Ben Leventhal

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August 15, 2013 at 12:49pm
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Reblogged from kitchensurfing

Kitchensurfing Hacks: 5 Tricks That Will Make Your Burgers Better, No Matter What



You make an insane burger. It’s a vehicle of perfection. I know, I did, too. Then I spent the better part of the last decade tasting burgers, cooking burgers and throwing an annual competition called the Burger Bloodbath (it’s fun; you should come to the next one). I learned some things. I used to think great burgers were about eggs in the ground beef, the most expensive buns I could find, and bacon jam. They’re not. They’re about balance, simplicity, the right combination of ingredients, and, above all else, great cooking technique.

So, here’s this week’s hack. Five tips that’ll make your awesome burgers even better. No matter the design, no matter how good they already are. No matter what.

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November 20, 2012 at 12:32pm
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Five Things Management Can Do for Fans at Yankee Stadium in 2013

In May, I posted “House of Steinbrenner,” the gist of which being that win or lose in 2012 (they lost), a decade ago and two decades ago it was exponentially more fun being a Yankees fan than it is today. Mostly because the stadium experience has declined dramatically — and, not coincidentally, in direct relationship to George Steinbrenner’s declining health. That was a somewhat downbeat rant, so now something  more constructive. With the heart of the off-season upon us, 5 things the Yankees can do for fans at Yankee Stadium in 2013:

1. Other than via static posted advertisements, don’t monetize the in-game experience. Modell’s “Gotta Go to Mo’s” theme song plays when the Yankees steal a base. It shouldn’t. Fans will appreciate keeping the gameplay sacred.

2. Make a concerted effort to fill every seat in the lower deck for every game. This is a big one, because it zeros in on the biggest difference between the new and old stadiums: energy. In the old stadium, you had that famous Yankees fan energy, which could reach a fever pitch even in April, because 1) the three main decks were stacked tightly, amplifying sound; and 2) many of the best seats in the stadium were controlled by long-time fans. 

In the new stadium, you have a vastly different configuration in all regards, but it can be fixed if you put more fans closer to the field. Create a program by which premium seat owners can put their seats up for auction, no reserve, 2 hours before the start of the game, say. Opting in to the program could come with a moderately discounted annual season ticket price, or season ticket holders could simply have the resale price debited back to their accounts, or both. (This creates headaches around the all-you-can-eat club level experience, obviously, but there are ways of handling the logistics and the benefit to the stadium and fans vastly outweighs these problems.)

3. Fix the food. The Yankees are the greatest sports franchise in the world in the greatest restaurant city in the world, so why is the food at Yankee Stadium such absolute garbage? If you’re not a Legends ticket holder, the best thing to eat in Yankee Stadium is the meatball parm sandwich found at the Parm kiosk in the Great Hall. Said kiosk is maybe 8’ wide and it’s massively inconvenient to get to if you don’t pick something up on the way in (and if anyone really knew about it, the lines would be three innings long). Meanwhile, on offer quite widely: mediocre-at-best sliders, fries, hot dogs, chicken fingers, sausages, pizza and ice cream. Re-trade a couple of vendor contracts, take a modest loss and do something here for fans. For instance, take one of the Premio sausage stands on each level (there are six throughout the ball park) and make it a curated station that features independently operated New York restaurants. 

4. Hire a visual design company to completely rethink the graphics experience at the stadium. See Diamond Vision image above for an example of the current approach. It’s time for an upgrade to a Yankees-grade graphics package.

5. Start integrating technology in a meaningful way. Follow the Yankees large pool of beat writers on Twitter during a game and you’ll have a massively more informed, entertaining game watching experience. Their commentary is excellent, and the Yankees should package it up for average fans. Plus, the media has access to all sorts of stats fans would love to have, too. In the past this would have been a tough ask. In 1996, we manually updated a large packet of statistical info every day, then copied, stapled and distributed it to the media. Today, the process is entirely digital, available via a credentialed online area of There’s no reason why fans shouldn’t get access in their seats, too, via an in-stadium app. 

October 8, 2012 at 2:37pm
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Had to go over this with the lady last night. Perhaps is of general use for bachelor party explaining. Insert your own You Are Here.

Had to go over this with the lady last night. Perhaps is of general use for bachelor party explaining. Insert your own You Are Here.

