Can You Top This? Kerry Simon Beefs Up the Burger’s Reputation
by Jen Karetnick
Chef Kerry Simon is “a cheddar-cheese type of guy.” You might not assume that at first. After all, this chef/restaurateur has been nicknamed the Rock ’n’ Roll Chef by Rolling Stone, and he’s won a Best New Restaurant award from Esquire for Simon Kitchen + Bar. Once an aspiring musician, he’s risen to become one of the nation’s top culinary talents. Simon beat Cat Cora on Iron Chef America, a victory that had foodie mouths dropping open all over the nation because, well, he did it with a burger. And let’s face it: He has great, rock-star-style hair. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that Simon is some really rare, truffle-studded, whiskey-infused, raw-milk, triple-aged-in-a-bat-cave, blue-green veiny cheese type of guy.
At one time, in fact, he was at least a little bit closer to that kind of gourmand. “I can remember really loving blue-cheese burgers, and that’s what I would have all the time,” Simon reflects while talking about his new restaurant, KGB: Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers at Harrah’s Las Vegas. “But…I changed. [Now] I tend to eat the four-cheese burger a lot.”
Simon notes, “I think it’s very personal what type of burger you enjoy and what your condiments are.” That said, “you want the condiments to all work together.” Thus his selection of toppings, which range from the homey short-rib sloppy Joe to the eclectic vodka-cured pepper pickles to the appellative Russian dressing.
In addition to cheeses and toppings, KGB offers a variety of buns and burgers, from natural Angus beef to heritage turkey. “The bun is important,” Simon says. “That’s another of those things like cheeses, whether you like a sesame bun or whole wheat or a brioche”—all of which are choices at KGB. And “the quality of the beef is the key to a good burger. We use organic, grass-fed beef.”