AGA Burger — Taiwanese burgers that are unified but never dull.
Spotting the passion
I majored in mechanical engineering in college. The decision of study was to fulfill my parents’ expectations and also because I thought the study was more promising career-wise. However, I realized in the years of study that I was not interested in the subject at all, so I started working part-time at a pizza store. After I graduated, I have worked in a central kitchen,buffet, Italian restaurant, western restaurant and other culinary related jobs.Although kitchen job was never easy, I earned solid culinary experiences.
Identifying AGA Burger from differentiation
Recalling 2012 and 2013 when I first started the preparation work of opening a store, there were already quite a number of burger places in Taipei. After tasting numerous burgers, I thought they all tasted quite similarly regardless of their featured flavors and sizes with uncooked lettuce and sauces.Then the idea of using “sautéed vegetables” came to me. I replaced the commonly used uncooked lettuce with cabbage that is even more home-style. I added tomatoes and onions and sautéed them altogether before putting them into the burger. For one thing, it gives the entire burger a consistent warmth. For another, the combination intrigues the kids or elderlies who dislike uncooked vegetables to try one of my burgers. After confirming that my burger is acceptable to the market, I was assured that I shall keep sautéing my vegetables as a signature.
Identifying my survival principles from a burger vending machine
My store first opened on July 24th 2013 in Taipei. It was a 6.6-square-meter take-out store at Ximending where a vending machine was placed at the door. There were five choices of burger available. Customers would have to place their orders and pay at the machine. Then, the machine would sync the orders to the kitchen where I worked solely to cook and pack. Without having to take orders and do cashier work, I was able to single handedly run the store efficiently and well-sanitized. During lunch rush hours, Guo Guo (She is now my wife) who had a full-time job back then would come to help me out. She would also stopped by after work to help with closing. Also due to the limited space that did not allow much inventory space, I did a lot of after-work grocery shopping from which I gradually learned to master space management and inventory control.
Since I worked by myself most of the time, in afternoons, I would have to manage delivery orders while cooking and preparing for dinner hours at the same time. My burger store was really small, yet with limited manpower, I was forced to make the utmost effort and find a way to survive. The struggle was a real challenge to myself.
Moving to Changhua from Taipei
In recent years, café owners, small-scale farmers or entrepreneurs who return to their hometown after studying or working in another city are often titled “homecoming youth”. However, there was no “homecoming” ambition of any sort for me back then. The reason I sought for another location was because my landlord had frequently threatened to increase rent, and also because I wanted to seek a bigger venue that could accommodate a couple of tables for to-stay customers. However, due to unbearable burden of rent, I was not able to find an ideal location. It was until after I closed the store that I had time to travel back to Changhua more often and decided to rent a place in Changhua.
I am fond of old houses, so I naturally started looking for houses that tell history. Sadly, my interest in old houses has led me to numerous obstacles. Some scenarios I encountered during my old-house-hunt include the owner’s unwillingness to rent the house, the land of the house being public property, the difficulty in reaching the owner, etc. Thanks to the connection of the Chief of Village, the current location of AGA was a blessing after yet another unsuccessful reach-out to the owner of an old house. The owner of the house has been living abroad for years and hoped someone could take care of the house for him, and we happen to be more than willing to use and cherish this hard-earned space. Thanks to all the coincidences, AGA 2.0 was settled, and we were finally able to realize the decoration of our dreams.
Receiving more change-motivating power in Changhua
Our reopening in Changhua came with some changes with our burgers. In addition to our signature sautéed vegetables, we found gracilaria that is very common in markets in Changhua. After sautéed, it stays green, crunchy without outshining the focus of the burger. Therefore, we replaced sprouts that we used to put in the burger to add colors with gracilaria. With that decision made, our burger is now 100% cooked.
The burger bun itself was another challenge. We tried so hard and at last found a local vendor that is willing to recreate the rye bread we used in Taipei. The specially made buns taste of pure wheat and solid texture. The biggest difference in our burger then and now is the meat. Minced meat is very common in the making of American burgers. However, in light of the food safety concerns in recent years, we found that regardless of our emphasis on how we hand-make our burger steak, a lot of people still back away for fear of restructured meat products. With that in mind, we endeavor to cut our burger steak out of a complete piece of meat and put real meat steaks into our burgers. We hope that everyone can enjoy this refreshing burger free of worries. It takes an awful lot of time to process the meat, but learning from our customers that they love it and it is very easy to chew, we are very glad to have insisted and to be recognized for our efforts.
Without being restricted by the take-out model of the Taipei store, we launched an additional dish other than burgers after reopening in Changhua. The dish is a warm salad created based on the same ideology of cooked vegetables. The most rewarding feedback is that some customers have overcome their dislike of certain vegetables via our culinary method. We are really glad to be able to contribute to people’s effort in a more balanced diet.
Starting from AGA, exploring more into the future
In the two years in Taipei and almost one year in Changhua, from time to time we would receive feedbacks from our customers wishing to see diversity in our menu like pastas and so on. I know there is still much to be learned, but we can only handle what our capability allows. It is already quite an achievement that AGA surfaces to many of yours when you are cravingfor a decent burger.
04 728 2648 FB: AGA Burger
彰化市成功路239號 No.239, Chenggong Rd., Changhua City, Changhua County 500, Taiwan