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Shake Shack is Expanding to Tokyo

Shake Shack is Expanding to Tokyo

The Tokyo location, coming in 2016, will be Shake Shack’s first foray into the Far East

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Hey, Japan, get ready for some Shack burgers and handspun shakes!

With the grand opening of their Baltimore location this weekend, Shake Shack is slowly but surely taking over America’s burger scene. Shake Shack just announced that they’ll be opening the burger joint’s first-ever Far East location in Tokyo in 2016.

For their move, Shake Shack is partnering with Sazaby League Limited, the same company that brought Starbucks to Japan. And they won’t stop at Tokyo: expect 10 more locations to open throughout Japan between now and 2020.

“We are absolutely thrilled to bring our first Shack to Tokyo. For years, a tremendous amount of fans have asked us when we would come to Japan,” said Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, in a press release. “We are incredibly honored to partner with Sazaby League, a world-class, proven operator with over forty years of expertise including tremendous success leading Starbucks’ first international venture. We are truly humbled to become a part of Japan’s thriving food scene.”

The Tokyo Shack will feature many of the fast casual restaurant’s well-known menu items, like the Shack Burger, Shack-cago Dog, crinkle-cut fries, and shakes.

Loud and Proud: Shake Shack’s recipe for an inclusive workplace

With issues of race, gender and sexuality coming to the forefront of American life, the nation’s board rooms are scrambling to assemble talent pipelines that look more like the nation as a whole.

Burger chain Shake Shack Inc (SHAK.N) is enjoying a nice head start in this particular race.

The New York City-founded staple recently received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for its LGBTQ-friendly workplace. Advocacy even finds its way onto the menu, with items like the “Pride Shake.”

Reuters recently sat down with Shake Shack’s president and chief financial officer, Tara Comonte, a native of Scotland, to chat about the right recipe for mixing business and social principles.

Edited excerpts are below.

Q: Shake Shack has been named a “Best Place To Work” for LGBTQ employees for many years running – how did that become part of the company DNA?

A: It has always been a people-first organization, ever since it was born as a hot-dog cart in NYC. [Founder] Danny Meyer and CEO Randy Garutti have a set of principles they refer to as “Enlightened Hospitality,” and that involves taking care of our team first.

Everything stems from that.

Q: Did this focus on company culture stem from your time in investment banking, which was not positive for you?

A: I always say to people, "You learn just as much from the experiences you didn’t love, or the bosses who weren’t great, as you do from the ones which were fantastic." Investment banking just wasn’t a culture I enjoyed or thrived in.

It was incredibly hierarchical, where the proxy for success was being at your desk early in the morning or late at night.

I have also spent way too many meetings in rooms lacking in diversity, trying to sell products that looked nothing like the room. One example is I was working for this big global beauty brand, in a room full of 12 men debating a mascara ad.

I remember thinking, "This is the most bizarre conversation ever. No one in this room is even a target for this product."

Q: How does being an employee-first company affect talent attraction and retention?

A: The war for talent is only getting more competitive. People have to want to work and stay with you. So we have to provide an environment where each party in the relationship gives their best: The individual gives their best for the company, and the company gives their best to the individual.

That’s why we’re “all in” on diversity and inclusion and equality.

Q: Since not everyone agrees on LGBTQ issues, have you experienced any pushback?

A: We’re not trying to judge anyone, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You’re not going to get everyone on the same page all the time. But we’re going to be who we’re going to be.

Our North Star is that we need to do the right thing, as a business and a brand and leaders in the community. We need to have conviction in our beliefs, and do our best to educate and be inclusive.

Q: You have been open about discussing "Imposter Syndrome" – as a woman in the C-suite, what has your experience been like?

A: Imposter Syndrome is real, and unfortunately women have a lot more of it than men. That being said, women need to have confidence in their own worth.

I had a conversation like that recently, when a female colleague was quiet in a meeting. I said, "Remember, you earned your seat at that table, and we want your point of view. You have a valuable perspective that needs to be heard."

The more you see women at the boardroom table, having voices and leadership roles and bringing great ideas, the easier it is for women coming up.

Q: Diversity and inclusion has become a key theme over the past year, so what advice do you have for other companies?

A: Build a team that reflects the marketplace you’re trying to address, and the community you’re trying to engage. That will drive understanding and empathy and creativity, and the more successful you are going to be.

Make sure every single employee has an equal opportunity to go as far as they want to go. If you don’t, you will lose your star performers, because people won’t want to hang around.

