6 People Who Changed Burgers

By Cindy Augustine  |  October 25, 2013

In the ever-expanding world of burgers, this crop of innovators changed the way we eat and appreciate the über-popular meat sandwich. Whether it be bringing the burger to the masses, stepping up quality of beef, or creating a new way to serve it entirely, burger lovers owe a lot to these visionaries. Here, we look at the guys who changed the game and the way we eat, order, and revere our beloved burgers. Read on for the power list.

For more burger recommendations, check out our Zagat Burger Guide sponsored by French's right here.

  • Louis Lassen - Louis’ Lunch, New Haven, CT
    While White Castle claimed Germans invented the burger, historians attest that it was a Louis Lassen who first served the sandwich to a hurried customer eating at Lassen’s namesake restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut, way back in 1900. Little has changed in the serving of the sandwich today, which is made with ground steak trimmings nestled between two slices of toast, and it remains one of the most popular items on the menu at this longtime establishment near the Yale campus. And at $5.50, it still evokes a price tag of a bygone era.

  • Ray Kroc - McDonalds, worldwide
    It would seem un-American to not mention the man who supersized a nation. While he may not be responsible for all things Golden Arches, back in 1955, Ray Kroc had a vision of serving burgers, fries and drinks to Americans and made it happen. By 1958, McDonald’s had sold its 100 millionth hamburger and the entrepreneur changed the business of burgers, franchises and basically invented fast food. Kroc conceived Hamburger University in 1961, a training ground for running McDonalds franchises, and until he passed away in 1984, Kroc continued to work, overseeing operations at the McDonalds near where he lived. To this day, 75 hamburgers are sold every second - a lasting impact indeed.

  • Daniel Bouluddb Bistro Moderne, NYC
    The man responsible for pairing the word “gourmet” with “burger” is none other than Daniel Boulud, the Lyon, France native who turned the burger on its head. Back in 2001, just before the opening of db Bistro Moderne, Boulud was inspired to change up the burger and give it a French makeover. The result? The db burger: classic ground beef stuffed with short ribs braised in red wine and served on a toasted parmesan bun with a side of pommes frites. The renowned burger, with a $32 price tag, is offered exclusively at db Bistro Moderne at the restaurant’s locations in New York City, Miami and Singapore.

  • Sang Yoon - Father’s Office, Los Angeles, CA
    Back in 2000, Chef Sang Yoon purchased Santa Monica dive bar Father’s Office, looking for a change after cooking for Wolfgang Puck and serving as executive chef at Michael's. While the South Korea-born chef didn’t invent the burger, he made his mark on it and the “Office Burger”, made with dry-aged beef charbroiled on a crunchy bun, received acclaim far and wide. The notion was simple: serve great food and serve it with great craft beer. Yoon’s modern take on a gastropub led to a second location of Father’s Office in 2008 on the landmark Helms Avenue Walk in Culver City.

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  • Adam FleischmanUmami Burger, nationwide
    For Adam Fleischman, a love of wine came long before his appreciation of burgers…but all roads really lead back umami. The term refers to that undefined savory taste (that does not include sour, sweet, salty or bitter). For Fleischman, a journalist and oenophile who was immersed in the world of grapes, it only made sense to develop a burger around this mysterious fifth sense. In 2009, Umami Burger opened its doors in Los Angeles, a burger concept dedicated to new takes on the classic American burger. Now with dozens of locations throughout California and recently opened outposts in Miami and New York, many more burger lovers are getting the Umami experience.

  • Danny Meyer, Shake Shack, worldwide
    Shake Shack first began as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park — a creation of Union Square Hospitality Group, of which Danny Meyer is CEO—to bring some love to the then-neglected park. The cart reappeared for two more summers, in 2002 and 2003, and in 2004, Meyer opened the first Shake Shack in the same spot. Legions of neighborhood folks, office workers and hamburger lovers lined up in droves for a taste of the simple, high-quality burger and the fun accompaniments it came with (frozen custard, shakes, fries). It soon became a New York City institution with a cult following and expanded to other locations in the city. Now in several states and countries like England, the UAE, Turkey and Russia, Shake Shack is taking on the world.