Q & A With Rodelio Aglibot, Part 2: What Makes a Great Burger, The Question of Arugula, President Obama + 7 Courses of Spam
A. Scattergood chef Rodelio Aglibot at GO Burger
In the first part of our interview with Rodelio Aglibot, BLT Restaurant Group -- and thus GO Burger -- corporate executive chef, the well-traveled chef discussed Los Angeles sports and the future of Filipino cuisine, among other things. Turn the page for the rest of our conversation and check back later for the chef's recipe for a Sunset Stripper. That's a hamburger recipe, not some ridiculous fruity drink or, I don't know, whatever else you think it might be. And if anyone has a picture of Aglibot's legendary Spam dinner (just read the interview), please, please send it to us.
Squid Ink: How often will you come back to Los Angeles?
Rodelio Aglibot: As much as I can. We have BLT Steak on Sunset, and now that we have this one. Plus being a pseudo-Angeleno, it's a good excuse. It's 75 degrees here. I left Chicago this morning, it was 10. I actually enjoy it, maybe because I didn't grow up with it. The trick to dealing with that weather is to leave every 2 to 3 weeks.
SI: It's a good thing you're a corporate chef now.
RA: Yes, I can get out. We have properties in Scottsdale and Miami. No, I didn't plan that, but it works out well. Actually we have a property in Hawaii -- there's a BLT Steak in Waikiki. I was just there.
SI: Did your trip intersect with Obama's [holiday] visit?
RA: I just missed him. Next time. I was once asked who would you like to eat with one day, and I think President Obama would be the one. I'd like to eat Spam with him one day. He lived there. I still have an affinity for it.
SI: Between Hawaii and the Philippines, can you explain Spam?
RA: You mean the appeal of it? It's in Hawaii because of the war, the GI's and rationing; that's why it became a meat staple. In the Philippines it was the same thing. The United States occupied the Philippines for almost 50 years, so that's where a lot of it came from. It's the saltiness? [Laughs.] It's not any worse than hot dogs, you know. I did a Spam dinner once that Jonathan Gold wrote about. I did 7 courses in Spam. The dessert was served in a Spam can. I did Spam en croûte as a main course, and cut out the letters S-P-A-M, put it on top and served it tableside with a mustard-and-ketchup sauce. You had to be there. It was a lot of fun.
SI: Are you going to have Spamburgers here?
RA: No, I don't think so. I don't think we'll do that. Maybe in the back kitchen. Maybe a special menu.
SI: The obligatory question, since you've just opened a burger joint: What makes a good burger?
RA: We griddle our burgers, for one. Versus grill. You get a great sear on the meat on the flattop, it keeps the juices in. I think grilling dries out the burger; the juices fall into the fires. It may add a little smokiness to the flavor, but I believe a griddled burger is better. The meat. Our blend is a mixture of a dry-aged with different cuts of meat: short rib, brisket, something that has a nice fat content.
SI: If you were to do a burger at home -- all secret recipes notwithstanding -- what would you shoot for?
RA: Probably 80-20 would be the mix. Maybe a little brisket -- ground brisket -- gives it a lot of flavor. Add a little of that.
SI: Do you add fat, as some chefs do?
RA: No, we don't. If you get the pieces of meat, you trim them but leave some of it on there. You chunk it up. I think if someone did 50% chuck, 35% short rib, 15% brisket, they'd have a great burger. Well, here we brush ours with butter, so if you have warm butter on a cold piece of meat, it solidifies, right? And then it goes on the griddle. Salt and a little coarse pepper. And then you have to have a great bun. Not a heavy brioche bun, because I think an eggier bun takes over the flavor of the meat, so I think it should be light and fluffy. You toast the bread, that's key. Lettuce. You can't miss with iceberg lettuce; you have to go with iceberg. The crunch.
SI: No arugula, then.
RA: No arugula. And I actually don't like cheese on a burger. I'm a purist. I'll taste it...
SI: For research purposes.
RA: Yeah, but I want to taste the meat. Medium, some people say medium-rare, but it all depends on the meat itself. You have to cook meat to the right temperature for the best consistency. And then, you know, a fries and a shake. I mean, if you're going to waste 1500 calories in one sitting, you might as well go all out.
I like raw onions vs. caramelized onions; I like the crunch. We use red here. I like the spices of a white, but it all depends. I'm all about texture. I've tried my share of burgers.
SI: Like how many?