05/12/2021

Mister Gee On Getting Smashed, Truffled and Cheesed In the Burger Business

Editorial Team | Interviews

Mister Gee’s bodacious burgers have a cult following and their go-big-or-go-home approach to the bun business is anything but conventional.

Ask an average Sydneysider for their take on the city’s best burgers and you’ll most likely get a mass of big-American chain names slung your way. Ask someone from the cities West and you’ll be met with just one; ‘Gee’.

Gee Ozgen, owner and founder of namesake restaurant Mister Gee, has built a strong reputation in Western Sydney for his distinctly over the top take on brazen burgers. Be they stacked high with maple-smoked bacon, squashed between myriad cheeses from across the globe or doused in their signature pungent truffle mayo, his burgers draw crowds.

As a cook, Ozgen has been in and out of the kitchen his entire life, but he came to a crossroads wanting something to call his own. While travelling in the US he was exposed to the booming food truck trend and the community spirit that came with comfort food and gorilla style dining. “I just loved the vibe of serving food on the street,” he says.

“It was cool and uncomplicated.”

Mister Gee first appeared as a food truck back in 2014 at its first location in the Burwood neighbourhood and had a simple mission; sell one type of burger per week, a side and drinks with a small rotating menu. “It just went crazy,” Ozgen exclaims. Struggling to keep up with demand, ingredients ran out on a regular basis. “We had no plan, we kind of just made it up as we went along,” he laughs, “…I think we nailed it.”

Reflecting on their humble beginnings and how the food truck and burger combo was yet a trend (particularly in Sydney’s Inner West), Ozgen acknowledges there was a right place right time element that contributed to their success. “It was cool and uncomplicated,” he remarks but goes on to say that it was their personal touch that made Mister Gee’s a destination – one which people travelled far and wide to experience.

Over the years the truck moved to its new home in Strathfield, and Gee’s offering has expanded to include more menu items while still featuring some of their now infamous classics. The Cheeseboogie favours American cheese, caramelised onions, dill pickles and Gee’s special sauce, the O.G Truffle Burger features Havarti cheese, caramelised onions and truffle mayo. Another signature, The Stoner’s Revenge, contains a heart-stopping amount of streaky bacon, dill pickles, pickled onions, topped off with a handful of salt and vinegar chips and Gee’s stoner sauce.

But alongside the truffle fries and burger mainstays are the experimental short-lived concoctions, recipes that keep customers coming back. The Takeshi Kaga Burger is comprised of American cheese, smoked Dijon, blackberry onions, oakleaf and “iron chef sauce”. The 1900-burger switches out everything but the cheese and patty for grilled onions cooked in cola, plus coffee bacon sauce, burnt pineapple, pickles, sriracha-maple mayo.

Vegan options? You’ll be going home hungry I’m afraid.

The brand also has a signature serve style. Wrapped in silver foil akin to a burrito that helps to “keep the juices in” and mitigate mess, Gee says it’s a hallmark that people immediately recognise on the street and across social as theirs.

One of the biggest challenges facing restaurants such as Mister Gee is time. Brands go to seed, and people move on. Big players enter the market, smaller ones too and suffocate the old guard that established the trend in the first place. But Ozgen says the Mister Gee food truck and their sister restaurant in Haberfield remains relevant because it’s about more than just burgers.

“I was like, man, I’m going to keep everybody employed…
no matter what.”

“I think the brand makes sense to people because of how we started and where we started… It was almost like there’s sort of house party that, you know, everyone was welcome. You didn’t have to have a certain dress code; you didn’t have to be a certain age group… I think just the idea of just being proud of where you’re from, giving back to the community and creating a fun space.”

The second location eased a lot of the pressure off the food truck. It enabled the brand to keep its identity but enabled customers to flow across and get their burger fix if the truck was pumping. It’s logic and practical thinking such as this that demonstrates how Gee has “matured” as an owner. That said, nobody could predict Covid, which Gee confesses really impacted business and plans for growth. He admits he was initially “scared” when the restrictions came in, with most of those fear centred around the staff.

“I was like, man, I’m going to keep everybody employed. You know, like, no matter what,” he says. Mister Gee has succeeded where others have failed because the brand has found a way to participate in their customers night out, rather than scalping a few coins off the top of it. Their food truck is a destination, a place to hang out and gather as much as it is a convenient place to grab a bite. As a result, the customers are protective over the Gee name and loyal; returning each week, happily queuing long before the shutters go up.

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