Ryan Hackney Loves Big, Beautiful Patties, Has No Love for Mayo on Burgers
Ryan Hackney is a busy man. As new sous chef at Bibiana, he’s been working nearly everyday since he took on the gig almost two months ago. He’s been so busy in fact, throughout our interview, he was making chicken stock the whole time.
“Super busy but it’s been great,” he says.
But despite the time crunch, he and his team have been hard at work planning his entry for the D.C. Burger Throwdown which he tell us will reflect the theme of his new restaurant. And as the youngest chef in the competition, Hackney may not have as many hours logged as the other competitors, but with a resume that includes some of the top kitchens in D.C. (Macon Bistro, Charlie Palmer, Nonna’s Kitchen, Marcel’s, Iron Gate), it’d be a mistake to underestimate him this Sunday.
This is one in a seven-part interview series with the competitors in the 2016 D.C. Burger Throwdown taking place Sunday, May 15, 2016. Additional interviews will be linked here as they are published: Matt Adler, Scott Drewno, Travis Weiss, Alex McCoy, Ryan Hackney.
Sous Chef, Bibiana
You don’t have to give away any secrets, unless you want to, but can you tell me a little bit about what you have planned for Sunday?
The cooks, the other sous chef at Bibiana and I are planning to do a take on an Italian meatball sub/bolognese. We want to try and keep it within the theme of our Italian restaurant. There’s definitely going to be a lot cured meats and a lot of nice cheese involved.
How much time do you think you’ve spent planning the burger?
We’ve been doing research by going to other competitor’s restaurants — particularly Alex [McCoy’s] — and sizing up the competition. Seeing the ingredients other people have been using.
Is there any one chef you’re most looking forward to taking down in the competition?
Travis [Weiss]. Because he talks the most shit and because he is the most experienced of burger chefs out of all of us.
Is this your first burger-cooking competition you’ve been involved in?
Yes, it is.
Since this is your first time doing something like this, do you have a plan for the competition on game day? Or are you just going to go in there and wing it?
I’m just going to go in and wing it. It’s the way that I cook so that’s how I’m going to approach it. I like being under pressure and having to think on my feet. Over planning for me causes overthinking. Using my senses and doing things on the fly is my best option.
What’s the key to a great burger? What’s one thing that can make or break a burger?
The quality of the beef. The ratio of fat-to-lean and the actual quality of your product are the most important things. When you have something like a burger, it’s really important to keep it as pure as possible and really have respect for the quality of product that you’re using.
What do you prefer: thick, ½ lb. patties or diner-style, smash-griddled patties?
The big, thick beautiful medium rare pieces of beef, that’s showing respect for the meat. The small patties are great for certain things but that’s one way that you can easily disrespect a very high quality product.
Ketchup on a burger? Yes or no?
How do you like your burgers cooked?
What is your favorite burger in the D.C. area?
I’m not even going to lie. Alex McCoy’s burger that he’s running at Alfies’ right now is the best burger I’ve had in a very long time. He’s another guy who’s going to bring the noise.
The Aussie burger or the OG burger?
What’s the best burger you’ve ever eaten?
You know what? I’m going to say the Aussie burger at Alfie’s is the best burger I’ve had. That’s going to be my go to for number one.
What’s your favorite cheese to put on a burger?
If you were building a burger from scratch, say you were going to Five Guys, what are your go-to toppings?
I would keep it simple. A nice beef patty, some lettuce, tomato, definitely bacon and just a little bit of ketchup. You really want to let the juices be that moisture. No mayonnaise. Mayonnaise does not belong on a burger.
What’s the best beer to have with a burger?
Something light. Like a saison or an IPA.
Fries or tots?
Fries. For sure.
OK, the way Burger Days started was with my buddies and I wanting to take on all the burgers in the D.C. area. But it was taking forever to have a burger a day so we decided we’d go out on weekends, roam around town and just drink beer and eat burgers all day, in order to maximize our coverage. The most we’ve ever gotten down is six or seven burgers in a day. So my question to you, what are the most burgers you’ve ever eaten in a day?
I’m going to go ahead and say five. Or if it’s White Castle burgers, I can do 10 to 15.
And finally, is there anything you want to say to your Throwdown competition?
Watch out for the young guy.
The 2016 D.C. Burger Throwdown is this Sunday, May 15, from 3 – 7 p.m. at The Commodore Public House & Kitchen. Tickets are available at bit.do/bbthrowdown.