Rayling Lei & Jeff Camacho, Founders, Burger Revolution & Trade Craft Good Food Co.
Burger Revolution storefront. Click to enlarge
Last fall, I accepted a last-minute request to cover an evening event in Belleville; but, I knew I wouldn’t last without “fast fuel” in my belly. I had a short window of opportunity to experience a place I had heard of for awhile; so, I followed my instinct. I was astonished as I entered the venue.
Among the mundane experiences delivered to a dining public in small-town Ontario, Burger Revolution is out-of-place. It’s more in-tune with urban palates, spoiled by a cacophony of exotic temptations, a response to the burger’s gradual decline under the hegemony of McDonalds and also-rans. I would eventually learn, this was ostensibly the impetus for “Burger Rev.”
Jeff Camacho and Rayling Lei deemed Belleville well-suited to inherit their years of culinary training in Toronto; but, they opted to stay out of the crowded fine-dining sector. Instead, they invested their talent in a fast-food experience, redefining the category, one that is quickly becoming legendary; hence, a revolution. The Che Guevara-like closed fist symbol in its graphics bears no political meaning–it is simply a tongue-in-cheek mnemonic that serves the brand meaning well.
Post-it Love Notes from customers cover the wall. Click to enlarge. TM 3M
The couple travelled to Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa and New York, to sample “crazy burgers and get inspiration”, Camacho prefaces. And inspiration they got. A global perspective also informed every touch-point in the first store–an experience that is scalable–not just a “local joint”.
Burger Revolution isn’t an inch larger than Weber’s located on highway 400 (Toronto cottagers’ road to the Muskokas); but, the customer line-up is starting to look as long. Yet Webers burgers, renown for their generous portions and secret ingredients, bares little resemblance. Burger Rev’s ingredients are locally sourced (Enright Cattle, Wilton Cheese, Simpson and Grimson potatoes). The meat is ground on location and each burger made to order. It isn’t really a revolution; it’s a rebellion against thin, tasteless, mystery patties covered up with cheap condiments and buns. Then again it’s a food philosophy if you order the Utopia, the vegan version.
Popular Burger Revolution choice. Click to enlarge
“People know that it’s food made with love,” Camacho emotes, “and from scratch,” his spouse Lei adds completing the picture. They finish each others’ sentences as many happily married couples do.
“Food attracts,” Camacho states, explaining the genesis of their relationship. Rayling giggles. They both giggle a lot. This is clearly the release valve that allows this creative duo to work tirelessly six days a week, seven as the weather heats up. Before they came to Belleville, they lived in Niagara On The Lake for five years, where they met and “fell in love”; both were employed by Hillebrand Estates Winery. They started a family in Belleville seven years ago and now have two small children, 2 and 5.
Nowadays, you won’t see them much at Burger Rev which has a life of its own and a staff that is romancing a happy audience and vice versa. During eating hours, Camacho and Lei are thirty minutes away in Brighton, operating a new, second foodservice brand, Trade Craft Good Food Co. which opened on February 3rd inside the Antique Emporium.
Inside Trade Craft. Click to enlarge.
“We wanted something more”, explains Camacho, “we wanted to grow.” Entrepreneurs are systemically creative; once a business is established, it’s no surprise to see them branch out again. “Being a Chef, Trade Craft has given me a new learning experience, created space inside my head for more than burgers.” All meat is cured and smoked in-house and ingredients are also sourced locally. “It’s the same model as Burger Rev, just sandwiches.”
The “475”. Click to enlarge
The venue is wholly different from Burger Rev. It elicits memories of the 1950s soda fountain bar. Instead of a homeopathic pharmacy on the side, the venue is furnished to the gills with table, chairs and artifacts from the same period. (There is a separate, fully functional antique store.) You can read a genuine 50s Life magazine as you sup. Camacho and Lei served me the “475” sandwich named after Brighton’s telephone exchange–naming menu items is one of their trademarks. The 475 is stuffed with green apple slices (the town’s most celebrated food), ham, pickles and melted spicy cheese.
This is one couple to watch, pacing themselves, deliberate in each move. They are not to be under-estimated or under-appreciated.
Jeff Camacho and Rayling Lei – A short history
Camacho started cooking at 15 years of age. Graduated from George Brown College Culinary Program. Hopped around kitchens in Toronto, Virginia, Philippines and Niagara. Went back to school studying a Niagara on the Lake Culinary Institute. There he learned everything, especially the support of local farmers across Ontario. He previously worked at several restaurants over the years including L’Auberge Du Pommier (one of Toronto’s top restaurants for over 25 years). Before launching Burger Revolution he was Head Chef at Capers in Belleville.
Lei came from China to study Hotel and Restaurant Management in Toronto 13 years ago. She graduated at Niagara on the Lake Institute. Worked at Hillebrand Estates Winery for five years where the couple met. She too worked at Capers as Front of House Manager before founding Burger Revolution.
Enjoy the Gallery below:
Jeff the Barrista . Click to enlarge
Trade Craft Storefront. Click to enlarge
A good foam on the cappuccino. Click to enlarge
Memorabilia take-aways for sale. Click to enlarge.
YOU CAN WATCH THE LIVE-ON-FILM INTERVIEW A FEW POSTS DOWN !