burger battle7
Image: David Reamer

The Judges: Cathy Whims Chef/owner, Nostrana, Robert Reynolds Teacher/owner, Robert Reynolds Chefs Studio, Lisa Schroeder Chef/owner, Mother’s Bistro

Tommy Habetz

Chef/owner, Bunk Sandwiches

When Tommy Habetz is at the grill, things get messy: calories pile up; fat and grease are considered good things. Calling the blue-collar works of belly-filling art he creates at Bunk “sandwiches” is like describing a muscled hunk of man like Javier Bardem as a mammal: far too broad, and criminally insufficient. So when Habetz—who sharpened his skills at Pó Restaurant and Mesa Grill in New York City—begins frying a hunk of pork the size of his forearm, mouths water. “Oh, that,” he says, “that’s just to snack on.” We hope he’s only kidding.

THE PATTY: He prefers 10 percent fat beef, but because of a snafu, Habetz is forced to use some of Pomeroy’s Highland Oak meat. He works each patty into a dense cake about as thick as a CD case.

SECRET WEAPON: Pickles. Habetz prefers to get his green gold at Picklopolis. “I usually use green-tomato pickles,” he says. “But regular pickles seem more in keeping with burgers.”

PRESENTATION: Habetz is not a fancy man, so when his burger lands on the plate, it does so all by its lonesome. The skinny patties ride atop a thick layer of mayo, spicy brown Creole mustard, and lettuce. Just when you think he’s forgotten about it, he takes the pan of fat rendered from the pork steak and drizzles it over everything.

REACTION: “You’ve taken a complete dinner and put it between two slices of bread,” Schroeder says. “As it should be.” “It looks different,” Reynolds says, pointing out the hoagie bun, “but it still speaks the same delicious language as the rest.”