FOODIE CONFIDENTIAL

Conquer the burger

Do not worry about making a mess when eating a burger, says chef Matthew Dick of newly opened The Butchers Club Burger in Clarke Quay.
Do not worry about making a mess when eating a burger, says chef Matthew Dick of newly opened The Butchers Club Burger in Clarke Quay. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Eating a burger can sometimes get messy but the trick is to not be afraid, says chef Matthew Dick of newly opened The Butchers Club Burger in Clarke Quay.

The 25-year-old Canadian chef says that some diners are intimidated by the size of a burger and pause to clean up sauce stains in between bites.

He says: "I wrap my fingers firmly around the burger in one hand, give it a squeeze and I don't let go until I have finished eating it."

The 100-seat restaurant he heads is an off-shoot of a Hong Kong establishment which started out as a butcher shop-cum-private restaurant in 2013.

  • WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?

  • Jerk chicken with coleslaw, peas and rice, topped with gravy from oxtail stew.

Its signature burgers include The Burger, a bacon cheeseburger with a 160g dry-aged Black Angus beef patty piled with maple syrup- glazed bacon strips and melted cheddar cheese.

While beef cuts such as brisket, chuck and rump are used to make the burger patties, The Butchers Club Burger will serve steaks that have been dry-aged for at least 60 days, in its private dining service next month at its central kitchen in Mactaggart Road.

Chef Dick, born to a music composer father and retired actress mother, got his start in the kitchen as a part-time dishwasher after dropping out of high school at 17.

He recalls: "I didn't want to stay in school as I didn't want to do the same things as everybody else. I was living life at a much faster pace."

Soon, he progressed to preparing ingredients and, eventually, cooking.

He says: "I actually wanted to become a bartender as I thought it was a cool job, but I always ended up in the kitchen when restaurant owners saw that I had cooking on my resume."

He continued to work part-time in kitchens while studying film and television production in Humber College in Toronto, and working as a freelance music journalist.

Over the past eight years, he has cooked in about 20 restaurants before being headhunted to head The Butchers Club Burger in Wan Chai in Hong Kong in May last year.

The chef, who is not married, hopes to beef up diners' impressions of burgers here.

He says that fast food chains have diminished the status of burgers to being a "low-class dish with generic ingredients".

"The world has forgotten that a burger can be made with good ingredients, and it is not about crowding it with all sorts of flavours."

What makes a good burger?

It is the beef. I like the beef to be done medium, and the meat should be seasoned with kosher salt just before it is grilled, so that the salt permeates through the meat.

Why use dry-aged beef for the burger patties?

It maximises the flavour potential of the beef.

We dry-age our meats up to 30 days in a facility that is kept at 1 to 2 deg C. The fats in the beef lose moisture and become more flavourful. The meat is also broken down by its natural enzymes, and this creates a more concentrated beef flavour.

What is your favourite cut of beef?

I like using the chuck, as it has an even fat to meat ratio, and naturally good marbling.

What is one of your favourite memories of food?

As a teenager, I experimented with weird combinations of ingredients and made really bad food that my mum would make fun of.

I cooked Egg In A Hole (a grilled cheese and egg sandwich) with pancake batter. Then, I added onions, cheese and bacon in between the two pieces of bread, and poured maple syrup over the whole thing.

Where are your favourite eating spots in Singapore?

I like char kway teow and hor fun from a stall in Old Airport Road Food Centre, as they have good wok hei.

I like the ramen from Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King in Orchid Hotel in Tras Link, which has a very flavourful pork broth and noodles that are a little more firm.

I also like going to Neon Pigeon, an izakaya in Keong Saik Road. I ate almost everything on the menu when I went, and the staff were so freaked out that they remembered me when I returned two weeks ago.

What are your must-have foods when you return to Toronto?

I need to have Jamaican food, which is one of my favourite cuisines.

I love dishes such as jerk chicken (roasted chicken seasoned with thyme, garlic, ginger and peppers) and roti curry, which is a wrap that has chicken or goat curry with potatoes, spinach and chickpeas.

I usually go to Bacchus Roti Shop in the Parkdale district and Pat's Homestyle Jamaican Restaurant in Queen Street.

What are your favourite eating spots in Hong Kong?

Stone Nullah Tavern in Wan Chai, which serves upscale American- style bar food using local ingredients.

I love dishes such as crispy pig's ear nachos, macaroni and cheese and pig's head cooked with chilli beans.

I also like Jamaican food from Rummin' Tings in Hollywood Road.

For Chinese food, I would go to Stir-Fry King in Ap Lei Chau for the crispy garlic chicken wings and fried noodles.

Are you an adventurous diner?

Yes, I tried fermented shark while on holiday in Iceland this year. It has a very strong taste, which resembled rotting fish meat.

I read that it is unhealthy as it contains high levels of mercury.

What was the most memorable meal you had overseas?

Hot dogs in a street-style restaurant called Frankfurter in Barcelona this summer.

It was a strange setting, but there's something about hanging out with good friends and beer.

Do you cook at home?

I cook the most creative and unappetising dishes at home. I cook to keep ingredients in my fridge from going bad.

I cook fast and dirty s*** such as stir-fried instant noodles with vegetables, to throw into my mouth because I am usually about to pass out from work when I get home.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'Conquer the burger'. Print Edition | Subscribe