Bluefield Burger founder explains his Al Raya Mall dining concept
Time Out Bahrain staff
So tell us about yourself. You’re the owner and head chef of Bluefield Burger, right? I own the company in Greece. It’s my own creation – the company and the recipes. I have been doing this for 37 years and I started in New York. I opened my first store in Manhattan, New York in 1978. I’m a self-taught chef originally from Ithaca in Greece. You know Ithaca? From The Odyssey and Ulysses? What was the concept for your first ever shop? It was on Sixth Avenue and was a delicatessen. I was the first guy to introduce croissants to New York City at that time. After that, I continued to open stores in Manhattan up to 1990 – I opened six stores; delicatessens and restaurants. Of course I was doing burgers there too. I always wanted to make a burger store because burgers for Americans are like souvlaki for the Greeks.
So I had the idea, I came back to Greece and I started this company, Bluefield Burger. Right now I have five stores in Athens and the first out-of-Athens store is this one here.
That’s an interesting choice. Why Bahrain? Bahrain feels like my second home because I come from an island. Bahrain is an island. We call ourselves islanders, you know? I’m surprised with the people, they’re so warm and they like our burgers.
Now we have opened the first store, we have a schedule to go around the GCC and at the same time open one in London.
Burger places are popular, especially in Bahrain right now. What’s unique about yours? It’s an American burger of course but with a touch of Mediterranean and Greek influence. For our sauce we use yoghurt, honey from Greece, oregano, virgin olive oil, sea salt, fresh lemons. We have Greek mountain iced tea. We don’t use a lot of mayonnaise or ketchup, we make our own sauce and we’re doing burgers from the sea with lobster and salmon. Of course we have vegetarian burgers including falafel and quinoa sliders.
The highlight of the American burgers we have is the slow-cooked brisket burger. It’s not a patty, it’s the meat on a burger bun and it takes about 14 hours to cook.
Well, burgers are very popular all over the Gulf. I like all my life to be different. Not because I have to be different. I don’t like the ordinary things and designs but, of course, everybody knows burgers come from America so it has to be a burger. I like to change the ingredients.
Why do you think people love them so much? I think of all these years people were stuck with three big companies. The first franchise burger opened in America in 1960 – it was Whitecastle. All these years, the people have been eating the same frozen… fast food. Ten years ago, somebody changed that from America. They started from California to make fresh burgers.
Burgers for me is not a recipe. Some people say ‘Oh that’s good, you have some garlic, onions, mixed the meat’. No. It’s plain meat. But you have to choose the right part of the cow and take the right meat and amount of fat. We’re using certified Black Angus, vacuum-packed every 15 days from America – it’s the best and most expensive you can get now to make a burger. We make our own bread. It makes a difference. Of course, we’re using the Bluefield sauce which is like a white ketchup. The ingredients make a difference – you can’t change butter with margarine. Butter is butter.
What’s the secret of success? The first thing for me, and I’ve believed this since the day I opened, you can’t fool the public. If you’re going to do [something wrong] once, twice, three times – people won’t come back. You can’t have things from the day before and say ‘Oh it cost me money, I have to serve it’. No. Throw it away.