While the New York City Wine and Food Festival is known for bringing chefs in from around the globe, two local guys from Chinatown are aiming to leave the biggest impression. Michael Tang and Christopher Wong, co-owners of the year-old Breakroom (83 Baxter Street; 212-227-2802), are participating in their first Blue Moon Burger Bash, one of the festival’s most popular events. A magnet for celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay, the bash has helped elevate the status of New York chefs like Josh Capon — the executive chef and partner behind Lure Fishbar, B&B Winepub, and El Toro Blanco — whose “bash-style burger” has won the People’s Choice Award four times, including last year.
The Breakroom’s entrant? A six-ounce Angus beef patty known as the Breakroom Burger, stacked with crispy pork belly, tempura onion rings, jalapeños, and a sunny-side-up egg. Though Tang’s sweet Breakroom baseball cap may not be as recognizable as Fieri’s frosted tips, he’s confident that people will walk away from his stand with a reason to come back and visit his Baxter Street storefront. We caught up with him to hear how he’s preparing for the competition.
How does it feel to be a part of the Burger Bash for the first time?
I mean, it was a great opportunity for us to be part of such a big event, especially with all the contestants and all the participants. We kind of look up to these big established companies like Shake Shack, BLT Fish…We’re kind of humbled to be part of it, and we’ll see where it takes us.
The Burger Bash is a big opportunity to get your burger out there. How did you become a participant?
We use the Pat LaFrieda meat and we were using the Martins buns, which sponsors the event as well. They called us and asked us if we were interested in participating in the event. I didn’t even really know what kind of event it was, but they called us right when we opened — maybe about two, three months after — so we were excited to be part of any competition. But as we looked into it, we didn’t even know it was such a big event.
Who came up with the idea for the Breakroom Burger?
It was definitely a collaborative effort with me and my partner, Chris. We were just in the kitchen just trying all different types of stuff…Eventually he wanted an onion ring in there, I wanted an egg…we just came up with this combo and called it the Breakroom Burger.
The Burger Bash has a People’s Choice Award. What would you say to people who haven’t heard of you or are trying you for the first time? Why vote for your burger?
Our burger is full of flavor. Every bite is orgasmic — that’s how I think of it. We have the pork belly, we have the onion ring, we top it off with a sunny-side egg. The meat we use is well seasoned…It’s a burst of flavor.
Was there anything that drew you to working with Pat LaFrieda?
We always knew Pat LaFrieda was the meat Shake Shack used, and we know that Pat LaFrieda is a big name as a beef provider. We wanted to be a little different from everybody else. We didn’t want to do frozen patties. We wanted to do fresh, good-quality meat.
What does it say to you as a business owner, making the cut for the Burger Bash in such a short amount of time?
Me and my partner, we’re just two Chinatown kids just trying to make it in our neighborhood and trying to provide something different than Chinese food in the area where we live. We have big dreams, but nothing like this. Hopefully, this will take us to the next level. We’re just humbled by the invitation and looking forward to the experience.
What do you hope people will take away after visiting your stand at the Burger Bash?
Our burger is packed with flavor, and [Breakroom] is a place where you can come in and enjoy a burger at a decent price. It’s a real New York burger.
Breakroom will be offering up slider-sized versions of its creation all night long at Friday’s festivities. For a look inside Breakroom, click through the photos on the next page.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 16, 2014