Q&A: Chandler Goff, inventor of the Luther Burger

Chandler Goff invented the Luther Burger, a bacon cheeseburger served on, ahem, a Krispy Kreme donut, and made it famous at his bar, Mulligans in Atlanta around 2003. He now lives here and put the taste—and calorie—sensation on the menu for Pero’s On the Hill (7706 S. Northshore Dr.)—a joint venture with Sammy Peroulas of original Pero’s fame that opened in April.

Didn’t you sell the rights to the Luther Burger to the Altanta Braves?

I wish! We were once in negotiations, but that’s a website rumor that went too far. When Mulligans was serving it, there was a minor league team called the Gateway Grizzlies serving a donut burger at their park. We talked to the Braves, but it never went beyond a few conversations.

How’d you end up in Knoxville?

I came to open this restaurant. Sammy Peroulas—whose father and two uncles opened several local restaurants in the ’50s and ’60s—and I were college roommates in Atlanta at Emory who both ended up in this business. I haven’t had bars for several years—I’ve been opening restaurants for a corporate group for the last five years, but I’m just doing this now.

What kind of food do you serve?

Greek, Italian, and I guess you’d call it American.

What inspired you revisit the Luther Burger?

I closed Mulligans in 2006, yet once a month I get an e-mail about somebody else doing a version of the Luther Burger. The icing was my poor mother, who was heartbroken and irate when she saw Paula Dean trying to take credit for the idea on her show—though she didn’t try to use our name for it!

It’s a burger between two doughnuts?

One, sliced like a bagel.

Is it really 1,000 calories?

You know, I don’t think that’s accurate, but it’s probably pretty close. The first time I did The Tonight Show, Leno measured it out at 700.

Why’s it named after Luther Vandross?

That was kind of our inspiration. In the first year we had Mulligans, myself and two others were sitting around, and the kitchen manager was reading some magazine interview with Luther Vandross and it was when he’d lost all this weight. He told a story about when he was heavier, and he’d woken in the night and made a burger and then realized he didn’t have any bread—all he had to use was a donut. This was one of the snacks he obviously had to delete from his diet.

You also get credit for inventing the Hamdog—what’s that?

That’s another atrocity—a hot dog wrapped in hamburger meat, breaded and fried and covered with chili, bacon, cheese and a fried egg. We won’t serve that here—this is more of an adult concept than Mulligans was, which was a live music kind of Peter Pan thing.

Are the people who come in for Luthers all obese?

Surprisingly, no.

Do you yourself eat them?

Rarely—it’s all about moderation and guilty pleasure.

Any particularly obsessed fans?

Oh, yes. We haven’t been open long enough here yet, but when I had Mulligans in Atlanta I had someone fly over from France.

Just for the Luther Burger?

Yes.

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