October 2, 2012 at 2:35pm
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Skirt Steak, my friend Charlotte Druckman’s survey of the state of women in food, is out at the end of the month. Though its express purpose is to see how women chefs, via 73 lady intervivewees, are “standing the heat and staying in the kitchen,” it is not nearly that gendered a message. Those seeking to understand food in 2012 must read it. Chapter one is just a spectacular look at how today’s chefs are defining themselves, and how much those definitions vary chef to chef, region to region, experience to experience.

There are times when Charlotte lets her panel assign too much blame on men and doesn’t force them to take responsibility or consider environmental circumstances beyond sex. I think, for example, women tend to have more trouble with the media not because of a media bias (Chapter 8, “Media Rare”), but because for whatever reason the guys tend to be more proactive, especially in pounding us over the head with their messaging. Or, Amanda Cohen wants to think she lost Iron Chef because of a bias on the panel. That is an absurd delegation of responsibility for several reasons, including the fact that two of the three people on her judging panel were women.

If that is nit-picking, and it is, it shouldn’t distract from the many crucial observations made about the food biz and the sharp insight the women of this book have about what they do. There’s a discussion of media engagement and an acute understanding of both the good and evil of indie, largely digital, media; how the small guy (or gal) has actually, quietly won; why the most thrilling food is not coming out of French style kitchens, but from more democratic organizations; how there’s more empire-building happening than we know; and, just, the West Coast is eating the East Coast for breakfast.

Read the book. 

August 24, 2012 at 1:57pm
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For five years, we’ve had high concept and low concept burgers. Joey Campanaro once presented a luau burger, complete with pineapple. Lockhart Steele, winner in year one thanks to Dave Chang throwing the whole thing for him, won with meatloaf. Michael White’s huge, fatty white label burger got close last year. Wylie Dufrense’s seaweed burger with homemade American cheese is my all-time favorite, because it mixed a crazy intellectual idea with a burger that actually just had these incredibly vivid and simple flavors layered exactly right. And, of course, the Momoburger, which is now on the menu at Jeffrey’s, won three times and is the most straight forward burger that’s ever been in the contest.

And this year’s field is in my mind by far the most competitive. The simplest burger this year is Jesse Gerstein’s Beach Bacon Burger, which was runner up last year and might have won on better execution (it was over-cooked for the judges). If they were pros it’d be the favorite. I’m calling it Top Three for that burger right now. It’s the burger that the judges have in their heads as a great beach burger. 

Mullen, Stupak, Mehdi BB and Moore all have a real shot, too. Moore’s “Bread & Butter Burger”  is the most down-the-middle, and he’ll get an edge from the many house made ingredients he’s putting in play. If the smoke on Mullen’s doesn’t prove too novel, it’ll place well. That it has the one-slot is absolutely gargantuan. And White’s Butterfly Burger is very promising. Mustard, garlic pickles, onion, American cheese is the right idea and a great, simple burger in the 10-slot for judging could be a killer combination. I’m concerned about the BBQ mayo on Mehdi BB’s burger, because that flavor profile could be too strong for the six-hole judging slot. Being up at the top helps Stupak in a big way, as refried beans in the middle of the pack might overwhelm the judges. 

Solien, repping the Montauk Yacht Club, and Pelaccio with a lamb burger are the long shots. Solien is going high-concept with avocado, provolone and lardo. That’s just crazy, but I can’t wait to try it. And I don’t know that a lamb burger can play, although Pelaccio is a guy who could make it work.

The wild cards this year are Simmons, with her “Montak Super Slider,” and Ramsey-Willson, who are amateurs but who have a great concept of short rib, american cheese, a special sauce, and onions, pickled and shaved all on a Martin’s. If they get the temps right, they’re going to be in the mix. Back to the slider, we’ve never had a slider the competition and, frankly, I always advise against it. Just doesn’t show as well as a half-burger. But she has the 11 hole for judging, so maybe the judges find it a welcome relief having just had 10 other bigger burgers. 

With that said, here’s the line, in judging order.

MULLEN — 2-1
STUPAK — 5-1
MEHDI BB — 4-1
SOLIEN — 19-1

While I’ve got your attention, we’ve got a few tix left at Tickets will be available at the door while capacity allows for $150 cash money.