Chewing the Fat
Filmmaker George Motz discusses his film Hamburger America
Santa Fe's Bobcat Bite was one of eight restaurants profiled
What inspired you to make a movie about hamburgers?
I love hamburgers! You know, people always say you should work on projects that you love. ... My inspiration came from Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation. I was afraid he'd turn everyone off to hamburgers, and that would be a great injustice.
Santa Fe's Bobcat Bite was one of the stops on your cross-country quest. How did you find out the place and how did their burger measure up?
We had pretty strict criteria for the places that were going to be in the film and they [Bobcat Bite] met our nine basic criteria. The first three were: You have to have fresh meat, not frozen; you have to have had a burger on the menu for over 40 years; and the business had to be continuously serving for 40-plus years. We found Bobcat Bite through my father-in-law who moved to Tesuque about eight years ago.
How many burgers did you eat while researching?
Probably about 50. We pretty heavily researched 26 places and eight made it into the film. The one thing that really got me about Bobcat Bite was that [owner John Eckre] was in the back every morning, making his own chuck blend and hand-making his own patties. ... Probably most of the places we filmed were actually grinding their own beef on premises.
So, were you able to find one burger that was the most distinctive, the best?
I can't tell you that.
Oh, will I have to wait to find out in the film?
No, I mean we didn't play favorites. We didn't pick a winner or anything. I wanted people to concentrate more on how the burgers were unique and different, rather than how they rated on a scale of one to 10.
Did you discover anything new about hamburgers?
I discovered that there are a lot of different ways to prepare a burger. I had a steamed cheeseburger and it was fantastic, one of the best in the country. And I learned a lot about different things you can put on them. The great thing about the green chile cheeseburger is you can really only get that in New Mexico. It's all about the green chile.
Oh yeah. We take it pretty seriously.
I know how deep that passion runs. We shot the entire Bobcat session up in Santa Fe and then the owner called me up and said, "Hey, we changed our chile. We went from using canned green chiles to frozen so you might want to come back and reshoot." I was like, no way am I going to go all the way back out there just because they changed one little thing. But then my cousin called me up about two days later and said, ’Hey did you hear they changed the chile at The Bobcat Bite?" So we went back and got him [Eckre] talking about chiles.
You're coming in for the Santa Fe Film Festival. Where are you planning to eat?
Every time I go to New Mexico I try to include green chile in every meal. We come in on Thursday night and I plan to get a burger at Bobcat on Friday afternoon.
Hamburger America will be shown at the Santuario de Guadalupe (100 Guadalupe) at 7 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Call (505) 989-1495 for tickets and information.