From the streets to the stars: Burgers & haute cuisine

Having your own blog can be a privilege, albeit one you give yourself. Sometimes life gives back and offers you the added privilege of using your blog to showcase a good cause. Which so much justifies those late nights in front of the computer when you wish you could just snuggle up to your sleeping child.

Let’s face it, said sleeping child is lucky. He lives in a cute suburb, in a home his mom and dad chose because it’s a good place to raise a family (and not because we wanted out of the city, God knows we miss the action, the cafés and the nightlife). But we wanted to offer him quiet streets lined with big old trees where kids can play all day, away from the city asphalt and the overcrowded schools.

A great big room with a huge, adult bed and teddy bears piled on top of the softest bedcovers his doting mom could buy. Warm meals, cooked with love, that Junior actually feels free to push away because, nach, he wants a hamburger.

Which brings me back to the privilege I was talking about earlier. See, on Wednesday, September 21, From the streets to the stars Event will be held in Montreal. A foodie happening, it combines haute cuisine and fund-raising in a street contest where 10 of Montreal’s top chefs will be competing for the prize of best hamburger in the city. Proceeds will help support Dans la rue, an organization dedicated to giving street kids a helping hand. If you’re a Montrealer, chances are you already know Dans la rue and Pops, our homegrown Mother Teresa of sorts.

My privilege in all that? As a blogger, I will be paired with Pintxo Restaurant and its chef-owner Alonso Ortiz (given I’m a card-carrying klutz, you might find me trying to mostly get out of the way though). Alonso and I actually worked together before, since he was one of the chefs invited to participate in my last cookbook, À la bonne franquette. So I took this opportunity to chat him up. The interview was conducted in French but here’s my rough translation.

Q: This isn’t Pintxo’s first participation in the From the streets to the stars Event, is it?

A: No, we’ve been a part of it for a few years, even before the event turned into a contest.

Q: Getting nervous as the competition draws near?

A: For the contest part itself, no. Every year, my greatest worry as a chef is that we won’t have enough food, that’s the nerve-wracking part.

Q: Are you a hamburger lover?

A: The kitchen staff at Pintxo are the true experts, they can eat hamburgers 2-3 times a week. They’ll go for take-out and bring some back for me. In Mexico, hamburgers follow national taste. The trend is to top them with bacon, guacamole, spicy sausage and jalapeno peppers. I always eat those when I’m visiting family.

Q: Should I understand you’ll be serving a Mexican hamburger?

A: I don’t want to talk too much. Let’s just say it will be in the spirit of Pintxo, more of a tapas-style bite, not a typical huge hamburger.

Q: What do you say to Nick Hodge from Kitchenette/Icehouse — one of the 10 competing chefs — who wonders here how a Spanish restaurant can know a good hamburger? Any hint of a challenge or a controversy?

A:(laughs) No, not at all. He’s absolutely right. North Americans eat so much burgers, it’s normal that they should make better ones than anybody else. When I lived in Bilbao in the Basque country, there was only one hamburger restaurant in the whole town! For me, the event is the star; the crowd is cool, the ambiance is exciting. We’re just happy to contribute one more year.

Insider Info: I was privy to more hamburger details and can tell you chef Ortiz has tasty ideas of his own about what makes a hamburger special. But you’ll have to be there on September 21 to find out. Bring your appetite.

So come and say hi, you may find yourself savouring some of the most outlandish hamburgers of your life (!), plus you’ll be contributing to a cause that is dear to so many. Who knows, you might even win a trip for two to Paris…


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