On Designer Burger Concepts, for Jose Dos Santos

Designer burgers offer a chance for creativity for Metz Culinary Management.

When Metz Culinary Management rolled out its designer burger concept in late 2012, Jose Dos Santos, chef and general manager at Genesis Biotechnology Group’s Waterview Café, in Hamilton N.J., looked at it as a chance to be creative. He spoke to FSD about what a designer burger is for his operation and how he keeps things fresh at a constantly changing station.

Q. How did the idea for the designer burger concept come about?

The concept was introduced by [Metz’s] Director of Culinary Development Ryan McNulty in November 2012. The concept is in appreciation of this iconic American food with global inspiration. It begins with the best fresh ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper and with regional and international influences. As for ideas for the burgers themselves, I’m a burger guy, so everywhere I go I usually order a burger. When I cook, I enjoy mixing spices from different parts of the world to find flavor combinations that complement each other. Coming from Brazil, I grew up using and enjoying different spices from that region of the world. That definitely influences most of my ideas for unique food styles. Also, I always ask my order chef for ideas for a good burger. More ideas and more flavors equals better burgers. 

Q. What does “designer burger” mean for the concept?

We wanted to serve burgers that are special, fresh and delicious at our grill station. We wanted it to be a place where our customers could have many alternatives to the traditional burger or cheeseburger. Using fresh ground beef, lamb or veggies, we design special burgers of the day. We make an effort to use many different spices, toppings, sauces and bread. With our variety of flavor combinations, we are designing new burger concepts for our customers to enjoy. That is why we call it a designer burger.

Q. What are some of the more popular burgers offered at the concept?

The most popular burger is our lamb burger with Mediterranean spices, crispy baby arugula, chargrilled tomato and melted feta cheese. And of course, this designer burger comes with the perfect side dish, our Old Bay-seasoned fries. We also designed a signature burger for the café, the Waterview Café Burger, which is a beef burger on an onion roll with melted Swiss cheese, maple bacon and a fried egg on top. It is simple and delicious. One of our newest burgers is a falafel burger. It is a vegetarian option seasoned with mixed spices, roasted thick-cut Jersey tomato, spinach and cucumber mint sauce.

Q. What has been the biggest challenge with developing and executing this concept?

Discovering exactly what kind of spices complement each type of meat. Ultimately though, the biggest challenge is to keep the ideas fresh. Our location changes menus every day of the week. So we have to change the designer burger constantly.

Q. What advice would you give to other operators who might want to do something similar?

Keep the concept fresh, unique and delicious and all your customers will love it. Also, I think it is very important to try to get to know your customers and their backgrounds. Find out what flavors and types of food they enjoy and work with that. Simply knowing your clientele can be the secret to a successful concept. I think the idea of a designer burger concept is very successful for simple reasons. Who doesn’t love to eat a good burger? Our customers are always really excited to try new flavor twists on a sandwich they know and love.

When Metz Culinary Management rolled out its designer burger concept in late 2012, Jose Dos Santos, chef and general manager at Genesis Biotechnology Group’s Waterview Café, in Hamilton N.J., looked at it as a chance to be creative. He spoke to FSD about what a designer burger is for his operation and how he keeps things fresh at a constantly changing station.