Hazel, Ravines and Downtown’s Executive Chef on Her Award-winning Burgers

Plus, her 5 tips for making your own at home
The Token Burger is on the menu at Hazel, Ravines and Downtown daily. // Photograph courtesy of Hazel, Ravines and Downtown

Emmele Herrold, like most people, enjoys a good burger. That’s the driving force behind her culinary success over the past few years. It’s not more complicated than that.

Herrold, a Michigan native and Wayne State alum, began her career in Nederland, Colorado in 2003 where she initially worked as a server. By a stroke of good timing, a year later the owner decided to sell the restaurant to Herrold and two friends, which would become the well acclaimed First Street Pub & Grill. In 2005, Herrold returned to Michigan where she served as the executive chef of One-Eyed Betty’s, where she really began to finesse her burger-making skills. “I never thought of myself as being especially good at making burgers — and I only had one burger on the menu — but it turned out to be the thing that people came for.”

Emmele Herrold, co-owner and executive chef at Hazel, Ravines and Downtown // Photograph courtesy of Hazel, Ravines and Downtown

Herrold’s philosophy was simple: to make something that she loved eating and hoped that other people would too. Her One-Eyed Betty’s Burger was topped with bacon and cheese (which are normally add-ons), fresh Roma tomatoes, and a garlic-based aioli (which Herrold says felt “a little different” at the time). During this period, Herrold entered into, and won, several competitions. This included the 2013 Detroit Burger Brawl where she was titled with crafting “the Best Burger.” She finished fourth out of 50 competitors at Las Vegas World Food Championships in the burger category. And even finished in second place in the final round of the Food Network hit show, Guy’s Grocery Games.

Now the executive chef and co-owner of Hazel, Ravines and Downtown in Birmingham, Herrold has returned back to basics with what she describes as a “really old-school, diner-style, super indulgent, barely any vegetables on it, greasy drip down your hand kind of burger.” It’s made with two thin patties, and two slices of American cheese, but it still has a few of her classic twists. Instead of topping her creation with pickles, Harold incorporates them into a dill pickle sauce. “Really, what’s great about a burger is that it’s kind of a nice vessel for getting some really cool ingredients into your mouth.”

Below are Herrold’s top five burger-making tips so you can make award-worthy burgers at home, too:

  1. “Don’t overthink the meat. Use 80/20 ground chuck.”
  2. “Seasoning is key: salt and pepper.”
  3. “Use a cast-iron or flat-top skillet as opposed to a grill to make a crust on the exterior.”
  4. “The bun is maybe more important than the meat. So, find one that holds up to a lot of juices.”
  5. “Fresh ingredients are a must! Fresh tomatoes, fresh lettuce. Things like that are so important.”

Related: Restaurant Hazel, Ravines, and Downtown Opens in Birmingham