Last fall, I opened a restaurant called Westend Bistro. It’s located in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C., at 22nd and M Streets—a part of D.C. that’s growing very quickly, with new apartment buildings going up left and right. This burgeoning neighborhood needed a great neighborhood restaurant, so I set out to create one; I wanted it to be a comfortable spot that people would come back to again and again. My sous-chef and I decided to make it an American bistro. And of course any great American bistro needs to have a great burger.
In developing that burger, my research took me to a couple of places that might seem unexpected: McDonald’s and Burger King. I didn’t grow up in the U.S. and had never really visited these chains before, so I wanted to see what they do with their burgers to make them so popular.
Just looking at the basic burgers at each of these chains—particularly the Big Mac—showed me a couple of very key things: First of all, the burgers are a perfect size. You can grab them in both hands, and they’re never too tall or too wide to hold on to. And the toppings are the perfect size, too—all to scale, including the thickness of the tomatoes, the amount of lettuce, etc. In terms of the actual flavors, they taste okay, but you can count on them to be consistent; you always know what you’re going to get.