A Few Questions with George Motz, the Burger Scholar

George Motz wrote Hamburger America, the most essential book on Hamburgers. He also created an enlightening documentary about them (Hamburger America, the film) AND hosted the show Burger Land on the Travel Channel.

George has answered some of my questions before on the original written version of the Grinder and my Grinder web show:

George Motz on my Webshow, the Grinder

He’s going to be judging his first SoBe Burger Bash, which has been a long time in the making. George and  I figured it would be an excellent time to catch up with him and see what is going on in the wonderful world of Motz.

What is your plan of attack for judging at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash presented by Schweid & Sons?

George MotzI’m not going to mess around. I’ve judged burger events before, and there are two key elements to success: take notes on every burger, and don’t finish every one! There will be over 25 burgers at the Burger Bash, and most of them will be absolutely amazing. It will be very difficult to not finish my favorites..but need to save room for all of them.

Tell me about your upcoming cookbook. How did the idea come about?

George Motz I realized that no one had written a book about the burger ‘method.’ Burger cookbooks tend to be about the stuff you can put on a burger. My new cookbook (The Great American Burger Book) will explore regional goodies like the deep-fried burger, the steamed cheeseburger, and the smoked burger. We tested a Frita the other day and nailed it! So far, it has been the most complicated recipe. Mojo, the potatoes, the patty..

George Motz's Fried Onion Burger
George Motz’s Fried Onion Burger

Char-Grill, flattop, steamed, or deep fried? What’s the best way to cook a hamburger?

George MotzThere are so many ways to cook a burger, but the flattop will always be my favorite method. It’s fast, easy, and the end result is always damn tasty. Cooking over a flame is actually the most difficult way..unless you are a pro, the results can be unpredictable. But I encourage all burger enthusiasts to try other methods too, like deep frying, smoking and steaming.

Co-founder Billy Ingram at work in the Miami location
Billy Ingram working at the White Castle in Miami

Who is the most important figure in Hamburger History?

George Motz – It’s an excellent question, and no one has ever asked me. I firmly believe that the most important figure in hamburger history was Edgar Waldo “Billy” Ingram, the founder and visionary behind White Castle. Although White Castle has clearly lost its way, in the 1920s it was Billy that popularized the hamburger, cleaned up its image, and did things like standardize the hamburger bun and build the first successful national hamburger chain. Billy was the first hamburger hero, and he set the stage for the success of the hamburger and inspired countless others.

Is the Luther Burger (hamburger with doughnut buns) a miracle creation or an abomination?

George Motz The Luther falls somewhere in the middle but leans toward brilliance. I’ve eaten them before, and I liked them.

Burger Scholar George Motz with El Mago Shirt
Burger Scholar George Motz with El Mago de las Fritas Shirt

Extra Credit Question – We haven’t seen each other since the filming of the Miami episode of your show on the Travel Channel, Burger Land. How much have you missed me?

George Motz – I think of you, and I think of the Frita. I’m in serious need of a Frita fix right now, so I guess I really miss you!

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