Boulderites are no strangers to vegetarian food. But even carnivores won’t want to miss the Superiority Burger takeover at Pizzeria Locale Boulder on Wednesday, August 1. Brooks Headley, the man behind the much-hyped 270-square-foot New York City restaurant, will be there promoting his new Superiority Burger Cookbook and serving an á la carte menu including his signature burger. We caught up with the former Del Postopastry chef and punk rock drummer—who hasn’t set foot in Colorado in a decade—to chat about meat analogues, how cookbooks are like records, and how he translates fine-dining fare to a fast-casual setting.
5280: Are you a vegetarian?
BH: I have a very complicated relationship with food. I was vegetarian for a very long time. That’s why I had opened the restaurant. I’d had so much bad vegetarian food over the years and I wanted to do something better. There’s no reason it [vegetarian food] has to be sad. That’s the whole point of Superiority Burger—to do tasty, non-processed food. We’re just cooking vegetables.
Ever-more-convincing meat analogues are all the rage these days—Impossible Burger, etc. The Superiority Burger is decidedly not trying to imitate the flavor or texture of meat. Why?
Mine is the polar opposite of that. Their claim is that we spent 150 million dollars developing this. I spent 50 dollars developing mine.
But countless hours, I assume?
When you work in a restaurant—or own a restaurant—going down that road is a slippery slope. Those of us that choose to work in restaurants do so out of love.
You used to be the pastry chef at Del Posto, a massive temple of fine dining. Now you run a tiny fast-casual spot. Do you miss the more formal style of service?
Being in the fancy restaurant world for so long, what bummed me out is that only really wealthy people could eat the food. It just seemed weird to me. I wanted to a do a place with really high-quality food. I don’t see the cooking that we do at Superiority Burger as any different than fine dining at all; we use same stuff from the market, I buy the same imported stuff. We just sell it for really cheap. It’s not the fast track to making a lot of money. But I love every second. I wake up every morning and I’m stoked.
As you were writing the Superiority Burger Cookbook, you penned a piece for Bon Appétit magazine in which you asked: Will it [the cookbook] be any good? Will it serve a purpose?How do you think the book turned out, and what purpose does it serve?
Before I even worked in restaurants, I played music in crappy punk bands. Part of that is you put out a record or a tape or a 7-inch to document what you’ve done. It just felt good to document what you’re doing. I’m under no delusions of grandeur that I’ll ever make a dime or that anyone will even care [about the cookbook]. That’s not really my concern.
Were you concerned at all about giving away your burger recipe?
It’s funny, this one regular said to me: Why are you giving away the burger recipe? This was pretty far into the process and I hadn’t even thought of that. We sell everything so cheaply, it’s cheaper to come [to the restaurant] and buy it than to go out and buy all of the ingredients. I’d be totally honored if someone ripped off the whole book. We’ve been markedly busier since book came out.
Would you ever consider expanding Superiority Burger to more locations?
I don’t know. It would have to be in the right way. I always say, Yeah sure, if you know a person that will write a check for half a mill and have no input.
What’s on the menu for Wednesday’s takeover?
We’ll have the burger and this sandwich that we do as special a lot—the Yuba Verde. We get really fresh beautiful yuba [tofu skin] and use it to make a play on a roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, but totally vegan.
Will you serve your famous burnt broccoli salad?
We’re not sure yet. What we’re going to do closer to the day is talk to Kelly and Eduardo [Frasca Food and Wine’s executive co-chefs] and see what’s good at the markets. We worked together for years at Del Posto and worked together in Italy, too. I know those guys really well. I’m excited to hang out with them.