Homemade burgers sell like hotcakes

Central Java, Indonesia - While Purwokerto city in Banyumas regency, Central Java, is famous for its signature mendoan (battered thinly sliced tempeh), a US-born man is trying to introduce burgers to enrich the array of street food in the city.

A burger stall belonging to Glenn Allan McGrew, 47, can be found at his house near a traditional market in Kober village, West Purwokerto district, Banyumas regency.

Unlike international chain restaurants in shopping malls, McGrew offers burgers at affordable prices of between Rp 7,500 (S$0.83) and Rp 10,000 to attract locals.

"The burgers are delicious and affordable. I like them. The hot and the sweet flavors are perfectly balanced," said Lia, a resident, adding that she especially loved the tender, juicy meat.

She said burgers at other stores were usually expensive and did not offer a distinctive taste.

McGrew smiled broadly when The Jakarta Post ordered a burger.

"I made everything by myself. It is original and halal. Thank you for buying it," he said on Thursday.

He sells the homemade burgers at a stall equipped with two simple tables he bought for Rp 10,000 each. He originally began preparing his own burger patties, which he claims have an American flavor, with a small sum of startup capital.

While he runs an honest street-food business that highlights cheap prices and good flavor, McGrew's story might be more famous than his hard work.

The former guest lecturer at a university in Purwokerto started the small business to earn more money to pay for the medical expenses of his wife, Purwita Wijayanti, a native of Purwokerto who has been diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer.

McGrew, who is proficient in Indonesian, said there was no other way to save his wife's life except by working hard.

He said that his wife had been complaining about an ache in her stomach for a long time, but was diagnosed with cervical cancer just four months ago.

He added he was grateful that business was brisk and many people sympathized with him.

"Perhaps they see me as a weird Caucasian [...] serving burgers from the sidewalk. However, for me this is part of the responsibility that must be carried out by a husband to support a family, especially when his wife is sick.

"That's why I'm not ashamed and am happy to find out that the youngsters here are sympathetic toward me and are willing to help by buying my burgers," he said.

He added he could earn around Rp 500,000 daily by selling burgers from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"Yes, I've sold 80 burgers at once on one occasion," he said.

Purwokerto resident Lia, 19, claimed she empathized with McGrew's fighting spirit, so she gathered her friends to help support him.

"I told my friends to come here to buy McGrew's burgers to help him. Besides being tasty, the prices are quite low," said Lia.

McGrew is usually accompanied by his wife and other family members at his stall each day. "I take a day off when I must take my wife to the doctor, once every two weeks," he said.

Purwita said she deeply appreciated her husband's efforts.

"Before, I used to sell snacks, such as donuts. Glenn had other activities outside the city. However, the moment I was diagnosed with cancer, he stopped working and tended to me at home and concentrated on selling the snacks and burgers," said Purwita.

From their 15-year marriage, McGrew and Purwita have been bestowed with two children, aged 9 and 5. Jasmine Wijayanti, his eldest child, at times helps him at the stall.

McGrew said he would take his wife to Jakarta for chemotherapy when he collected enough money. "I don't know how much it costs, but it's definitely not cheap. For me, the amount is big."