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How the Pros Do Burger Bash

The New York City Wine and Food Festival, and Rachael’s 17th Burger Bash, are coming! If you’re headed that way, or if you ever have the chance to taste over 30 burgers in one night, we’ve got the scoop on how the pros do it. Take a few tips from Rach’s right-hand man, Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan.

Over the past nine years, I’ve been to 15 of the 16 Burger Bashes between the South Beach Wine and Food Festival to the NYC Wine and Food Festival. (I did miss one because I was out of town. I was not happy about it.)

This means I have tasted nearly, if not over, 400 burgers, considering there are about 25 to 30 chefs at each Burger Bash. With all of this being said, I’ve learned a few things – and have given the same advice to hundreds of people, no matter if you’re a man or woman, small or tall. You just need to be hungry, and know a few things ahead of time.

Don’t get me wrong… I know it’s exciting and hard not to get carried away. I have seen many people get overly enthusiastic, not take my advice, and eat every burger put in front of them – and then complain to me that they ran out of room. I myself have gotten out of an Uber and fast-walked to get to the venue. Then, upon seeing and smelling the smoke from the grills, my mouth starts to water because I know what’s in-store.

Rachael and her husband, John Cusimano, taste burgers at the 2014 Burger Bash.

I try not to eat a burger for at least a week or two ahead of time so I have a fresh burger conscience. After doing research earlier in the day, I know that chefs like Michael White or Bobby Flay or Josh Capon – and places like Shake Shack or Toro – will all have burgers represented. This is when I start getting really hungry.

It’s not long before Burger Bash when my phone starts buzzing… “Hey Kappy, do you have a favorite?” or “Hey Kappy, any I shouldn’t miss?” I even do a little advance scouting for Rachael – she knows I have arrived early and before the gates open to the public, I have already tried almost every, single burger.

Here’s how to do Burger Bash like a pro… Trust me on this one! Without further ado:

1. Pre-Game

If you remain calm and have time, make a quick round, scoping out the lay of the land. This will get your mouth watering and set a mental reminder of which stations you need to circle back to.

2. Decisions Decisions 

If you’ve had it before, wait. For me, Shake Shack is one of my favorites. I usually save them for the end since I know the gist of their burger… and it never disappoints me. Josh Capon has won multiple times, so if you’ve had his burger, maybe wait until the end since you know what you’re getting. Most places serve sliders or quarters, so don’t rule out sharing with a friend or loved one (see #4).

Burgers on the grill at NYCWFF 2014.

3. Avoid Lines

I hate lines as much as the next person. I am a-ok with people wanting to wait in line, but I usually go on to a station with a smaller line and then loop back around later in the night when it calms down. Of course, you can do that, or, wait in line and send someone else in your group off to other stations to bring back bites for everyone – that’s teamwork (see #1)!

4. Just Take a Taste

Please take this advice: Only have one bite. If it’s average or doesn’t do anything for you, discard or share with a friend (see #2). If you like it, take another bite. If you love it, have a third (see #5).

5. Seconds are OK

Once you make your rounds, if you have room, go back for your favorite couple of burgers and don’t forget to vote for your People’s Choice winner. 

P.S. I love to Instagram my food. Follow along at @OnKappysPlate for my rundown from this year’s Bash. Rach has her own Insta, too, @RachaelRay!

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