Meet Chef Adrian Cruz, one of five winners of the 2016 James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project. He is the third in a series of Chef Spotlights, which offer a behind-the-kitchen look at the inspiration behind chef-created blended burgers.
“The Concha Burger is the new kid on the block,” says Chef de Cuisine Adrian Cruz of The Orchard Lounge in McAllen, Texas.
New kid on the block, indeed. What makes Cruz’s blended burger so unique? Aside from its delicious toppings like homemade strawberry-fig jam and Applewood bacon, the burger is sandwiched between a Concha bun – a sweet yeast bread roll that can be found in many Mexican markets. As a child, Cruz spent summers at his grandparents’ house in Texas, and would purchase Concha every morning from a bakery truck that was parked across the street. Sharing Concha with his mom and brother over a steaming cup of coffee is one of Cruz’s favorite childhood memories.
Inspired to mimic the sweet and savory flavor profile of Concha dipped in coffee, Cruz decided to experiment with the idea of using Concha as the bun for his blended burger – and it was a hit. For the burger, he uses a blend of beef, pork chorizo and shiitake mushrooms, then tops it with the strawberry-fig jam, chipotle aioli, pickled cucumber, butter lettuce, a duck-fat fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes and string mushrooms. What intrigued Cruz most about joining the Blended Burger Project? The opportunity to create a healthier burger with some of his favorite ingredients. He loves the flavor and texture that mushrooms bring to a traditional patty.
“Participating in James Beard’s Blended Burger Project isn’t about becoming famous, it’s about inspiring other chefs and proving that dreams do come true,” says Cruz. He grew up cooking in his mother’s kitchen at the age of 12, and has honed his skills while training at various restaurants in the Rio Grande Valley. Cruz is excited to show off his chops at the James Beard House this October, or has he calls it, “painting on plates.”