Kitchen Inquisition: Shake Shack's Mark Rosati

The Shake Shack's culinary manager gushes over his rise to fame and dedication to the perfect burger

Sometimes, realizing your passion means slaving away at a stove for two months without pay. Mark Rosati spent over two years observing, then cooking, with the hopes of realizing his culinary dreams. After working for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality group for six years, Rosati finally found a home as Shake Shack's culinary manager.

The legendary NYC burger joint boasts two-hour lines, but guarantees to please. The new Lincoln Road outpost is the first Shake Shack outside "the city," and offers Miami-inspired ice cream along with unique burgers and fries and a drink menu rivaling your favorite fancy eatery.

When did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
As I child I was always very passionate about cooking. I cooked for my family all the time and read a lot of books on the subject. I moved to New York City and had a chance meeting with Gramercy Tavern's executive chef Tom Colicchio. I was gushing. He said, “Wow, you sound really interested. If you ever want to come by and see us cook, please give me a call.” So I went by and developed a relationship with the guy. I went for two years on my day off peeling potatoes. I was like, "this feels right, I don’t know why but this is really calling to me."

What do you think of Miami’s food and culture?
Miami is amazing. Shack has been down here so many times. We're really excited to come here and be part of it. It’s really lively just to walk around and see all the different food. I love that everything is open 24 hours, too. The Cuban culture here - I can’t tell you how many cortaditos I’ve had since I’ve come to Miami. I love any city that is really connected to their culture, and it shows in the food and in the atmosphere.

What are the pressures of making the Shack succeed here in Miami?
There are always pressures. New York City is a really demanding market, but Miami is, too. There are a lot of people from New York that come down here. So going into a new city is always challenging because it's different. We want to work with the community, and every community always has different expectations.

So, how is the Shack fitting in with Miami?
The thing about Shake Shack is we’re all about community, so we’ve been down here many times. We love Miami. I have come down here many times throughout my life. It’s a little different than what we’re used to, but in a good way. We kind of want to take a mirror and hold it up to Miami and kind of reflect it.

What does your food bring to Miami’s dining scene?
It’s definitely a different option. We have a lot of amazing burgers down here already, but we think what we do is just a little different. It’s all about a quick experience that is really community based. The whole idea that you can come with friends and family and linger over a hamburger in a fun environment, that’s what we’re all about. More like you're sitting at a table in a fine restaurant, but it's quick.

Tell me the art of making the perfect burger.
It starts with great meat; that is paramount. When we started out, Danny Meyer approached a fine hamburger like someone would a approach a fine bordeaux. If you take a couple grapes and blend them together, you're going to have an amazing wine. He looked the same way at beef and took different cuts. So he actually blended the burger meat just like you would do wine. It starts off with the meat perfectly cut. Then, our sear, that perfect caramelization, is kind of what we’re known for. If we sear a burger and flip it and it's not beautiful, we don’t serve it.

In your opinion, what toppings must every burger have?
I’m a purist, myself. It’s all about the meat and just a plain burger is delicious. But the Shack burger is kicking it up a notch. After you’ve had our meat and say, “this is really exceptional,” then it's time to have a little bit of fun and try the sauce, the cheese, the lettuce and tomato.

Take me through the must have meal at Shake Shack.
You have to have the burgers. The French fries are really tasty, too. We’re using Yukon gold potatoes as opposed to Idaho potatoes, which everyone else mostly uses. There is different flavor, a little different texture, and we use the crinkle cut. It's kind of like a fun way of reliving your childhood. Custard is the other thing shack is known for. It’s a Midwest treat. It’s pretty much fresh ice cream. What’s great is we’re making it throughout the day, so it never sits around for more than an hour or two. It never gets hard.

Fondest food memory?
I’m from Connecticut, and where I’m from there are a ton of shacks; seafood and burger shacks. As much as I love to go out and have a good, expensive meal, sometimes the humble experience of just going somewhere as simple as a shack can be really fulfilling.

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