I have to admit, I had my doubts two weeks ago. Would Billy King, renowned Prince Albert chef and creator of Le Souffle, much loved for his souffles and lamb creations, be able to pull off an All-American menu? He is known for his French cooking after all, and with Irish pragmatism, said of the old John Hay menu, “It’s just burgers and ice cream.”
The burger at Camp John Hay
But the John Hay burger was never “just a burger.” Talk to anyone who grew up with memories of the old Baguio and they will always gush about that John Hay burger. Food writer Alice Herrera remembers burgers at the 19th Tee with blue cheese dressing. Cook Magazine editor and golfer Dino Datu remembers the burgers at Halfway House. The John Hay burger was legendary.
So I held my breath when Cocoy Puyat, burger aficionado, told me that he and wife Ella Puyat, went up to Camp John Hay over the long weekend just for this burger. “I gauge the greatness of a hotel by its burger,” he said.
Thankfully, Billy King proved his burger is king. “This is what I’m talking about!” Puyat said. He described the burger as juicy, with all the flavors oozing from the meat and not just on top. Its greatness is measured not in size but in its flavor.
Unlike other burgers that try to be great by simply being too big to fit in your mouth or being made “special” with foie gras or truffle oil or other add ons, Billy King’s John Hay burger is simply a burger done right. The meat is not overcooked nor too rare; the cheese is Monterey Jack, and the bread—homemade—is superb.