Chef behind Toronto’s top burger joint reunites with legendary mentor in New York

Most folks head to New York City for vacation, basking in the bright lights of Times Square or losing themselves in the tune of a Broadway show. But Toronto burger chef Greg Bourolias was on a more specific mission.

The owner of Burger Drops, an ascending smash burger joint in Liberty Village, Bourolias trekked all the way to the Big Apple in January to revisit the roots of simple cuisine.

It was a hunt for culinary inspiration, but more than anything, the 33-year-old sought a reminder of why he entered the burger business in the first place.

The passion. The simplicity. The quality. And all that led him back to a rendezvous with a dear friend and long-time mentor: George Motz.

With wispy salt-and-pepper sideburns and over 180,000 followers on Instagram, the Long Island native is a titan of the burger industry. Not only is Motz a ninja on the grill, he’s a hamburger historian, an author, a filmmaker, and one of Bourolias’ brightest inspirations.

“He’s obsessive,” Bourolias told blogTO, describing Motz. “That level of obsession he has with really understanding the true why of things — why we have to do it this way versus doing it the way we can make the most money on — I think that’s really what I admire about him the most.”

The launch of Hamburger America, Motz’s new restaurant in SoHo, prompted the latest hangout session. Bourolias absorbed more wisdom from his idol and observed what a “true burger experience” feels like.

Motz’s fingerprints are all over the creation of Bourolias’ burger bistro in Toronto, too. Before the pandemic, when Burger Drops pop-ups were stashed under tents and in back alleys, Bourolias made just enough noise to attract international attention, including that of Motz.

The duo messaged back and forth on Instagram, and Bourolias convinced Motz to make the trip up to Toronto in 2019.

The two burger brothers whipped up over 1,000 patties in four hours at one of the Burger Drops pop-ups. In that very moment, shoulder to shoulder with a legend of grilled meat, Bourolias recognized a glowing opportunity.

“That was really the first time I decided that [Burger Drops] was going to become a business,” Bourolias said. “It gave me a perspective on the ground we’ve covered as a small company … I can see it all in my sights. It’s no longer a dream.”

Bourolias and his team, which includes his wife Katherine, have since grown Burger Drops into a pillar of Toronto’s culinary community.

Nowadays, burger-crazed locals can look out for the restaurant’s catering events. Burger Drops recently invested in a trailer, and there’s hope for new burger-based block parties – just like the pop-up days – once the weather warms.

All this growth begs the question: Is it time for Burger Drops to expand? Bourolias gets asked about new locations all the time, but he’s not quite ready to pull the trigger.

To him, patience is invaluable. In Toronto, there’s a boom in restaurant-goers craving simple cuisine — hamburgers, soups, sandwiches — over extravagant ingredients, especially as the city finds its culinary identity.

So, when the time comes, Burger Drops might expand. But only when Bourolias is certain he can maintain that culture, integrity, and tasty charred flavour across future locations in Toronto.

“I’d rather build on cement than sand,” Bourolias said.

Chef behind Toronto’s top burger joint reunites with legendary mentor in New York

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