Neil Perry is definitely active in his business, spending a lot of time commuting between Melbourne and Shanghai. Most recently he's spent a whirlwind 48 hours in Brisbane promoting Burger Project's menu change and new partnership with Darrell Lea (yes, you heard that right!). When we arrived to taste test the new creation, Neil was in full swing not only cooking burgers but popping in and out clearing tables and chatting to customers, which took everyone by surprise. He swung by our table at least 3 times to ask how we were going and give us the low down on the Burger Project. Despite being the founder of the Rockpool Empire and the only Australian chef to hold 3 Michelin stars, Neil Perry's hustle around the quality of the beef burgers that are Cape Grimm meat and made in-store (no one else does that), was just as impressive as the menu itself.
Why did you start Burger Project originally?
Despite there being enough burger places in Australia and the world that people were willing to pay $10+, I could put high-quality, real Cape Grimm meat in a burger and charge the same! We started 5 years ago offering the classic at $9.95 for a which was impressive considering the grade of beef and of course, we made everything ourselves.
Why did you decide to update the menu?
Mike and I were over in New York and we had some beautiful fried chicken. I have always loved the katsu burger but wanted to turn it back to the traditional American chicken (crispy on the outside) and make it simple with the lettuce, pickles and mayo – though there is a deluxe version also. We also decided to simplify the burgers already on offer! Previously, we had a variety of prescribed burgers that would take people a long time to get through when trying to choose so we decided to pull the menu right back and only have the essentials like the cheeseburger, American, mushroom and a couple more. Now, you can even customise your extras including bacon, salted red chilli, pickled jalapenos and mushroom just to name a few.
The chicken burger is delicious but we were surprised by the inclusion of pickles – is that normal?
It’s very common in America to have a chicken burger with nothing but pickles and mayo which we loved. Being in Australia though, we know how much Australians love their cheese and salad. I particularly like having a burger without the lettuce and tomato, that’s why I included the beef/chicken classic and deluxe on the menu so people can choose to either have that authentic meat experience or with salad.
We are finding now a lot of people are going with the classic which proves it is never too late for a menu to tweak, change or evolve.
How did the collaboration with Darrell Lea start?
As a kid, I used to love going to Darrell Lea in the 1960s to have some soft liquorice and the rocky road (in particularly the marshmallows). And I just thought, what better combination than two iconic Australian brand like DL, and BP coming together. We approached Darrell Lea to become an exclusive supplier and which they were very excited about. It gave me a good opportunity to raise the profile of the dessert menu, and make our amazing shakes even better. Our shakes are hands down the best in Australia as our soft serve is made from real vanilla bean, chocolate and whole milk (not powdered).
Will you be increasing the presence of Burger Project in Brisbane?
We would love to put more restaurants in Brisbane. It's just a matter of finding the right site around fringe Brisbane or maybe somewhere near James Street with good traffic. We would love to get into one of the shopping centres if the right one came up.