Ash Gutsell has been in the building industry for the past 10 years but has long harboured dreams of starting his own food venture. Passionate about burgers, he began perfecting his technique and making them for friends and family.
A regular to the Slice Seaham business in Church Street, he was offered a pop up at their hatch, which has proved so successful he’s sold almost 2,000 burgers in five weeks.
Ash, from Seaham Harbour, says he’s been overwhelmed by the positive response.
Nissan announces 300 new jobs at Sunderland plant - how you can find out more and apply
'Decadent' new Sunderland burger named after Edwardian architect part of new food offering at The Peacock
New exhibition shines a light on hidden stories of old Holy Trinity Church - catch it while you can at Seventeen Nineteen
New retailers open at The Bridges in Sunderland - including hair removal clinic and Trespass store
Aldi looking for new store locations in Sunderland - could you earn yourself a finders fee?
"I’ve not had one bad response so far, people are saying they’re better than Five Guys,” he said.
The pop up has been such a hit that Sm’ash Burger runs as a pop up at the hatch on Mondays and Tuesdays from noon until 5pm and Wednesday and Thursday 5pm-9pm.
Fans of Slice Seaham’s New York-style pizzas needn’t worry as they’re still available from the hatch on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11.30am-2.30pm, Friday and Saturdays noon until 8pm and Sunday from noon until 6pm.
Ash said it’s great to have a fellow local business be so supportive of his new venture, which is a total career change.
"I’ve been coming here since they opened as I love their pizza,” he said. “This has been a risk and something completely new, but my partner and friends and family told me to go for it.
"Being able to use an existing kitchen has been fantastic as it’s saved me the set-up costs and given me the opportunity to see if this can work.”
Andy Smith who owns the building, which features Slice, the Coalface pub and an air B’n’B, with business partner Mark Milroy, said: “Ash is a good local lad with a good following and business idea, so it’s great to be able to support him and give him an opportunity.”
Ash uses popular butcher, and Seaham institution, Angus’, for his burgers. He rolls the mince into meatballs before smashing them with a burger press to form a thin patty with a crust on the outside which holds the juice and flavour, a type of burger particularly popular in America.
Although other businesses offer burgers in the town, such as Bulan Burger in the Marina, Sm’ash is the only place in the area specialising in smash burgers.
Currently Ash offers three varieties, all served in a brioche bun rolled in butter, with plans to expand the range in the future.
In the meantime, you can take a bite out of the Double Bacon Baddy, a double patty burger served with bacon, cheese and crispy onions, and fries for £8; a Plain Jane double cheeseburger with fries for £7 or a classic Sm’ash burger on its own for £3.50. A range of dips are also available including a top secret SR7 sauce.
There are also plans to start a Burger and Beer night in the adjoining Coalface pub so that people can enjoy a sit-in Sm’ash.