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Shake Shack

The burgers rock, the custard is cool, and the shakes may be the best you’ve ever had. The shakes at Shake Shack are so good because they’re made with the chain’s signature frozen vanilla custard which I’ve already hacked here. To make the shake you just add milk to the custard and blend it until smooth. Pour the creamy shake into a 16-ounce glass and today will be your new favorite cheat day.

Make your own version at home using the Shake Shack Frozen Vanilla Custard hack here or pre-made frozen custard. Plus, milk and a blender.

Try my recipe for the Shake Shack Burger here.

What started as a single food cart in Madison Square Park in New York City in 2000 has become one of America's fastest-growing food chains. In 2014, Shake Shack filed for its initial public offering of stock, and shares rose by 147 percent on the first day of trading. The chain’s success can be attributed to a simple menu of great food that makes any bad day better, including juicy flat-grilled burgers, thick shakes, and creamy frozen custard.

Custard is made just like ice cream with many of the same ingredients, except custard has egg yolks in it for extra richness. Also, custards are made in ice cream machines with paddles that move slowly so minimal air is mixed in. Home ice cream makers work great for custard, and will churn out a thick, creamy finished product. Using the right ratio of cream to milk and just enough egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla, you can now make an identical hack of Shake Shack’s custard, which is great on its own or topped with syrups, fruit, and candy bits.

And don’t forget that custards taste best when they’re fresh. Shake Shack serves the custard within a couple of hours of making it, so consume your copycat custard as quickly as you can after it’s churned.

Find out how to duplicate the chain's famous Vanilla Milkshake by just adding milk using the recipe here, and re-create the juicy Shake Shake Burger with my hack here.

Several puzzles had to be solved to make this burger a satisfying hack of the signature sandwich from the rapidly expanding New York chain. First, our burger must include a spot-on facsimile of the secret ShackSauce. I got a sample of the sauce from one of our Las Vegas Shake Shacks and determined the seven common ingredients, including pickle juice, to combine for a great clone.

Second, the burger must be made with a special ground mix of four different cuts of beef and the patties need to be cooked the right way. I tested many combinations of meat until I landed on a flavorful blend of chuck, brisket, skirt steak, and short ribs. If you don't have a meat grinder at home, you can have your butcher grind these for you. At the restaurant, the ground beef blend is formed into ¼-pound pucks that are smashed onto the grill with a metal press. Grab a strong spatula and heat up a heavy skillet.

And third, you'll need some soft, buttered and toasted potato buns to hold it all together. Shake Shack uses Martin's rolls, which are not cut all the way through, allowing the buns to be hinged open for loading. If you can’t find Martin’s, any soft potato rolls will do.

Use these secrets and follow the easy steps below and soon you’ll be biting into a perfect re-creation of the famous cheeseburger that helped this chain grow from a single food cart in New York City to over 162 stores.

Here’s why Shake Shack, and not In-N-Out, is at Dodger Stadium

Shake Shack opened at Dodger Stadium this week. The most common reaction among the Dodger faithful: Where is In-N-Out? Why must we eat a good New York burger where we could eat a great L.A. burger?

You, gentle Dodgers fan, are not alone in your love for In-N-Out. Jason Giambi, the onetime American League most valuable player, grew up in West Covina. After he signed with the New York Yankees, he tried to open an In-N-Out in New York. He failed.

In-N-Out does not open locations in New York — or, for that matter, anywhere east of Texas. And sorry, hungry Dodger fan: In-N-Out does not open locations within major sports venues.

“Sponsorship of a major sports team, stadium or arena, isn’t a strategy that we have chosen to take advantage of,” said Denny Warnick, In-N-Out executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Jeff Marks, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Innovative Partnerships Group, matches teams, leagues and venues with corporate sponsors. He said he does not pursue business from In-N-Out.

“I haven’t called them in 10 years,” Marks said.

Look, it’s been a long two years for everyone.

The Dodgers did not respond to multiple requests for comment about why the team did not partner with any local burger company.

For In-N-Out or any other company, selling its burgers at a ballpark would involve more than setting up a grill and a credit card reader.

Marks said the Dodgers, like many other teams, would want to include the concession rights in a broader sponsorship deal that could include broadcast advertisements, social media promotions, stadium signage, hospitality suites and more. He said such deals typically cover multiple years and cost six or seven figures.

He said some restaurants fret over quality control in a ballpark setting. And, even as fans expect to pay a premium for ballpark food, Marks said some restaurants worry about negative reaction from consumers.

