What Makes a Good Burger: Interview With Bunz Chef Jeff Rossman

When you think of San Diego’s culinary scene, you probably think of Mexican delicacies, such as burritos and empanadas, or perhaps the international cuisine at restaurants like Saffron Thai and CUCINA urbana. But at Days Inn, we have one good reason that you should also associate San Diego cuisine with American fare: our signature burger — so delicious that it has earned rave reviews from guests. Learn about what makes it so good, from Bunz owner Jeff Rossman himself.

Can you give us an introduction?

I started at Bunz when I was twelve. Believe it or not, it wasn’t called Bunz back then; it was called Pam Pam Café & Grill, and this was in 1981. So, my family has been in the same spot at the Days Inn San Diego Hotel Circle since 1981. That’s 39 years or something like that — because I started off when I was twelve, washing dishes. 

Can you tell us what makes a good burger?

What makes a good burger is starting from the ground up, basically. You have to have great ingredients. So you have to start with the bun — you’ve got to have nice buns — so we get artisan buns that don’t have any preservatives or sugar. Never get pre-packaged buns. Next would be the meat; you’ve got to have good meat. We use Brandt Beef, which is a local, high-quality product from Brawley, California. From there, it’s just using other great ingredients —  if you’re using bacon, cheese, sauces, salsas, nice lettuce, vine-ripe tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes … I think building a better burger comes with the building blocks, which are the ingredients. Check out the video below for a demonstration! 

What’s your favorite burger at Bunz?

The All-American Burger is really good, and it’s really simple. It’s got pickle chips, ketchup, mustard, Bunz house sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese — it’s just a really good American burger.

What’s your favorite recipe from your book, Build Your Own Burger: BYOB?

I’m a Thai-food freak, so the Thai Turkey Burger. It has ginger, garlic, Thai chilies (gotta have the spice!), a little bit of lemongrass, some eggs to help bind it (because we put in coconut milk as well) a little bit of cilantro, scallions, and freshly ground turkey. If that doesn’t get your mouth watering … That’s one of my favorites from the book. There are also some cool drink recipes and sides — the book has a whole bunch of fun stuff in there.

What’s the best burger you’ve ever had, aside from those at Bunz or Terra American Bistro (your second restaurant)?

In New Orleans, they do this classic muffaletta sandwich, and I had a burger that kind of resembled that. New Orleans is known for French cuisine, but the muffaletta is actually an Italian sandwich from years and years ago, when the Italians immigrated and they came through the port in New Orleans. Their Italian influence really started there, and it really hit hard.

There are different ways to make a muffaletta. You can use an olive spread or jardinière (pickled peppers, carrots, cauliflower). When you put it on a burger, whether it’s turkey, lamb, chicken, or beef, those classic flavors are great.

If you’d like to see more behind-the-scenes magic from Chef Jeff, check out his full interview below. And don’t forget to stop by Bunz Gourmet Burger Joint — located on-property at Days Inn By Wyndham San Diego Hotel Circle!