When you're talking to Bodhi Valentine, it doesn't take more than a minute to know he's a die-hard burger lover.
The restaurant veteran who once dreamed of rock stardom has now taken his devotion to beef burgers to a whole new level: his new Vancouver-based business Burgerland Smash Up.
Valentine jokingly says Burgerland is like "Disneyland for burgers," because his DIY ready-to-cook smashburger kits provide customers with "the happiest taste on earth."
Launched May 4, Burgerland's business model is simple: Valentine packs the kits with all the components you'll need to enjoy four freshly-griddle, crispy-edged smashed down all-beef patties on pillowy Martin's buns.
The four-portion kits come featuring burgers in various states of dress; there's a simple "Beef and Buns" kit or the Classic American Cheese kit (with slices of American cheese and locally-made Kaylin and Hobbs pickles), as basic packs. Then Burgerland offers more tricked-out burgs, inspired by topping combos beloved across the map. For example, Valentine is kicking things off with two regional favourites: The California Up-N-Down is a double (double) burger with "secret sauce," crisp iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, cheese, and onions, while the Oklahoma Fried Onion & Cheese kit hails from the U.S. midwest and comes with onions to griddle for your patties and pickles on the side.
The patty is the superstar at Burgerland - it's your Sleeping Beauty Castle or Mickey Mouse, if you will - while the trimmings get you to the front of the line at Space Mountain or for the Main Street Electrical Parade.
"The grease is the condiment," Valentine tells V.I.A. in a phone interview. "That's what makes it good."
Valentine sources grass-fed organic B.C. beef from Blue Goose Cattle Company. The beef is ground fresh by North Vancouver's Two Rivers meats, and comes to you balled up and ready to land in the pan - not on the grill! - and be smashed down so that it becomes thin with crispy edges. The only seasoning is a sprinkle of kosher salt (which also comes in the kit for you).
With Burgerland, Valentine says he is "trying to elevate the burger business," and a massive component of that is sustainability.
Eco-friendly focus, making meat a treat
While Valentine is an unabashed meat eater and lifelong burger enthusiast with a nostalgic spot in his heart for childhood stops at McDonald's or the A&W drive-in, he understands that consumers these days are looking to cut some meat out of their diets.
In that light, his philosophy with the Burgerland kits is to "make it the best you can if you're eating meat less often," and he's pairing quality with actions that support sustainability, like using all compostable biodegradable packaging, and donating $1 from every box sold to TreeEra to aid in global reforestation.
He's also focused on keeping Burgerland affordable; the kits start at under $9 per portion.
The idea for Burgerland, says Valentine, began during a road trip to Tofino a while back, as a rumbling belly sparked memories of burgers past. Before pulling off to order up a cheeseburger from a roadside spot in Port Alberni, Valentine composed what he calls an "emotional burger," the kind of patty plus bun plus extras - like an approachable price point - that he always wants.
You could also say, though, that Valentine has been prepping to be a burger baron his whole life; some of his fondest memories are of enjoying burgers made by his uncle, who would fire up burgers with fresh beef and Triple-O sauce (back when you could buy it) at family cookouts.
And those moments are what eating a burger is all about: "It should be playful," says Valentine, with a dose of the "nostalgia of being a kid."
Making burgers at home should be simple
Valentine acknowledges the burger renaissance North America seems to be enjoying right now, including here in Vancouver, where you can get your hands on pricey high-end steakhouse style burgers and pop-up casual burgers, too. He recalls many a burger he's enjoyed over the years in his pre-pandemic travels and coming home with the goal to "take the mystique out of" what goes into creating a perfect smashburger at home.
"It couldn't be more simple to make the best burger," attests Valentine (and he's right; I tried out a California Up-N-Down kit and dinner was on the table in under 10 minutes flat) but on the off-chance you need a helping hand, the recipe card in your box has QR codes you can scan to open up demo videos to help you with your smash technique. (My smashing needs more muscle, but the end result was a flawless "California Up-N-Down" burger that instantly transported me to sunny SoCal.)
The Burgerland kits are all about the burgers, so there are no sides offered, but, as Valentine suggests, if one burger doesn't fill you up, you could just make yourself another.
And if you want more burgers, he's launched a Burger Love Club, a rewards program for earning points toward perks, including free burgers.
Burgerland Smash Up kits are available to order online; you can even order up to 30 days in advance. Pick-up is done at 1380 Napier in Vancouver at your choice of time slot between 3 and 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ordering is also available for delivery via third party apps UberEats and DoorDash.