In-N-Out, with headquarters inside a nondescript Irvine building fronted by a Kumon tutoring center, priced its burgers from $2.80 to $4.45 at a nearby location Thursday.

Shake Shack priced its burgers from $5.49 to $10.69 at a Pasadena location Thursday, according to an online menu, and from $8.50 to $14.00 at Dodger Stadium.

“When it comes to sports teams, we prefer to sponsor local school or community teams in an effort to support the communities where we do business,” Warnick said.

“While we are thankful for the feedback we have received from loyal customers over the years suggesting that we open an In-N-Out Burger in the stadium of their favorite team, I don’t anticipate that we will expand into the concession business in the foreseeable future.”

You can still get a Dodger Dog at Dodger Stadium, but it won’t be from Farmer John, which did not renew its contract with the club after the 2019 season.

In-N-Out, which launched in Baldwin Park in 1948, has a longstanding relationship with drag racing. Harry Snyder, the co-founder of In-N-Out, was half-owner of Irwindale Raceway. Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson, the current chief executive and Snyder’s granddaughter, has raced in the NHRA.

Chris Hartweg, publisher of Team Marketing Report, said the most recent In-N-Out sports sponsorships he could find beyond racing involved a now-defunct independent league baseball team, a minor league basketball team and an ultimate Frisbee team.

“They are not spending major league money on sports sponsorships because they don’t think they need to,” Hartweg said. “And who can argue with their delicious success?”

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Ina Garten’s Copycat Shake Shack Chick’n Shack Sandwiches Are Here to Save Your Week

As if we all needed yet another reason to shower her with eternal praise, Ina Garten’s out here making copycat Shake Shack Chick ‘n Shack Sandwiches to feed our weary souls &mdash and, you know, mouths. Being the fairy godmother of food that she is, Garten not only re-created the super-popular food chain recipe, but she also dropped a link to her version. Obviously, we’ll now be channeling our inner Ina every time a hankering for Shake Shack strikes (but we’re too lazy to actually make the commute to one).

Taking to Instagram over the weekend, Garten shared a mouth-watering photo featuring two rows of these grab-and-go delights. “I’m filming new episodes of Barefoot Contessa today and I just made these amazing fried chicken sandwiches inspired by the @shakeshack Chick’n Shack,” she wrote. “The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and double-dipped in the coating mixture so that they’re extra crispy &mdash it’s what’s for lunch!” Um, or breakfast or&hellip who are we kidding? We’ll be downing these babies around the clock.

Not surprisingly, we aren’t the only ones who are thrilled with this knockoff news. Even Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer couldn’t help fanboying over Garten’s post, writing, “There is no higher compliment than when @inagarten covers your song! You can cook me a Chick’n Shack any day of the year. #honored @shakeshack.”

That little social media tête-à-tête led food writer/editor Jake Cohen to wonder aloud whether there wasn’t the potential for enterprise in the exchange. “I could eat this whole tray,” he said, adding, “When’s the Shake Shack x Ina collab??” And, God yes. We need that. We deserve that. Don’t we? This year could use more Shake-Shack-slash-Ina-Garten sparkle.

Perhaps the best part of this whole story (it’s hard to choose, TBH) is how easy Garten’s copycat Chick’n Shack recipe really is. Sure, you’ve got to put a little time into the prep work. But this way, you get to stay home and listen to your favorite true-crime podcast while you cook on those days you’re craving Shake Shack but just don’t want to people.

It’s also kind of fun to know that Garten herself can’t resist this fast-food favorite. In February, she shared her love for the sandwich with Food Network magazine. “For years I thought about making fried chicken by double-dipping the chicken in the buttermilk and flour mixtures to form a thick, crispy crust. But I never actually got around to doing it. Then, when Shake Shack&rsquos cookbook came out, I realized that was exactly the method they used for their fabulous Chick&rsquon Shack sandwich! I decided it was finally time to roll up my sleeves and give it a try,” she revealed.

If by some chance you’re not as obsessed as we &mdash Garten is now part of our proverbial “we” since we clearly have so much in common &mdash are with this sandwich, know this: During an episode of Barefoot Contessa, Garten referred to the Chick’n Shack as “the best fried chicken anyone has ever had.” So, please, excuse us while we go whip up some Aperol spritzers and get ready to fry up some copycat chicken sandwiches.

Before you go, check out these other impressive Ina Garten recipes.

