EatDrinkJax.com interviews Korey Konopasek, Chef/Owner of Epik Burger.
21. How do you avoid cross contamination with gluten containing items?
I'm careful to advertise our limitations and most people understand them. We slice the gluten free buns ahead of time and put them in a bin with a tight lid. Then we use tongs to handle the buns and a separate toaster that's away from the rotary toaster. We don't put any buns on the grill so the bread isn't on the grill. For our fries we use all natural potatoes and sweet potatoes. For our onion rings we use gluten free flour. So there's nothing that goes into the fryer that contains gluten.
22. What's the most popular item on your menu?
I don't know if there's a single most popular thing. The Epik Burger and the Epik BBQ Burger are up there. I'd say the Hawaiian Local is up there too - we sell a lot of those. Any of the burgers with an egg are popular. I just added a new burger as a special this week - it has cheese, bacon, peppers, onions, french fries, and a fried egg. I call it the Breakfast Burger. Breakfast burgers are pretty popular nowadays - I just tried to add more to it. Putting on the french fries, peppers and onions is like adding hash browns to a burger.
Tropical Chicken Burger
23. What's your favorite burger?
I don't have a favorite beef burger - there are quite a few of them I like. I'd say my favorite chicken burger is the Tropical Chicken Burger. It has lettuce and red onion along with goat cheese and a mango-jalapeño relish, so it's kind of sweet with the strong taste of the goat cheese. That's the chicken burger I particularly enjoy.
Korean BBQ Burger
24. Is there anything that's surprised you by its popularity?
Yes, pretty much all the Asian burgers. I wasn't too sure about them. I wasn't sure if I'd sell many Korean BBQ Burgers or many Hawaiian Local Burgers with Spam. But those have been really popular. It took us a little while to work through the preconceptions of what some people thought the Korean BBQ Burger should be. I had to tweak the recipe a little, but once it was worked out it's been very popular. A lot of our Asian customers do order the Asian burgers because they're interested to see how it comes out.
25. What's been their reaction?
It's been good. I've had to work through a few adjustments in some places. For the Korean BBQ Burger I had to add some sugar to make the sauce a little sweeter and so that it browned up on the grill a little more. But I've had people order it and then come back to order it again - and that's always a good sign.
26. Are there any hidden gems on the menu that you really like but don't get the attention they deserve?
The Vietnamese Burger is one of those for me. Some people start to order it and want to substitute the baguette for something else. I have that burger as chicken, vegetarian or beef which shows that I do like it. I think the Vietnamese banh mi subs are some of the best things that exist out there for sandwiches and I really wanted to make a burger out of it. If I'm taking the order and people want to substitute the baguette I try to steer them back again because it kind of makes the burger to me.
Vietnamese Chicken Burger
27. The Vietnamese Burger comes with Vietnamese Slaw - what is that?
It's pickled vegetables. I just tried to give people an idea in their head that they're going to have sliced up vegetables and it's going to be a little different on the burger. It consists of carrots, cucumber, and red onion. If I just mentioned those ingredients people might not realize the vegetables are pickled with a little sugar, salt, water and rice wine vinegar. It's got a special flavor and I wanted to let people know that.
28. Where did you learn to cook?
I went to the New England Culinary Institute up in Vermont. I got an Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor's in Food and Beverage Management. I've been in food and beverage since I was 15; it's all I've ever done. After culinary school I worked in Las Vegas at two different casinos but doing about 15 different jobs. I got an awful lot of my experience there. I've always been around food and we like to eat out so I stay fresh with things.
29. What made you want to be a chef?
I was lucky that when I was growing up I always knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to own a restaurant. We are fortunate that with some careful planning, a lot of hard work, and a little luck we were able to get to the place where we could own our own restaurant.