The cheeseburger was invented in Pasadena in the mid-1920s. (Renee Comet/National Institutes of Health)
Cheeseburger. Cobb Salad. Doritos. Sound like the lunch special at that little diner around the corner from your work? Maybe so, but these three American classics mean much, much more to Angelenos.
For centuries, forward-thinking culinary geniuses have migrated to the L.A. area in search of the perfect platform to introduce the next big kitchen creation to the world. Today, this melting pot metropolis is booming with delicious foods from all over the globe – literally every corner. In Los Angeles, Chinatown and the great American diner coexist, vegan cuisine can be found but mere blocks from world renowned Korean barbecue and flavor fusion is simply a way of life. What most do not realize is that culinary creativity is nothing new to Los Angeles, but rather, this great city has a rich history of edible art.
In all honesty, today we probably wouldn’t classify a simple cheeseburger as “art,” but in the 1920s that is exactly what it was. Colorado Street in Pasadena was home to a small restaurant called the Rite Spot, and in this establishment, the cheeseburger was born. Young owner and operator L.C. Sternberger coined his cheese-topped beef patty as the Aristocratic Burger, adding it to the list of menu offerings. It was a simple yet delicious addition – one that caught on in no time at all.
Some foodie frenzies have been created purely by accident. Much like the Brown Derby owner’s lasting sensation: Cobb Salad. In 1937 while most slumbered, Bob Cobb rooted around his restaurant kitchen and diced his way to international notoriety. In reality, Mr. Cobb was simply looking to whip up a meal to satisfy his hungry guest’s midnight craving.
What he served was one appetizing bowl. A bed of crisp lettuce topped with everything but the kitchen sink: cheese and chicken breast, grape tomatoes and green onions, avocados and eggs. He even topped this hearty salad with bacon. What is there not to love? Exactly. Cobb Salad is now known worldwide – from Los Angeles to Florida, from Tokyo to Paris. Brown Derby Restaurant put this salad on the map, an international sensation indeed.
Much like many of our current enticing inventions, the roots of Doritos are dated to centuries past. The original potato chip was created in 1853, but the invention of the Doritos in Disneyland made chips art. Technically, Disneyland is not quite in Los Angeles, but it sure isn’t far.
In 1955, over one century after the arrival of the original chip, Frito Lay founder Elmer Doolin opened Casa de Fritos inside of the brand-new Southern California theme park. Though tortilla chips were not on the original menu, the chef would chop up unused tortillas, fry the bite-size pieces and serve them as tasty snacks to guests of the restaurant.
By 1966, the “little golden things” or Doritos, were being produced and packaged for mass consumption. In 1972, the Nacho Cheese flavor was introduced, and the Doritos brand has continued to be a game changer ever since.
Cheeseburger. Cobb Salad. Doritos. Today, we wouldn’t call these American classics art, but maybe, just maybe, we should.
I’ve put my own twist on the great American cheeseburger, and even added a little something extra.This burger is a little bit of bad and tastes a whole heck of lot of good. Meat, cheese and a little more meat all gets stuffed between a savory onion roll. Try my Ooey Gooey Bacon Topped Turkey Burger. Who know’s, it might be the next big thing born in Los Angeles.
Ooey Gooey Bacon Topped Turkey Burger
1lb Ground turkey
¼ cup Sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
¼ cup Swiss cheese (shredded)
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce
tsp Garlic powder
1 tbsp Onion powder
1 tsp Seasoning salt
8 strips Bacon
1 Roma tomato (sliced)
4 large leaves of Green Leaf Lettuce (washed and patted dry)
¼ cup honey mustard
4 Onion rolls
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and seasoning salt. Today, your hands are going to be your most essential tools. With your hands, work the seasonings into the meat until the flavors combine. Be careful not to overwork the ground turkey, or it may fall apart when you cook it.
Next, add the shredded cheddar and Swiss cheeses. Again, use your hands to gently mix the cheese into the ground turkey. Preheat your skillet to medium heat and your oven to 400 degrees (so you can toast the onion rolls). Divide the ground turkey mixture into fourths, form them into disks and place them onto a plate. Form a small well in the middle of each disk.
Lightly oil the skillet, and place a patty into the skillet, well side down. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until well done. Set on a cooling rack to drain excess fat. Don’t have a cooling rack? Have no fear, a clean plate, topped with a paper towel or two will do just fine.
Once your burgers are done, fry up your bacon! Drain the same way. Half your onion rolls. Spread honey mustard on each roll. half. Place on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes.
Now it’s time to assemble. Bun bottom, tomato, lettuce, patty, bacon, pickles, bun top. Crisp, fresh delicious cheeseburger goodness with a twist, they’re so good your whole family will enjoy!