing the real motive for which it has been carried out. These days beauty is in making bicycles with enormous tyres or motorbikes with enormous tyres but small fuel tanks, with the first type you get twice as worn out and with the second you consume more fuel but go half as far. Hell, once upon a time maximum beauty matched perfectly with maximum efficiency, for everything. But for absolutely everything. Was it functional? Yes and then it was beautiful. Think of the marvellous designs in the 50s and 60s, then think about some of today’s stuff.
And what about you, why did you open Burgez and leave your creative work?
Essentially for two reasons: because I wanted to do something for myself and because I wanted to get my hands on something tangible, I wanted to get my hands dirty so to speak.
So after everything you’ve said to me Burgez couldn’t be a gourmet hamburgeria, right?
Correct. Burgez is a fast food outlet, that’s simply it. Sure, it’s fast food where the products are fresh, the buns are the right ones and the meat is good. The result of this is that the burger is the real one. To help you understand, it’s like the ones you ate at McDonalds in the 50s before it become the chain it is today, it’s the one you find in the United States in the small chains or alternatively in certain WASP areas. We’re not making any claims apart from giving you something that history has already given us. No weird research, just going to Germany and the United States to understand what the perfect burger is, that’s all we’ve done.
You left OVO for Burgez. Does communication and Burgez have something in common?
If we start with the assumption that it’s impossible not to communicate and that even a person that doesn’t talk or stutters communicates, then yes OVO and Burgez have a lot in common. There’s a desire to offer something that’s good and nice, the desire to provide enjoyment for people. And lastly, but not less importantly however, the desire to do business. And then, in a way, a bit of the work I used to do I’m still doing since I personally take care of communication at Burgez.
In the last year lots and lots of restaurants and places have opened where you can eat well, how do think you’ll survive in this competitive Milanese market?
The competition that exists in Milan doesn’t exist anywhere else, places open and close every day, for this reason I believe that in Italy, there’s no better place than Milan to start a new business. If there’s a lot of competition there’s a lot of reception, desire to try new things, sure the risk of failing is high but in order not to fail you just have to offer a good product, at least that’s what I hope.
How did you choose your area?
Simple, we looked for a place for a year and when we found one without a cost for relinquishing tenancy (in Milan they ask for exorbitant sums, 200000-300000 Euro for a 50 sq metre place) and a low rent we took it, that’s in via Savona 15. When I say we had little money I’m not joking, the graphics, the packaging and even the internal design I did all myself, despite the fact that it’s not my trade and that next door to our place there’s a great interior designer with whom we couldn’t collaborate because of our economic restrictions. Then on opening day, this makes you laugh, we opened without a cash register, we hardly had enough money for change.
Is Burgez yours or do you have a partner or a financer?
There are two other girls, who are two financial partners, fantastic and fundamental workers, and like me they’re from Fano. This explains the motive for the name Burgez, all three of us are united by the fact that owing to the area where we’re from we have difficulty pronouncing Z.
Burgez is pet friendly.
To go to the Burgez community Instagram: instagram.com/instaburgez/