Shake Shack Is Rolling Out Food Trucks, & Now They Can Cater Your Wedding

Wedding food is pretty hit or miss. Chicken or salmon, pasta or risotto, it all has a way of tasting… well, like wedding food. Thankfully, Shake Shack is about to change all that, making the food the best part of any wedding you go to now that they’re sending Shake Shack food trucks to cater your nuptials. New wedding favor gift idea: adult bibs so people don’t get burger juice on their fancy duds.

While there are currently brick-and-mortar Shake Shack locations in 25 states, the two official Shake Shack food trucks will only be cruising the streets of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and the Atlanta metro area. I’ll try not to take it personally that I’m a) already married and it’s too late to have something this cool at my reception and b) live in Los Angeles, where the truck isn’t available. Hmmph.

NEWS: Shake Shack is rolling out food trucks in the NYC and Atlanta areas starting today. Perfect if you're getting hitched soon and really love crinkle cut fries.

&mdash Kevin J. Ryan (@wheresKR) February 25, 2019

As weddings become less and less adherent to old rituals and traditions, food trucks are becoming a more common addition to these events. Not only is it more fun than a classic buffet or seated dinner, but it’s also cheaper &mdash some estimates put the average cost per person for a food truck-catered wedding at just $20 a person.

Of course, you don’t have to settle for just a food truck at your wedding. Go with the resplendent elegance of a classic seated dinner, then have the food truck drive up later in the night when everyone is sweaty from dancing, drunk and craving junk food. You’ll go down in history as having one of the coolest weddings ever, and if you get to sneak some of the leftovers back to the honeymoon suite, even better. Nothing says I do like a breakfast made up of last night’s Shake Shack.

If you live in one of the areas served by Shake Shack’s trucks, all you need to do is fill out a form with the details of your event to get a quote. And spoiler alert: The truck isn’t just available for weddings &mdash it would be an awesome addition to a big birthday party or as a way to celebrate an epic career milestone too.

The Latest Trend in Tokyo

"I used to run a restaurant in California," the cook says between flips of the spatula. "A nice French place. But after Lehman Brothers collapsed, nobody was buying French food anymore, and I came back to Japan." There is a note of nostalgia in his voice, but no regret. He shouts at staff to hand out menus to the line forming outside, then returns to the grill. French food is still popular with Japanese, he continues, but it's not for everyone. "Burgers are different, though. Burgers are for everyone."

He should know. The bright little bistro where he works, appropriately called E.A.T., does a brisk business in Tokyo's trendy Shibuya ward, an area known more for street fashion than cuisine. Only two blocks away, A&G Diner (3-41-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku), a ❐s-style burger joint across from a popular contemporary art museum, also has a line out front. While waiting in that line a few weeks ago, I saw staff deliver takeout to at least two neighboring restaurants. Even the nearby soba shops were digging in.

Burgers are not new to Japan: there were places slinging patties for homesick soldiers soon after World War two. Most locals, however, wouldn't taste their first burger until McDonald's opened its first Asian franchise, in Tokyo in 1971. Homegrown chain Mos Burger opened its doors soon after. In the ➐s, local chains like Freshness Burger and the Hawaiian import Kua Aina arrived on the scene, but the real trend of high-end burgers began after the millennium, and has exploded in the last five years, with shops popping up all over town to serve faithful recreations of classic American diner food, as well as some creative variations.

At E.A.T., the lamb burger stands out, while at A&G, the habanero relish on the Caribbean Summer burger had me ordering a milkshake prematurely to put out the fire. At the homey Burger Mania cafe in Hiroo, the cheeseburger wouldn't be out of place at a Fourth of July picnic, but their Cherry Burger, with its dark, sweet black cherries and cream cheese, looks like something even Paula Deen wouldn't dare dream up (they also offer a kumquat burger--in season, of course). Often served with numerous sauces and toppings teetering at ridiculous heights, these burgers are the antithesis of traditional Japanese cuisine: big, greasy, and impossible to eat without making a mess. Most outlets serve these unwieldy creations in paper sleeves, while several even offer tableside instructions on how to eat. Whether this plays into the spike in gourmet burgers across the archipelago is unclear, but judging by who is succeeding, it appears that people here want larger portions, fresher ingredients, and bolder flavors. As McDonald's Japan continues to close outlets and resort to desperate marketing tactics, small, privately owned restaurants with freshly baked buns, homemade sauces, and high-quality beef (whether from local Wagyu, Australian cattle, Japan-raised American cows, or some combination of breeds) are pulling in big business.

