Birria Burger (Vicram Chatterjee)
Chef and cookbook author Joshua Weissman teamed up with Eggslut’s Alvin Cailan recently at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers to create a birria burger meets taco mashup homage to the Los Angeles French dip – and a possible secret L.A. restaurant scout for the Tarzana-born unapologetic chef.
Combining Weissman’s two favorite things – burgers and birria queso tacos – they applied the same concept between brioche buns. The two chefs have collaborated before on First We Feast’s The Burger Show.
“Many times you see a burger that’s been done 25,000 different ways and somehow they always end up tasting the same,” Weissman, who has amassed more than 6 million subscribers to his foodie YouTube channel, tells L.A. Weekly.
The daring duo took eggie brioche buns, a smash patty and Weissman’s own birria recipe which consists of braised beef cheeks, a little brisket, short ribs and chuck roast for a variety of textures and loaded it up on a patty with a mixture of provolone and Oaxacan cheese. A mix of American and Mexican classics, they added a cilantro emulsion aioli, similar to a pesto with parmesan, toasted walnuts, a boatload of fresh cilantro and toasted garlic oil, mixed it with mayo and slathered it all over the buns.
“We served it with a lime wedge and a nice bowl of consommé, onions and cilantro on top,” says Weissman. “Because it was a sandwich, it was a bit like a French dip – a smashburger met a French dip and a taco with a big stretchy cheese pull. We developed the whole recipe in like 15 minutes.”
Weissman, whose An Unapologetic Cookbook has made the New York Times bestseller list, started cooking at age four in his San Fernando Valley kitchen and has been obsessed with the concept of enjoying food and conquering the fear of cooking ever since.
“There’s plenty of joy in making anything that tastes good,” he says. “Look, anyone can make a quesadilla, grilled cheese sandwich or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A great PB&J can be a thing of beauty and taking pride in that is just as powerful in feeling pride in a dish that takes hours to make. It’s not about how much time it takes, but how much you enjoy it in the end whatever it is.”
Skipping college for his love of cooking after his family moved to Texas, Weissman went on to work as a lead cook at the Japanese restaurant Uchiko in Austin. Since then the 26-year-old viral sensation has made countless appearances on daytime TV and created his own YouTube shows, But Better and But Cheaper, where he humorously challenges cult favorite fast foods using traditional cooking techniques and creates fine dining on a dime at home.
“But Better sort of happened by accident when the Popeye’s chicken sandwich craze came out,” says Weissman. “It was the first time I poked my head out and wondered what all the fuss was about. It sounded cool and I wanted to try it. So I waited in line for an hour and a half, which I felt super dumb about. I ate it and was blown away by how bad it was. I can cook a chicken sandwich with my legs tied behind my back. So I thought I’d make my own and make a funny little video about it and that would be that. It was posted and people loved it. It was a fun little format and I made another. Some people think only fast food restaurants can make these items with their fancy gadgets and technology and proprietary spice blends. With technique, good quality ingredients and just caring we can sometimes make an even better product than a multi-billion dollar corporation and I think that’s a cool point to make.”
With another cookbook in the works, negotiations underway on a television show and plans for his own restaurant, Weissman is glad to be out of the professional kitchen for now.
“Restaurants are a very male-driven industry,” he says. “You’ve got these groups of egotistical men in a hot room that are all trying to prove themselves to each other, which I never got into. I was always the friendly person that would talk too much, when sometimes the chef would just say ‘Joshua, shut the fuck up and put your head down and get to work.’ That got me into trouble more times than I can count. Every once in a while a saucepan came flying across the station or my knives would get thrown into the sink. You get a bunch of hot-headed people together in a small space, it’s stressful, low pay. It’s a culture that people don’t understand where there’s not really that much compassion. You’re there for a reason. I think the industry is making an effort to get better at that.”