Take two fresh buns of friendliness, a dash of a sense of humour and a slice of quality. Add a generous patty of character and you’ll begin to understand what make’s Walter Brunner and his Burger Shed’s recipe work.
A Swiss-trained chef by trade, Brunner arrived in Williams Lake in 1994 with an insatiable appetite for making people happy through his cooking.
After owning, managing and working at a large hotel company in his native Switzerland, Brunner spent time stationed in Australia, South Africa and different countries in Europe.
When he arrived in Canada 20 years ago he landed a job as head chef for a large catering company in northern B.C. before he opened a restaurant in Williams Lake. By that time, however, he had begun to tire of the monotony involved with managing such an endeavor.
“I moved here 20 years ago,” Brunner says. “Why? I like it. You could give me $10 million to go back and I’d say keep the money. I’d visited about 15 times before moving to Canada, and it was maybe my second or third time visiting when I came to Williams Lake for the first time.”
Since its opening in Williams Lake, the Burger Shed, located in the Canadian Tire parking lot, has been a staple for hamburger connoisseurs for the past eight years.
Brunner says it’s the happiest he’s ever been running a business, and it’s the people who make it all worthwhile.
If you ask Brunner what makes it a success, he’ll tell you it’s all about using fresh, quality, local ingredients.
“I’ve had restaurants, but I don’t like to have more restaurants,” he says. “This is better and at the end of the day I’m happier.
“The other thing is the people like what I do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. The people and the town are absolutely super with me.”
Brunner buys all of his meat locally, and all of his products come from B.C.
“I don’t buy anything American,” he says. “Beef comes from Rodier Meats, Empire Valley Ranch and some from the Gang Ranch, too. The chicken, it comes down from the Fraser Valley.”
He even uses home-grown vegetables in the summer time.
“You need to have good, quality food, and you need to like what you do. Sure, it’s hot in the summer, but I have air conditioning,” he jokes.
Brunner designed the entire menu by himself, which features gourmet hamburgers of all varieties (there are literally more than 30 different burgers). His inspiration, he says, comes from his own observations.
“You look at the Food Network, you look on the Internet, you see so many ideas,” he says. “You go down to Vancouver, you go down to Victoria — when you look, you see. Whatever you like, I can make. If you like burgers with fancy stuff, I can do it.”
When not making gourmet hamburgers Brunner spends much of his time in the outdoors. His hobbies include scuba diving, flying (he had a pilot’s license), sailing, boating, fishing and hiking.
“It’s fun. It’s really fun here,” he says, pointing to the people of Williams Lake who make his job interesting.
“At the end of the day it’s the people — they’re really, really good to me here. Joking with the people is my favourite thing.”
The Burger Shed opened two weeks ago and stays open throughout the summer until December, when Brunner typically takes off on a sailing trip until he re-opens in March.
Brunner also employs several staff and, in the future, has plans to open another burger shed in the Save-On-Foods parking lot, and an East Indian and Thai cooking shed next year.
“I’m just one of the happy guys,” he says with a smile. “You come here and you get the same treatment as everyone.”