Inside the kitchen of Shant Mardirosian, the founder of the Burger’s Priest

Inside the kitchen of Shant Mardirosian, the founder of the Burger’s Priest

Stocked with a cotton candy machine, an outdoor grill and legions of sparkling water

Shant and his family standing in his home kitchen

After a five-year hiatus, Shant Mardirosian, the founder of the Burger’s Priest, is back where it all began—in the burger biz. After cashing in his 14-location smash-burger empire in 2017, Mardirosian’s culinary journey took a doughy detour. He opened the Fourth Man in the Fire, a pizzeria, and his somewhat-clandestine doughnut venture, Harry and Heels. Now, with the expiry of his burger-making non-compete clause, Mardirosian is firing up the grill once more. His new venture, Elijah’s Automatic Flame Broiled (slated to open in Etobicoke this summer), will mark a re-entry into the burger arena—this time focusing on flame-grilled patties.

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Mardirosian is allergic to boredom. Growing a brand? Boring. Starting something new that requires a bunch of R&D? Perfect. His home is his gastronomic lab, with a second-hand pizza oven that’s become a testing ground for potential pies. A perfectionist, Mardirosian excels at refining classics like doughnuts, pizzas and cheeseburgers. But, when it comes to cooking for his family, the pressure’s off—it’s all about enjoyment.

Shant's expansive home kitchen, which has white cabinets and a large island

Mardirosian and his wife, Emma, moved into their lakefront Burlington home three years ago with their daughters, Narineh and Avida. They could have lived with the circa-’92 kitchen it came with—if it weren’t for the comically small, condo-sized oven, which drove them nuts. Later this year, they’re gearing up for a complete overhaul. They’ll refresh the look with oak cabinets and add functional upgrades like a walk-in freezer down the hall and an industrial dishwasher that cleans plates in 90 seconds. For Mardirosian, the highlight of the new space will be a built-in deep fryer.

A peak at the inside of Shant's well-organized fridge

The door of Shant's fridge, which is lined with eggs and sauces

The family’s food philosophy is all about balance. They enjoy the odd junk- or fast-food indulgence (Fruity Pebbles cereal and McDonald’s are their go-to guilty pleasures), but they try to stick to a paleo diet during the week. Emma makes sure that chopped and washed vegetables are always on hand for quick snacking and easy meal prep. They’re also mindful about their hormone and pesticide intake, opting for hormone-free and organic produce when possible. On days when cooking from scratch isn’t feasible, they resort to quick and tasty grazing boards with cheese, salami, pickles, and Matt and Steve’s Extreme Beans (Mardirosian is long-time friends with the duo behind the company).

A closer look into the chef's fridge, which has rows of pickles and sparkling water

Peppers amd tomatoes are in organized drawers in the fridge

Mardirosian primarily shops at Farm Boy—he appreciates the chain’s organic selection and impressive snack aisle. For quality dry-aged meats, he’ll head over to Oakville’s Old Fashioned Butchery. While the family doesn’t consume much fish (Mardirosian is the only one in his household who likes seafood), he’ll occasionally grab some at Marilu’s Market, an excellent gourmet store that also carries great meats and prepared foods. Before moving west, he was also a regular at McEwan’s.

A look at the dry-aged meat that the chef keeps in his fridge

Here’s a glimpse into the Mardirosian family’s freezer. The girls have a fondness for Amy’s burritos and mac and cheese, which Emma appreciates because they’re easy meals and relatively healthy. Mardirosian, the savoury pie aficionado, is currently hooked on Pie Commission’s short rib pies and Farm Boy’s chicken pot pies. But this frosty treasure trove isn’t just a haven for quick fixes: it also contains premium ingredients, like canoe-cut bones for roast marrow and veal shank for osso buco. The girls enjoy the braised dish so long as—according to their mom—no one explains to them what veal is.

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A freezer drawer with meat, frozen burritos and frozen pies

Another freezer drawer with frozen mangos and Eggos

Gertie’s peanut butter pies are a staple in this house. Emma and Mardirosian are friends with the co-founders of the pie company, Ryan Campbell and Sara Steep.

Some of the household's snacks: pies and Annie's mac and cheese

Here’s the pantry, as organized by Emma.

A look at the pantry, where everything is organized into wooden display boxes

A closer look at the baking supplies in the pantry

On your average weekday, the Mardirosian household kicks off with scrambled eggs and bacon or a fruit-packed smoothie bowl. But, when the weekend rolls around, it’s pancake time—and not just any pancakes. Narineh and Avida make flapjacks shaped like their favourite cartoons, thanks to their collection of mini pancake irons. To complement the carbs, Emma will whip up a batch of sugar-free cream, infused with sweetness from real vanilla bean, and serve it alongside a generous helping of fresh fruit.

The Minnie Mouse waffle maker

While the parents generally aim for healthy eating, the kids often break out either their miniature slushie or cotton candy machine when they have friends over. Yes, this is the house all the kids at school hope to get an invite to (the pool and Jet Ski don’t hurt either).

The kids' cotton candy and slushie machines

Every once in a while, Mardirosian will bring home a box of Harry and Heels doughnuts (from the semi-secret operation run out of the Fourth Man in the Fire’s basement). These are California-style doughnuts, which are softer and fluffier than your average Canadian fritter. The girls are fairly omnivorous when it comes to pastry, but the jelly-filled and bacon-and-maple-topped offerings are usually the most popular picks.

A box of Harry and Heels doughnuts

Mom and dad split cooking duties evenly. The girls adore Emma’s Italian wedding soup, freshly baked bread and roast chicken, which Mardirosian claims surpasses most upscale restaurant dishes (the secret is a compound butter tucked under the skin.) Meanwhile, Mardirosian takes the lead on grilling. He currently uses a gas Weber barbecue, but he’s hoping to add a charcoal grill to his arsenal this summer. He also delights in preparing koreshts (Persian stews) for his daughters. Their go-to dish is khoresh-e loobia sabz, a savoury tomato-and-green-bean stew usually prepared with beef.

The family's outdoor grill

The family almost never uses the formal dining room—they prefer the intimate four-top in the kitchen.

The family's lavish dining room set up

Emma has left a pile of sticky notes in these cookbooks, but Mardirosian tends to do most of his culinary research online. He thinks the Cook’s Illustrated website is an amazing tool. “Regular cookbooks never tell you the whole truth,” he says. “America’s Test Kitchen gets into the science of things.” Although he’s not a cookbook enthusiast, he does keep a few titles by Mark McEwan, whom he worked for before launching the Burger’s Priest.

A stack of Shant and Emma's cookbooks

Emma loves her Jura coffee machine, which can make anything from a macchiato to a latte. She enjoys dairy but also likes exploring unique nut milks, such as Elmhurst’s pistachio creamer, which she appreciates for its simple list of five ingredients.

Emma's coffee set up

While this is a food-loving household, the Mardirosians are not big on booze. They stock up on alcoholic beverages only when friends come over and otherwise make do with a single emergency bottle of vodka (which will hang around for years). “When I was a server, I was certified level-two with the Court of Master Sommeliers, but I never loved wine,” says Mardirosian. “I just don’t think alcohol tastes good.” Instead, the family maintains a rotating collection of colourful zero-proof beverages.

Some of the non-alcoholic drinks the family keeps around