“To quote my sous-chef on this: It’s more of a lifestyle,” Benjamin Sukle says of his first job in restaurants: He was a bun toaster—or, officially, Bun Loader—at Red Robin.
“It’s the job you give a 16-year-old ding dong,” he says. “It’s a giant conveyor belt toaster that toasts the burger buns, and that’s it. There was a little bit of dishwashing and loading the meat on the conveyor belt grill, too. I did that for a long time, so I was very good at it.”
This rote exercise was a step up from his previous job, stuffing ads into bundles of newspapers his parents printed off. “Anything would be better than the ad stuff since you’re getting all these paper cuts,” Sukle says.
Today, the James Beard Award semifinalist behind Providence hits Birch and Oberlin makes the most of the northeast’s bounty, turning local fishermen’s bycatch into dishes like fluke with crisp radishes and salty oysters, and pickling whatever he finds into capers (current count: 15 experiments).
And his toasting technique has become much more refined. Here, Sukle's tips for browning your own best-ever burger buns this summer:
1. Stick with Martin’s. “I’m from central Pennsylvania, so Martin’s are the go to for me,” he says. Stock up on the fluffy potato rolls, and don’t worry if you’ve got leftover buns after your barbecue. “The weird thing about them is that they never go bad,” Sukle explains. “I’ll finish an 8-pack of buns in three months, and they’re still fine”
2. Ditch butter and embrace mayo. “I love cooking with mayonnaise, especially grilling at home,” he says. “It’s non-stick but super flavorful.” He suggests spreading a thin layer on the bun before toasting, but don’t go overboard. “If it makes the bread really heavy in your hand, that’s a little gross,” he says. “It will become an oil-soaked fry bread.”
3. Bust out the trusty cast-iron skillet. “You don’t have to clean anything once you’re done with it,” he says. Bonus: You’re seasoning the skillet while you toast.