"Most Japanese people are carnivores," says Eliot Bergman, proprietor of the New York-style bar and grill Martiniburger in Shinjuku. "They like beef. And they want a burger where they can taste it." Bergman, a former New Yorker, is happy to oblige. Resting on an English muffin instead of a bun, his signature burger is unusual in that it is a large patty and very little else: pickle, tomato, béarnaise sauce-and that's it. The outside: flame-charred goodness. The inside: still juicy and bloody, just as I ordered it.

This is all a far cry from the mix of beef, pork, breadcrumbs, and onions known locally as "Hamburg Steak." That dish is closer to meatloaf in texture, and eaten with utensils rather than taken into one's own hands. Hamburg Steak has no place in this new strain of establishments. What Japanese people want now, it seems, is a real hamburger, and for that, they are ready to get their hands dirty.

Shake Shack (Ebisu, Shinjuku, Roppongi, Aoyama, Yurakucho) – 100% hormone-free Angus Beef Burgers

Shake Shack is a New York City based American restaurant chain that uses all-natural 100% angus beef completely free of hormones and antibiotics. They pride themselves on sourcing incredible ingredients from like-minded farmers, bakers and food purveyors. “Our burgers are made with 100% all-natural, antibiotic-free Angus beef burgers (no added hormones). Our fries are crinkle cut Yukon potatoes, with zero artificial ingredients. And our vanilla and chocolate frozen custard recipes use only real sugar, no corn syrup and milk from dairy farmers who pledge not to use artificial growth hormones.”

Shake Shack started out as a food cart inside Madison Square Park in 2004, and now has over 100 locations globally, three in Tokyo Meiji-Jingu Gaien, Ebisu and The Tokyo International Forum. I stopped in the Ebisu Atre West ground floor shack. It was bustling with people. The walls are clad in reclaimed snow fence and local Japanese cedar wood, and the handcrafted tabletops from reclaimed Brooklyn bowling alley lanes. I ordered a shack burger, crinkle fries and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was deliciously sweet and the burger and fries tasted just like the ones in New York.

Shake Shack not only provides healthy fast food they give back to the local community. “As part of Shake Shack’s mission to Stand For Something Good®, the Ebisu team has partnered with local community NPO Green Bird (whose mission is to keep the community clean and green) to donate 5% of sales from the E-bean-su concrete. This partnership will provide opportunities for the Shack team members to volunteer and participate in community driven initiatives.”

Shake Shack Ebisu Details:

Address: 1-6 Minami Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (〒150-0022東京都渋谷区恵比寿南1丁目-6)
Hours: 10:00 – 22:30 Daily
Phone: 03-5475-8546
Access: Less than 1 minute from Ebisu Station Hibiya and JR lines.

Shake Shack Meiji-Jingu Gaien Details:

Address: 2-1-15 Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo (東京都港区北青山 2-1-15)
Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 Daily
Phone: 03-6455-5409
Access: 8 minutes from Aoyama-Iitchome Station

Shake Shack Tokyo International Forum Details:

Address: 3-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (〒100-0005東京都千代田区丸の内3丁目5番1号)
Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 Daily
Phone: 03-6455-5409
Access: 4 minutes from Yurakucho Station

Shake Shack Ebisu

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Shake Shack brings the burgers you just gotta have to Pasadena

With the opening of its latest location in Pasadena, the Burger Joint of the Moment has finally come the San Gabriel Valley — adding one more notch to the more than 300 branches across America, with 80-plus around the world, stretching from Dubai to Tokyo. Not quite the 38,000 branches of McDonald’s. But then, Shake Shack has only been around since the beginning of this century. Give it time.

There is a point of curiosity about the Pasadena Shake Shack: Although it has a modest outdoor patio, the branch has opted not to use it for outdoor dining as a pandemic option. Instead, this Shake Shack is takeout only, with a fair-sized crowd waiting in the parking lot for their bags of burgers and fries to emerge from the very busy kitchen. The wait is well worthwhile.

It also reflects on the roots of the Shake Shack — which was born as a grab-and-go option, a summertime hot dog cart in 2001, installed in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park as a way to raise money for an art installation, while feeding those who showed up for the art.

By 2004, the cart had become a kiosk. And the lines to score a Shake Shack burger had grown to legendary lengths. Partly as an homage to what many were proclaiming New York’s best hamburger. But perhaps even more because New Yorkers love to stand on line for culinary cult dishes. (Just consider the line in SoHo for Dominique Ansel’s CroNuts, and in the Village for cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery — years after “Sex & the City” went off the air! Recently, in Brooklyn, hundreds waited overnight to buy a single can of beer!)

