Interview with Burgerfest organiser Zed

Learn more about this year's Burgerfest

On the weekend of October the 12th and 13th the second annual Burgerfest will be taking place on Náměstí Míru. I went down to American styled restaurant Bejzment in Prague 5, run by Zed who is organising Burgerfest once again, to find out more about the festival and use it as an excuse to try one of their authentic burgers.

“Everybody loves burgers,” says Zed, as ironically he tucks into a salad. “We have got some fancy festivals in Prague but nobody does burgers so we thought it would be a good idea to get lots of burger places together and make it into some kind of challenge. One well known restaurant does a chilli festival, but no-one knows how to make chilli in this country, but with burgers you can get different styles and standards too.”

While Burgerfest is an opportunity for visitors to stuff their faces with as much meat as possible, it is also a competition between established burger-serving restaurants to determine who really does the best burger in the Czech Republic. Everyone will get a voting card on entry to mark down the burgers they try in the order they prefer and there are no real rules for the restaurants, but Zed offers some tactical advice.

“If they want to do a small or big burgers then they can, but if you try to eat small burgers you can eat around six or seven, but with normal sized ones maybe only two or three. So it is better for restaurants to have small burgers so people can test everything. The winners will get some prizes from the sponsors but also an official Burgerfest winner’s sticker to put in the window of their restaurant.”

Anyone who went along last year will have noticed the change in location, as Zed was offered the choice of staying where they were last year or moving. When the chance to hold it in Prague 2 arose it seemed like a good option, with its central location and easy accessibility due to plenty of trams and metros stopping nearby.

“We sold 4,500 burgers in two days last time,” says Zed. “Last year we had a fair as well but this time it’s going to be different because I want to bring in the name of Burgerfest as a brand, so that next year everybody knows it is going to be big. Maybe we will expand to have chilli and BBQ competitions as well.”

Zed himself knows a lot about burgers and American cuisine in general and is the ideal person to be staging such a festival. As well as running his own burger bar in Prague, he has worked along with in the kitchens of some top US and Prague restaurants.

“I worked in one of the best restaurants in Atlanta and here I worked in the kitchens of Hotel Paris, so I have some experience,” he explains. “Today people in Prague think a burger is just meat in a bun but it is something else. Not everyone can make a good burger; you have to have a feeling for it.”

Having tried the ‘Lots of shroom’ burger at Bejzment, it’s fair to say they certainly do have the feel for it. Half a pound of real beef between a fresh bread bun layered with mushrooms, caramelised onions and melted Swiss cheese, the side of spicy chips was an added bonus, full of flavour rather than the dry, bland stuff some other places serve. It helps that everything is cooked on a wooden grill over charcoal and the meat is from a local butcher too, and they’re also the only place in Prague that serves Bison burgers.

“I opened Bejzment two and a half years ago because in the area there were some local pubs but I decided to open something different,” says Zed. “Because I had experience from the USA and worked for Hard Rock Cafe I opened a burger bar. I am changing the menu every half year and trying something different, to do special things because we find that all the time people don’t know what a real burger is. The people here think it is just what you get from McDonald’s and we are fighting with that.”

The biggest thing on Bejzment’s menu is undoubtedly the ‘Big Zee Heart Attack Challenge’. For 599CZK (about £18) the victim gets 1kg of fresh beef on a maxi bun, the size of a plate, with lettuce, caramelised onions, chilli con carne, tomatoes, coleslaw, cheese, cucumbers and four slices of smoked bacon. Anyone finishing it alone in under an hour gets it for free and the potential for an actual heart attack!

“We’ve sold about 2,500, with most people sharing it between them. Maybe around 120 people have attempted it alone but only 15 have completed it in under an hour.”

So far no-one has ended up in hospital. In November will be holding a challenge there with three teams of three battling it out to see who can finish it the quickest. One team will consist of American football players, another of regular people and a third yet to be decided, all sat behind one long table with a crowd cheering them on. If you can’t make it to the event then don’t worry as hopefully will be streaming it online.

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