Shake Shack is doing a one-day-only pop-up today at Momofuku Daishō (3rd floor) on University Ave.
Speaking with Mark Rosati, culinary director of Shake Shack this morning, I set out to find out what sets them apart from the rest, and whether they're actually going to open a location here.
Rosati didn’t set out to make burgers. Or cook even. He worked in film and television, but was "inspired by food and service, and the beauty that we create," so he decided to make the switch.
Instead of school, he learned on the job, starting out as a line cook at Gramercy Tavern. To be in the same kitchen, cooking alongside Tom Colicchio and Michael Anthony "was one of the most exciting times in my life."
Wanting to learn the front of house side of things, he took an opening as a manager of Shake Shack, though "begrudgingly." Rosati would spend a day in the kitchen with the team to see how it was. He witnessed the hospitality, fun, and top-notch ingredients – "They were using the same ingredients as Gramercy Tavern amd Eleven Madison Park," Rosati says. "I said I’d stay a year. One year turned into ten."
There are now 117 locations across the globe including Japan, the Middle East, Russia, Turkey the U.K. and South Korea.
Back in the summer of 2014, Shake Shack celebrated it’s "Decade of Shack" in New York City with a series of culinary collabs with celebrity chefs - Daniel Boulud, David Chang Andrew Zimmern, Daniel Humm (and April Bloomfield. It was during this event that Chang came up with an idea to use smoked shrimp, a play on surf n’ turf.
"Light bulbs went off all across the kitchen," Rosati says. It wasn’t long before it became the beloved Shrimp Stack.
A few months ago, Chang offered Momofuku Daisho in Toronto to be home to a one day only Shake Shack pop-up.
"We’ve always had our eyes on the city (Toronto)," Rosati says, and despite the challenges of logistics – bringing in supplies and ingredients – "we want to make it really special." Today’s T.O. burgers include a local American-style cheese and Shake Shack’s special meat blend ground by a local butcher.
While Rosati can’t share the secret recipe, he was willing to share great tips:
1. "We never used ground meat."
They contain trimmings from different cuts, so he recommends using the whole steak as Shake Shack does, and grind that.
2. Grind it at a low temperature
Otherwise, the "fat content gets soft and smears. The colder temps will slice through the fat and keep it in the muscle," making for a much more delicious burger.
3. Add only salt and pepper
It’s all about the beef. You want to highlight great meat, so if you want to add other spices and seasonings, Rosati recommends adding it to mayonnaise, which will incorporate the flavour without masking the meat.
"Keep it pure and simple," he says.
It’s not just the food that sets Shake Shack apart from the rest. The operations team and supply chain are "heroes to me," Rosati says. From tools to training, they strive to "keep everything as consistent as possible."
And they spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking and rethinking about each and every little thing. "Most people think we’re just burgers, fries and shakes, but we think about it so much."
Take the fries for example. They wanted fries with a "pure, rich potato flavour." But then there’s the shape. Rosati who grew up on the east coast in Connecticut, remembers "crinkle cut fries from Hamburger Day at school. They’re nostalgic."
They also offer more surface area that gets crispy and crunchy and "they pick up ketchup and cheese sauce better than anything else." Rosati says.
The lineup around the block here in Toronto, goes to show the love for Shake Shack extends north of the border, which begs the question – are they ever going to open one here?
"We have no plans to come here right now. We’re an international company and we want to be in all the great cities in the world," he says. "Maybe at some point."
In the meantime, you’ve got only today to enjoy the Shake Shack x Momofuku Toronto menu:
- ShackBurger $6.39
Cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce
- Crinkle Cut Fries $2.99
Drinks – Steam Whistle Brewing Pilsner ($5), Norman Hardie Carbernet Franc ($8) & Chardonnay ($8), Coke ($3) & Diet Coke ($3)
Note: A limited number of burger and fries are available on a first come, first serve basis.
$1 from every order will be donated in support of SickKids Foundation.
Check out more photos on our Facebook page.