Food & Drink Wednesday, December 2nd Words by: Adam Knight, pictures by: Mark Bowen

Beefy Boys: An Oral History, Part Deux

Food & Drink Wednesday, December 2nd

Beefy Boys: An Oral History, Part Deux

 

[If you missed Part I of our Beefy Boys story yesterday, click here to find out how it all started]

Fresh off the back of their inaugural Grillstock win in 2014, the Beefy Boys qualified for the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.

Still relatively bright-eyed in the world of ‘low and slow’ cooking, and with the BBQ sauce still under their fingernails, the team set about hatching a plan to take America.

Our transatlantic cousins have always had a special relationship with the burger – you might go as far as to call it the country’s national dish – but never has their love for patties been more evident than up on the silver screen.

From Jules’ Big Kahuna burger to McDowell’s ‘Big Mick’ in Coming To America, the simple burger has been a constant in the American movie landscape.

So, before jumping a plane to Sin City, the Boys decided they wanted to add their own chapter. They grabbed a cameraman and embarked on their own search for Whitecastle.

Again, in their own words, here is their story:

Two fourths of the Beefy Boys, Anthony Murphy (left), Christian Williams (right). Not pictured: Daniel Mayo-Evans, Lee Symonds.

PartIIItitle

[WARNING: THIS STORY MAY CONTAIN ELEMENTS THAT MAKE YOU HUNGRY]

Christian Williams: We realised that going to the World Champs was a pretty marketable thing. We’ve always been on Facebook and been able to create a bit of a buzz. And we thought we could get some leverage with that and, well, basically we didn’t want to pay for it.

We thought, ‘how could we spin this?’ and we came up with the film idea.

Anthony Murphy: All of us are big into films. Chris has obviously got his experience working in film and TV. Lee used to make short films shot on a video camera as a teenager with Dan and we obviously had a background in theatre and directing.

From being on TV with the One Show we realised publicity’s a huge part of the food trade. We’d seen how much it had affected our business, just getting ourselves out there.

So we thought that if we were going to raise money for Vegas, video content is going to be a huge part. Video is so widely-shared on social media we thought we’d make a 10-minute film.

We knew this great guy called Ed [editor’s note: www.shootingreels.com] who had done some filming for us at the Jailhouse, and we wrote a script.

We put that together and showed it to a few people and started an Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Then Wye Valley Brewery approached us and offered us sponsorship, as well as the National Beef Association and a few other businesses.

Out there, they call us the Burger One Direction.

Christian: With that, we were able to put the budget together to get us, our two-man ‘pit crew’ and a cameraman out to Vegas.

In the film we basically all played characters of ourselves, and shot it like a mockumentary. It was a bit of a p--- take. Our characters, our schtick, was that we were inept.

Murph: ...It IS a ‘schtick’...

Christian: We like our burgers to be ridiculous and a little over-the-top and we wanted to carry that over.

Murph: We wanted to get that in to the video, in to everything we do. And of course Vegas is an over-the-top kind of place.

To have a cameraman there, you literally just have to walk out of your hotel and you’ve got something good to film. It’s Vegas, stuff happens.

We intended it to be a short, little film. When we came back, the first edit was two-and-a-half hours long. It was like Lord of the Rings. We’ve got it down to one hour twenty now. It’s still a feature-length film and there’s hardly any burgers in it.

We were a little worried the film might be boring so we added a plotline to it. And the plotline to the film has built into something that is influencing us in the restaurant.

We’ve tried to build up this mythos behind us.

The film follows our journey. The premise is that we’re going to the World Food Championships to compete for the World’s Best burger, but at the same time there’s a psychopathic killer – known as the Pyscho Griller.

[Spoiler Alert]

"The Psycho griller is an old BBQ chef from America, a legendary chef, that won loads of awards before entering one competition with his team and lost. He disappeared and no-one saw or heard of him and his team for years. Then one day he came back on his own, entered a competition and won every category. When they tried to find him to give him his award he was gone. But when they opened up his BBQ they found the bones of his dead team-mates – who he’d been feeding to the judges."

 

Murph: Basically this guy’s after us to get our secret recipe and he’s sent a hitman to Vegas, who follows us throughout the film and sabotages everything we do and basically tries to kill us.

So it’s a documentary in the sense that we’re entering the World Champs but it’s also an 80's action film. We even did some filming at Bullets and Burgers, where they gave us loads of automatic weapons and stuff.

To be honest we blagged so much over there. If you make your accent really posh, you can pretty much get away with anything in America. I was the Earl of Cornwall for a long time while we were there.

We didn’t really get permission to film anywhere, we just walked in, but they’re really strict if you’re filming by a gambling table - they’ll wade in a shut you down.

Christian: For one of the scenes, we did a Segway chase, fully suited and booted, riding around Vegas running away from the hitman.

Murph: We were there for 10 days - maybe too long - staying in Planet Hollywood. We were right in the middle of it all, next to the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace.

One scene in the film is kind of a homage to The Hangover, so we had to trash our room, but in a way that we could put it back without getting fined.

