Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons tells all about Season 3's restaurant wars.

on Aug 15, 2007

I managed special events, cookbook projects and publicity, making me one of the first to learn he would be adding fresh black truffles to his already famous $29 DB Burger and charging an unprecedented $50 for the dish. This may not sound like a reason to get out the battle armor, but let me explain: To begin with, this was no ordinary burger. It comprised an exterior of ground sirloin with a filling of boned short ribs braised in red wine, plus foie gras, black truffles and a mirepoix of root vegetables. Its homemade bun was topped with toasted Parmesan and layered with fresh horseradish mayonnaise, tomato confit, fresh tomato and frisee lettuce. The extra layer of black truffles sliced and placed on top of the patty doubled not only its cost, but also its glam factor. Chef Daniel called it the DB Burger Royale.

Within hours of the Burger Royale having been added to the menu, the "New York Post" published an article about it and what followed was a literal feeding frenzy. Press from across the country and around the world descended on DB Bistro to taste the phenomenon, critique it, and get in on the action. Never before had someone charged such a high amount for something otherwise so ubiquitous. Enhancing the excitement, Old Homestead, a downtown landmark steakhouse, had just added a $41 burger -- made of Kobe beef -- to its menu. With the DB Burger Royale on the scene, the battle for the best and most expensive burger was on. For weeks, all we could do to keep the press and public at bay was make as many burgers as possible and answer the call to flip that burger for every celebrity and media outlet in town. No one could get enough of what had come to be called the New York Burger Wars. In fact, Daniel's PR Director, Georgette Farkas, and I had to cook many of the burgers ourselves to keep up with the numerous press requests at all hours of the day and night. We even joked that one day we should write a book called "Flipping Burgers in Four-Inch Heels". So to all those who commented on my blog last week about Sara N's dismissal performance -- yes, I have been in her position before and managed to power through by focusing on the intense job at hand. I do commiserate with her, though, knowing how much pain my feet were in by the end of each day in the most inappropriate cooking shoes.

Only when the commotion died down did we realize that a serious trend in upscale dining had taken root: the idea of creating a luxurious version of a very traditional, all-American dish. It was extraordinary to witness the nation's reaction. From coast to coast, high-end burgers began popping up on menus everywhere. And the rest, as they say, is history.