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What Actor Les Hill Learnt On A Global Burger Odyssey

What Actor Les Hill Learnt On A Global Burger Odyssey

On a scale of one to ten, how obsessed with burgers are you? We’re assuming you’re up there, seeing as you saw the words “global burger odyssey” and had to click the link. And why wouldn’t you be? Burgers are great. Legendary Aussie actor Les Hill thinks so too. And what does any good burger lover do once they’ve sampled some of the very best burgers in the world? Create their own, of course.

You may know Les from his work on staple Aussie television programs like Underbelly, Home and Away and more recently, Wonderland. What you may not know is that Les once worked as professional chef along Australia’s east coast and recently conducted his very own burger odyssey across the world, tasting every burger he could get his hands on. As a result of this epic quest, Les decided to create his own burger – an American-style sandwich called the ‘Hillburger’, which is on its way to being a staple on menus at established restaurants and eateries.

We asked Les to give us some insight into his world of burgers, and got him to share some lessons from this delicious odyssey.


Tell us a little bit about your history with food

I grew up with a huge extended family, and my nan and mum were excellent cooks. Nan had to cook for 12 children and her husband, and mum learnt everything from Nan. When I was about 22, I ended up working in a restaurant on the floor, and the food was amazing. I harassed the chef until he gave me a job, and cooked for four-and-a-half years professionally up and down the coast of Australia. Cooking has been a massive part of my life, and a great life skill. You need to eat every day, so why not practice some kitchen alchemy?

When did you become obsessed with burgers?

I’ve always been obsessed with burgers, for as long as I remember. I had my fifth birthday in McDonald’s, and loved the corner store burgers growing up. But here in Australia, we have never quite nailed it. We’re getting there now though, and there are some great innovators and creators out there refining the art of burger. Neil Perry is leading the charge with The Burger Project. Jack’s at Newtown and Mary’s as well. There’s quite a few now.

What kind of role did travel play in your pursuit or the perfect burger?

Travel was key in discovering the worlds’ take on the German invention of burger. Learning how other countries adapted the hamburger opened my eyes to the possibilities, as well as learning what not to do. And let’s face it, food and travel go together. Travel has taught me a lot about all sorts of food, not just burgers.


Tell us a little more about your burger odyssey

I’ve eaten a burger on almost every continent, but America is the unofficial home of the burger now. I’ve eaten at some of the quintessential burger restaurants in LA, New York, and Texas (more a barbecue city though), but the UK has some great burger joints as well. There are also some fantastic places in Melbourne and throughout Sydney. Australia has come a long way with the development of this humble sandwich. I still travel to the USA specifically to try new food – burgers in particular – as those guys have perfected it, and are constantly making improvements.

The Hillburger

What are five things you learnt on your burger odyssey?

#1 The meat is everything. Mince from a butcher will not cut it, whether or not they call it “best mince”. It’s just off cuts. Play with different cuts and mince them yourself.

#2 If you can’t fit it in your mouth, it’s not a burger. It’s a food pile.

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#3 Your sauce has to be original. Experiment until you find your unique recipe.

#4 Processed American cheese is cheap, but there is no substitute. I use imported American cheddar.

#5 Find a baker to make you potato rolls, like Martin’s potato rolls that Shake Shack in New York use. Ben at Clovelly Bakery does them for me, and he’s nailed the recipe. Drop in and see him.

(Lead image: Jun Seita/Flickr)

You can find Hillburger at the Courtyard Cafe in Coogee, with an exciting new venue in Randwick for July. Stay tuned.

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