A couple of days ago I chanced upon this documentary on American food. The host Todd Fisher travels around the USA to discover the best burgers the country has to offer. The documentary really intrigued me with its focus on culinary history and brilliance of a simple food item. Here’s the youtube link for the documentary for those interested. https://youtu.be/ck3sn-ObJGE As a Design lead myself, I have been lately contemplating on how to improve the quality of Design output from my own team. While watching I couldn’t help but correlate how the quest for culinary perfection matches with the quest for finesse in Design or any Creative domain. Here I’m presenting some of the ‘takeaways’ (pun intended) from what I figured out from the aforementioned correlation with the documentary.

1. The Origins Define Evolution


The humble American burger is alleged to have its origin at ‘Louis Lunch’, New Haven Connecticut. They have maintained the original recipe since 1900. They still use toasted white bread, since burger buns were not invented back then! The learning I got from this was that we should always know and respect the history of our craft. It helps us stay ‘grounded’ (pun intended) and understand the reasons for its evolution to the current state.

2. The Best Innovations are Timeless


Historians credit the ‘Billy Goat Tavern’ at Chicago for creating the first cheeseburger. Funny that they still uphold their innovation as the only item in their burger menu – ‘double cheeseburger is the best’! I realized from them that some of the best innovations can stand the test of time and are indeed timeless. Honoring them is our duty in order to hone our craft.

3. Cultural Heritage is Invaluable


Our host for the documentary makes his next stop at ‘Dyers’, Memphis Tennessee to savor the iconic ‘deep fried burger’. Here the secret to the success is the 100-year-old grease that is preserved to fry the burgers. Once they changed the location of the restaurant and had police cover to protect the vat of grease while transportation! The grease has survived for so long due to the meticulous process of straining and seasoning performed daily (sometimes several times a day). From watching this segment I realized the value of preserving cultural tradition in order to keep it alive. Cultural heritage an invaluable asset and defines our distinctive ‘flavor’ (pun intended).

4. Customization ensures Personalization


‘Mr. Bartleys’ in Boston has been serving mouth-watering burgers since five decades. Their USP lies in the unique toppings and customizations they offer to the humble burger. People can choose from their extensive menu or create their own unique burger by choosing amongst the 40 odd toppings. This makes the hamburger to transition from generic fast food to a personalized gourmet experience. This truly proves that allowing customizations indeed helps to personalize the final product. As a designer, I couldn’t agree more!

5. The Best Ingredients ensure the Best Product


The ‘Old Homestead’ in New York serves the most decadent hamburgers. Their secret is to use the best quality ingredient – the legendary Kobe beef from Japan to form their massive 20 ounce handcrafted burger patties. These are then grilled to perfection to form one of America’s greatest hamburgers. It does prove the universal fact – the best ingredients ensure the best product. As a designer I do swear by this motto; quality of the constituents form the basis of any craft.

6. The Process is what makes a Big Difference


Saving the best for the last stop, our host Chef Fisher pays homage to true hamburger perfection at ‘Holeman and Finch’, Atlanta Georgia. The pub serves only 24 perfectly handcrafted hamburger at first-come-first-serve basis every night at 10pm. Loyal patrons wait for hours in advance in order to ensure they can grab one of these! The secret to the perfection of these burgers lies in the detailing in each step of the process. Every constituent from the ketchup to the bun is crafted from scratch here. Every minute detail is perfected – for instance, the simple seasoning of the patties is done with a circular whirl of hand instead of regular sprinkling as per the Chef’s meticulous instructions. This is something I completely agree too. We need to break the creative process of any craft to its tiniest detail to analyze how to perfect each step. This is what truly ensures the greatest final output.

As the proverb says, “God is in the details.” At the end of this article, I would like to thank you for your patience. I hope you found this engaging and relevant.