For the hotel scene we needed to get a showgirl into the room. So we went downstairs - and it’s Vegas so there’s showgirls everywhere – and we had to go up to one nice young lady and say ‘Hi there, we’re six lads and we’re making a film in our hotel room. Is there any chance that you can come up and we’ll give you 50 dollars?’

Christian: She was working the strip with her daddy, who was dressed up as Elvis.

Murph: He didn’t come up, thank God, because he was an absolute maniac. But she came up. And it was really weird. I think at some point she thought she might get killed.

Ed, our cameraman, was 20. And in Vegas that’s the worst age you can possibly be. [editor’s note: The legal drinking age in Nevada is 21] So we were having to get drinks and pass them back in a long line to Ed.

But it was an amazing time.

Christian: It was an experience.

Murph; And of course we came second. Which was a big shock.

It's Vegas. Stuff happens.

Christian: We nearly got disqualified because we turned up late. It wasn’t completely our fault. The baker was an hour late getting the bread ready and then we had to go all the way across Vegas to get the meat - and then get back across for the chef’s meeting where they tell you all the rules.

Dan pulled up the truck and just sidled into the back of the meeting and hoped no-one noticed.

Murph: The hardest thing about it is that you spend a lot of time developing your product, working with ingredients you can trust, finding a butcher, a baker – then you’ve got to go to America and in ten days, find completely new suppliers.

Everything is different over there, even down to Hellman’s mayonnaise. It doesn’t taste the same as Hellman’s over here.

So we had to go and test these places out. We had lined up a baker – a big, famous American baker, Something Bouchon..

Christian: Thomas Keller.

Murph: He’s got a bakery in the Venetian Casino, called the Bouchon. We lined up him for the buns but when we tasted them they weren’t anywhere near as good as what we had in the UK.

But luckily Gordon Ramsey’s got a place out there called Burger and we went on the first night we were over there. It was really good. One of the best burger’s I’ve had. And the buns were amazing.

We thought there’s no chance they would give us their buns but we went down there – “we’re British too, is Gordon here” – chatted to them and asked if we could borrow some buns for the World Food Championships. They were really cool about it. So we used Gordon Ramsey’s buns.

It was very tricky to source stuff in the desert, but it was still easier than Florida [editor’s note: where this year’s World Food Championships were held].

Christian: We went through five different butchers before we found a product we were happy with.

portrait

Murph: In Britain, if you try and get really high-quality, grass-fed, dry-aged beef – Hereford especially – it’s easy. And it’s so cheap in Hereford compared to the States, where everything’s injected with hormones and corn-fed. It’s a completely different product. But we got something we were happy with in the end.

Christian: Although it still wasn’t as good as what we use in Hereford.

Murph: And that’s the frustrating thing – we’ve managed to do well over there both years but we know that if we could cook what we cook here, we could do even better.

SPECTACULARChristian: This year they held it in a place called Celebration in Florida. It’s a city built by Disney.

Murph: They’ve made it look a bit Colonial and a bit old but it’s Disney, so it’s all fake.

But people do genuinely live there, there’s shops and everything, but for the competition they section off this area in the middle of the town and put kitchens in it.

It’s all broadcast on the Food Network, so you’re being filmed all day – there were clips of us cooking on USA today, which is huge in America - so it is quite a big deal over there now, and getting bigger each year.

Christian: They do love having English guys coming over and having a go. They find us peculiar.

Murph: They call us the Burger One Direction.

Again we sorted sponsorship with Wye Valley, Herefordshire Cattle Association, Calor Gas and Herefordshire Council. And we took Ed back out again, to make the sequel to a film that hasn’t even been released yet.

It’s taken Lee a year to edit it – but obviously the hard thing is that we’ve got the business, so we’re working and he’s got to do that in his spare time. It’s been quite a strain on his marriage.

Christian: He loves it.

Murph: He does love doing it.

So this year we took Ed back out and we’ve done a bit of an Evil Dead 2 – the second film is so much better than the first film, but we’ve got to put the first one out otherwise the second one won’t make any sense.

The first one was made as an action film and the second one is a horror film.

Our one concern with going to Celebration is that it’s not as interesting a location as Vegas. But the house that we were staying in was pretty much like the house from Paranormal Activity, so when we were thinking of the idea for the sequel, we thought of a doing a haunted house story.

Florida’s so spread out – there’s swamps, Disneyland and retail parks. And there’s not really many bars you can go to, so we spent most of the time in the house.

There was eight of us in the house, including Alex Evans, who’s actually an actor and was in Doctors on BBC but works for us - so he had to come - and Mark Gummery who is from Hereford but flew in from Melbourne.

If you make your accent really posh, you can pretty much get away with anything in America.

Christian: At the competition, you’ve got three rounds, the first of which is  the Structured Build. They give you a list of parameters that you have to cook within, generally guided by a sponsor.

Last year it was Red Robin, and you had to use their patties and their buns. This time it was a company called Bubba and you had to cook a ‘Patty Melt’ which is not something we do.

