It’s difficult to improve upon the cultish offerings at Umami Burger, but leave it to master chef Daniel Boulud to create what might be this summer’s most mouthwatering burger. The chef, who is most well-known for his fine-dining temple DANIEL, partnered with the burger chain to release “The Umami Frenchie,” a decidedly Gallic iteration that’s been wowing diners with its toppings of Dijon mustard, Raclette cheese, and, of course, a mini French flag. One dollar from each burger also supports Citymeals on Wheels, a charity very dear to Boulud’s heart. We sat down with the famous chef to discuss beer pairings, what truly makes a burger French, and why Citymeals is so important to New York.
How did the collaboration with Umami Burger come about?
DANIEL BOULUD: The collaboration with Umami came about as part of their artist series in celebration of French cuisine. The Frenchie appropriately launched on Bastille Day last month; this burger is a true marriage of French and American cultures. I also like the Umami brand and the quality of their products, so it seemed like a natural fit to support Citymeals.
This burger is partially an ode to the dearly departed NYC location of DBGB. But what's different about it?
DB: The original DBGB Frenchie is similar (and still alive and well at the DBGB DC location!). Typically, we make it with Morbier cheese, which is a very interesting and delicious aged blue cheese made with morning milk on the bottom, ashes in the middle, and afternoon milk on the top. Here we’ve replaced it with Raclette, an alpine cheese known for its great melting quality, with a similar creamy texture and nutty flavor.
What makes a burger "French," in your opinion?
DB: First and foremost, the cheese makes it French. Whether it’s Morbier or Raclette, you won’t find that in an American burger. Combined with Dijon mustard, house made tomato confit compote, “rillons” and the cornichons that top it, voilà, it’s the Frenchie!
What's the secret to making a perfect burger?
DB: To make a good burger, you need a blend of fat and lean meat because different parts of the beef add different flavors. Typically, I use a mix of sirloin, flatiron, short rib, and cap of ribeye beef with its fat, all of which we grind in-house. I also like to finish cooking the meat in the oven for added crisp, and let it rest several minutes to keep the juices in.
Sounds amazing. What’s something you should never serve on a burger?
DB: Peanut butter, unless you’re very drunk.
Good advice. What kind of wine or beer do you like to pair with burgers?
DB: I really like to enjoy a burger with LIC Beer Project’s “Ardent Core” Farmhouse Ale.
You must have strong opinions on burgers here in NYC. What are your favorites?
DB: Two classics in New York: The Odeon in Tribeca and JG Melon in the Upper East Side.
And why was it important for you to donate to Citymeals?
DB: Since I arrived in NYC, Citymeals on Wheels is the charity I have been most involved with. I have been on the board since 2003 and became co-president almost five years ago. When DANIEL on 76th St. closed to become Café Boulud, I launched the first gala dinner [for Citymeals]. And the following year when DANIEL reopened on 65th Street, I launched the first Sunday Supper—this event was created specifically to show my support in a meaningful way and we’ve been doing it every year since 1997. It’s an organization I hold very close to my heart because I feel it is very important to give back to our fellow New Yorkers who were the generation before us. Citymeals does this by bringing daily hot meals and a human touch to elderly New Yorkers who cannot cook or shop and feel isolated by themselves.
The Umami Frenchie is available at Umami Burger locations through September 14.