Chef on the verge: Robert “Mags” Magsalin of Fukuburger

Fukuburger’s Robert “Mags” Magsalin
Photo: Beverly Poppe

Fukuburger’s self-described “burger flipper” started his culinary career early, when his grandmother drafted him into service helping her prepare egg rolls for her home-based catering company. At age 13, Magsalin went to help his father on a goat farm in Riverside, California, where the teen had the unenviable task of “butchering his friends.” Barely into puberty, Magsalin already knew how to break down goats with expertise.

He enrolled in culinary school right out of high school and moved from San Francisco to Vegas at 19. After holding down a variety of industry positions, Magsalin met future partner Colin Fukunaga. The latter’s vision for a mobile restaurant serving up Asian-flavored burgers coalesced during a series of late-night drinking sessions—“20 bottles of Maker’s Mark and 100 Coors Lights later,” Magsalin says.

Now 32, Magsalin says he’s amazed by the rapid success of Fukuburger, which remains a local favorite food truck and recently opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Hollywood (see Page 44). A new father, Magsalin says, it’s “making sure my family doesn’t have to worry about a dime for the rest of their lives—being financially and mentally stress-free.” Oh, and he’d like to open a video poker dive bar that only serves the egg rolls his grandmother made. “We’ll have egg rolls, booze and machines you can lose your money in,” he says. “We’ll have nothing but deep fryers and cow slices in the fridge—nothing else.”

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Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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