It’s essentially a grilled cheese sandwich with a patty in it. We’ve practiced it, we’ve seen it but I’ve not gone out to a restaurant and ever eaten one.

The difficult thing for us was that the patty that they supplied was a frozen patty. This is the thing with America, it came from a chain of restaurants, and supposedly a good one, but it’s using frozen meat. It’s weird for us. We couldn't see how that was deemed a good burger.

So we cooked this frozen patty as best we could, and served it in a grilled cheese sandwich made from marbled rye bread that we sourced, and three different types of cheese, with a chipotle 1000 Island dressing that we made. And we put some HPA in it.

Murph: We tried it at the house with our own meats, and it tasted great. Then we tried it with those frozen burgers – and they were awful.

We knew that round was going to be a patty melt before we went, but we hadn’t really read the small print so we didn’t know it was a frozen patty until got over there. We had like a day to practice that.

Christian: Imagine cooking with a Bird’s Eye burger.

Then when it came to serving it up on the display platter you have to do six portions. We cut them in triangles – because you’re using sliced bread – and ours were huge, they had cheese oozing out. That’s kind of what they’re supposed to be, but we looked around and all the other entries were cut nice and neat.

You get 15 points for presentation and we think we were lucky if we got one.

Murphyedited

Murph: You have to get in to the top 10 after the first two rounds to get through to the final, and you do the Signature Burger round straight after.

We were totally gutted. We thought ‘that’s it, we’ve got no chance’.

Our signature burger was our World Eater – it’s basically our classic Beefy Boy, but using a far more expensive patty with Wagu beef, New York Strip and dry-aged ribeye, and using rendered beef fat to season the grill and rendered bacon fat to brush on the bun. We were really, really happy with it.

It was probably too rich to eat – but the judges were only going to have one bitet, so the idea is that we’d slam them with one bite of the tastiest thing we could.

In the evening it camet to announcing the scores, and they do the first round first. And we came 24th.

Actually we reckon the patty melt must have tasted really good to get us that high despite the presentation.

But we were sat on the kerb, we thought we were going to go home. We were saying ‘everyone’s going to think coming second last year was a fluke’. We felt we’d let everyone down.

Then they started reading out the Top 10, and we thought maybe we might be able to sneak in to 10th.

We weren’t 10th. Then we thought well might have got in to ninth spot.

We weren’t ninth.

We thought there’s no chance we’ve jumped any higher than that from 24th. Lee got up and said ‘we might as well just go’.

And then they came to seventh, and called our name out. We started screaming and running around. And there’s this Swedish film crew next to us filming it alL.

Christian: We shouted louder than anyone combined, and definitely louder than the team that actually won it.

Murph: It’s the biggest jump any team has ever made in the World Food Championships. No-one’s ever gone from 24th to the top ten.

To be able to go against 50 of the top burger chefs in the world and come in the top 10 two years’ running, at least it proves that we kind of know what we’re doing.

Christian: So that’s Friday. Then they give you Saturday off and the top 10 teams cook in the final on Sunday.

They always give you an ingredient to infuse for the final round. In Vegas it was honey, this time it was citrus.

So we decided to do our Mexican Boy – which we actually did in a video for LadBible that’s had more than 350,000 views in seven days – and we were pleased with it.

We did it with a pico de gallo salsa – which has lime in it.

Murph: They’ve got so many different types of peppers over there compared to what we get here – so we had some roasted jalapenos, so adobe sauce, some chipotle – and we made a really zesty kind of salsa and a homemade guacamole with some lime. And we used Doritos in it.

Christian: It did look awesome.

Murph: It was the best burger we could have done using citrus. But talking to the judges, we think we may have missed a trick in only using lime as our citrus.

We came fourth in that final round – but because it’s cumulative, and because of our score in the first round, we didn’t have enough to bump us any higher than seventh.

The good news is that the top 10 teams automatically qualify for next year. So we’re going to go back.

Mainly so we can finish our trilogy of films.

And next year we’re going to do a pilgrimage, driving from Texas through the Deep South to New Orleans.

Christian: And then we can go to Miami if we win it.

Murph: After the competition we went to Disneyland, to Universal Studios, and all the rest of the time we spent filming, because Lee and I wrote a script that was way too ambitious to be done in the time that we had. The script had a ninja fight, poltergeist special effects – which were mainly tin cans flying around the house on fishing lines – everything.

There was fake blood in the pool, fishing wire everywhere. It got to the last day and we were like ‘s---, we’ve got to get this place cleaned up’.

Christian: He couldn’t have set it in Miami, could he? With the beach and clubs. No, it had to be in this little house with eight guys in.

Murph: We did feel quite bad at times. Everything kicked up a gear this time.

Christian: We had to pay £300 just to get all Ed’s equipment over with us.

Murph: The first film is way better than it has any right to be – given that we were half-pissed and we made it up as we went along – but the second film actually good.

It’s still being edited but we are looking at getting it out next summer. Because it’s so good, we’re going to pitch it to some production companies, maybe LadBible.

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['Project Vegas' premieres at The Courtyard in Hereford on December 13.]

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