Chef – the Movie

Food Truck Flick Hits Home

Nope, not a burger in sight in the movie, Chef, but there are cubanos and medianoches,* slow-cooked Texas BBQ, beignets, and a swoon-worthy grilled cheese.

Chef movieThe story goes like this — After chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) clashes with his boss and the chef’s bad choices go viral on YouTube, he heads to Miami to regroup. With the help of his estranged wife (Sofía Vergara) and son (Emjay Anthony), and Martin, his best pal and cook (John Leguizamo), Casper overhauls a ragtag food truck. While on the road back to L.A. with his son and Martin, Casper transforms himself into El Jefe, “the Boss” of the Cuban sandwich, as well as a pretty nice guy.

Favreau was El Jefe of the film, writing, directing and staring in the production, but he was aptly supported by his co-stars, especially Leguizamo and Vergara (once you shake off her Modern Family association), and Oliver Platt, who plays the puffed-up food critic, Ramsey Michel. The star power doesn’t stop there. Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman and the ever-cocky, Robert Downey, Jr. all show up and add subtle seasoning to the film.

Another star, mostly behind the scenes, was Roy Choi, of Kogi BBQ. Like fictional Chef Casper, Choi started out with a modest truck and quickly became an icon of L.A. street food. Choi coached Favreau on the minutia of food trucks and food, from kitchen design to food prep.

Chocked with enough food porn to balance the sweetness of the story, Chef is a family-friendly summer flick that speaks to the foodie and food truck fan in all of us. Plus, the movie has a special message for those on both ends of the restaurant social media biz – the chefs and owners and the critics and humble bloggers.

*There is a difference.

The Oklahoma Onion Burger Legacy

Anybody Know Where to Get a Good Onion Burger?

Hamburger toppings come and go, but none have become as ubiquitous and as loved as onions. In Oklahoma, onions aren’t just a topping – they are an integral part of the burger experience and a legacy from bygone days.

“Onion burger” was a lovely sound to my foodie ears, and while I wasn’t quite sure what they were, I knew I wanted one.

Katie Johnstonbaugh, author of Food Lovers’s Guide to Oklahoma, encountered onion burgers when she first moved to Oklahoma. She describes her first  experience — a visit to Bunny’s Onion Burger — in her blog.

Onion burger was a lovely sound to my foodie ears, and while I wasn’t quite sure what they were, I knew I wanted one,” she said in the post.

Bunny's onion Burgers
It’s fun to sit at the bar at Bunny’s and watch the grill man create an onion burger

After trying one? She was hooked — the onions hard-seared into the meat, the stringent oniony perfume… the flavor. Now, Katie gives Best Burger Review readers the low-down on this unique and tasty part of Oklahoma’s food story.

Fried Onion Burgers, The List

Many years ago in Oklahoma, near the Great Depression, restaurants decided to stretch their buck by adding onions to their burgers when they tossed them on the flat grill. The result was that folks LOVED the flavor addition of grilled onions. The onion burger was invented and has stuck with us here ever since. There is even a giant celebration in El Reno, Oklahoma, each year devoted solely to the onion burger where the world’s largest onion burger is created and served to the public.

There are many local places in Oklahoma to get a great onion burger today and the tell-tale smell left on your clothing and hair is a dead giveaway you’ve been to one of them! It’s a small price to pay!

Some of Katie’s favorite places to grab a great onion burger (in addition to Bunny’s) around Oklahoma are:

Tucker’s – Their small but gratifying menu consists of a single or double premium onion burger hand-formed from fresh meat from Creekstone Farms right here in Oklahoma. There is also a turkey burger that is perhaps the best I’ve had at a restaurant. But then, there’s the “Mother Tucker” which is over one pound of fried onion burger goodness (triple beef and onions). (Review)

Tucker's Onion Burger
Tucker’s – Beef Onion Burger (100% All-Natural Creekstone Farms Black Angus Beef)

Claud’s Hamburgers, in Tulsa – If you can locate the small white building located away from main street Peoria Avenue in Tulsa then you’ve found a diamond in the rough my friends. Opened in 1954, Claud’s has been frying up onion burgers for over fifty years the same way. They smash them onto a flat griddle with some chopped onions, top them with American Cheese and serve them with some great hand-cut French fries or homemade cole slaw.

The “El Reno Trinity” – Sid’s Diner, Robert’s Grill and Johnnie’s Grill – Everyone is loyal to one of these three in El Reno, and they will fight you to the death over their opinion. Robert’s, in my opinion has bigger burgers and you get more for your buck, but you won’t go wrong in any of these places.

(Ed. Note: You can find a recipe for Sid’s Onion Burger in Saveur).

(Photos courtesy of Dishin & Dishes)

Katie JohnstonbaughKatie Johnstonbaugh is the creator of the food blog, Dishin & Dishes, a TV food personality for Freedom 43tv, and author of Food Lovers’s Guide to Oklahoma. Find out which burger Katie secretly loves in our Burger People interview.

Katie Johnstonbaugh, Author

Burgers, Beyond the Onions 

Katie Johnstonbaugh is the creator of the food blog, Dishin & Dishes, a Katie JohnstonbaughTV food personality for Freedom 43tv, and author of Food Lovers’s Guide to Oklahoma. She told us about Oklahoma’s fried onion burgers.

BBR: What is your Favorite Burger?
My favorite burger that I make at home would (have) cheese stuffed inside, (aka Juicy Lucy). I make one (called the All-American Stuffed Burger on my blog) that has chopped, cooked bacon and Greek yogurt (to keep it moist) mixed in with the raw hamburger meat before it’s shaped into patties. The cheese I stuff inside is smoked cheddar. While that’s cooking, I caramelize some onions to top it, then add some made-in-Oklahoma BBQ sauce called Head Country. The result is unbelievable!

All American Stuffed Burger
You’ll want to make Katie’s All American – Cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions…

BBR: What is the best burger in your current city?
The best burger in (Oklahoma City) is all about the buns. Republic Gastropub serves up their signature burger, “The Republic Burger,” with some fantastic toppings like caramelized onion, applewood smoked bacon relish, a couple of cheeses like bleu and Gruyere, and then adds some arugula and a perfectly fried egg on top. The meat is a custom blend of Angus beef that is hand-pattied. But the thing that sends it over the top for me are the homemade pretzel buns. They are fantastic!

BBR: What burger is on your bucket list?
The burger that is definitely on my bucket list might be surprising to you after all those horribly unhealthy ingredients I’ve previously listed. It’s the Earth Burger, from Umami Burger, in Los Angeles. The patty is made with mushroom and edamame, and has a white soy aioli, truffled ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce and slow roasted tomatoes. It comes on a grilled brioche bun.  If you’ve had a brioche bun before you just sighed with me didn’t you?

Republic Burger
The Republic Burger –  Bleu and Gruyere, bacon-caramelized onion jam …

BBR: What burger do you love but are embarrassed to admit?
Oh my. The Whopper. I worked at Burger King in high school and still love the taste of one. Memories? Reflections? High school era nostalgia? Either way I do grab one once in a blue moon. Shhh, please don’t tell anyone!?

(Photos courtesy of Dishin & Dishes)