To avoid the wait, a bit of strategy and pre-planning obviously doesn’t hurt. Like getting there before the lunch rush begins — pretty much anytime between 11 a.m. and noon. And mid-afternoon can be easy. Evenings seem to be rough.

Though as long as you’re not in a rush, the waiting can be part of the experience. As was realizing that during a visit to another Shake Shack location, I was on line behind one of the LA Lakers, whose conversation with his far shorter date I tried desperately to listen in on. I mean…a Laker! What I overheard was a lot of talk about…whether he should get the fries, the cheese fries or the bacon-cheese fries. (He settled on two orders of the regular fries — which he probably burned up in one minute on the court!)

Chick’n Shack at Shake Shack (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

Considering my order, the choices for me were between the regular hamburger (single or double, with bacon or without), the signature ShackBurger (cheese, lettuce, tom Shack Sauce, single or double), the SmokeShack (with cheese, smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, sauce), the ‘Shroom Burger (crispy fried portobello mushrooms topped with muenster and cheddar cheeses) or the Shack Stack (which combines a cheeseburger with a ‘Shroom Burger). It isn’t easy.

As additional options, there’s a crispy chicken breast sandwich (the Chick’n Shack), and a trio of “Flat Top Dogs” — one of them, done Chicago-style with lots of…stuff. And, as a reminder of why it’s called Shake Shack, there are “Classic Hand Spun Shakes” — in flavors like salted caramel and peanut butter. There’s a Purple Cow Float. There is, in other words, a lot to consider.

And, of course, there’s the question that the logarithmic spread of Shake Shack leaves us to confront. Acolytes swear this is the Great American Hamburger. That it is the sine qua non, the Platonic ideal, that against which sad parvenus like Five Guys and In-N-Out must be measured.

I think that, like the Krispy Kreme doughnut, which was hailed, many years ago, as the ultimate, quintessential incarnation of the doughnut, the ShackBurger is a very good feed. It certainly beats Mickey D’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and the like.

But having it a number of times, I salute the chain for its commitment to 100-percent natural meats, and Angus beef “delivered fresh, vegetarian fed and humanely raised.” But is it a burger I dream of? No…not really. I find the meat a bit…dull, and the physicality a bit flat.

I like a burger with heft and size, a burger with life and meaning, a burger that doesn’t taste so much like a corporate product. It’s the Burger of the Moment. Like Krispy Kreme was the Doughnut of the Moment. But boy, I’ll bet they love it in Dubai.

Zaiyu Hasegawa: the best places to eat in Tokyo

From the imaginative menu at Den, the acclaimed restaurant located in Jimbocho, Tokyo. Photo: Supplied

At Zaiyu Hasegawa's Den restaurant in Tokyo, there's a "Dentucky Fried Chicken" box that guests open to find souvenirs from the country they're visiting from (tucked inside, too, is the Michelin-starred chef's inspired take on the fast-food staple). There's also a dessert so garden-fresh that it's served on a shovel.

This quirky, ultra-original approach is probably why Hasegawa was recently awarded the One To Watch Award at the 2016 World's 50 Best Restaurants ceremony in New York. His imaginative and charming menu is also guilty of attracting many Australian chefs to his restaurant - such as Dan Hong, Paul Carmichael, Michael Ryan, Chase Kojima, Patrick Friesen and Martin Benn.

In fact, Martin Benn (whose restaurant Sepia had previously won the One To Watch Award in 2015) is such a fan that he featured Hasegawa as his guest chef for a charity dinner he staged at Sepia in April. The event raised enough money for OzHarvest to deliver 34,800 meals to people in need.

Zaiyu Hasegawa outside his Michelin-starred restaurant, Den. Photo: Supplied

While Hasegawa was out here for his first trip to Australia, he managed to try many of Sydney's greatest hits (Mary's, Momofuku Seiobo, Porteno) and previewed Gelato Messina's Creative Department, which features his former chef Remi Talbot as the chief creative behind the ambitious venue's frozen dessert degustations.

Zaiyu Hasegawa serves a quirky dessert on a shovel at his restaurant. Photo: Yuuki Honda

Hasegawa also had time to tell us about his favourite places to eat in Tokyo. (He couldn't single out a fave restaurant for kaarage chicken, though, as "my mum's is the best".)

For sushi: Sugita

[Sugita is] also the owner's name. He has a lot of respect and he has a lot of skills when it comes to ageing fish. Each fish is different and requires different cooking styles. I respect his technique, skills and authority. It's difficult to choose a favourite dish.