BUILD A BETTER BURGER: Contest History

Build a Better Burger® History
View Build a Better Burger® history by year or scroll down to read the complete history.

 2013  | 2012  |  2011  |  2010  |  2009  | 2008  |  2007  |  2006  | 2005  | 2004  | 2003  |  2002  |  2001  |  2000  |  1999  |  1998  |  1997  |  1996  |  1995  |  1994  |  1993  |  1992  |  1991  |  1990

 

2013

Following on the heels of a sizzling spring heat wave in Napa Valley, everyone participating in  the 23rd Build a Better Burger Cook-Off was thrilled with the perfect May 2014 weather that dawned for the cooking showdown between the ten finalists in the 2013 BBB Recipe Contest. 

This was the first year in the history of the contest where a father and son competed head-on against each other.  Michael Cohen, a musical composer for film and television from Los Angeles, won the $100,000 grand prize with Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burgers, beating out his returning finalist father Harold Cohen from Hollywood, Florida, who prepared crowd-pleasing Mexicali Burgers. The younger Cohen’s burger was also named as the $2,500 People’s Choice Beef Burger by Cook-Off attendees. “It was fun competing with my dad,” noted Michael Cohen, “I learned my love of food from him.”  When asked how he was going to spend the $100,000 prize, Michael answered, “I’m going to start by buying a nice shiny new guitar!”
 
Head judge James McNair noted after sampling Michael’s burger during judging, “This burger is perfect – I wouldn’t change a thing.” Erin Evenson, Build a Better Burger judge and last year’s $100,000 winner, added, “Blue cheese and bacon - I now understand what the fuss is about.” 
 
The panel of judges also awarded the $15,000 prize for the Best Alternative Burger to the Sour Apple Pork Burgers from Cristen Clark of Runnells, Iowa. The audience also agreed, voting the $2,500 People’s Choice Award to Cristen. James McNair exclaimed when first trying the burger, “I have only had one bite so far, but I am in Hog Heaven!”
 

Selection

A Culinary Review Panel, comprised of Brenda Bosetti , Marilyn Costa, Liccet Guzman, Jill Hunting, and BBB Culinary Director Jeffrey Starr screened recipes during the summer and and selected their favorites. The panel met as a group and narrowed the favorites down to 15 beef burgers and 15 alternative burgers. During a two-day preliminary Cook-Off, the Culinary Review Panel assembled to choose finalists in each of the two categories. 

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Michael Cohen, Los Angeles, California: Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burgers with Creamy Blue Cheese and Pear, Spinach, and Hazelnut Salad
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People’s Choice Award: Michael Cohen
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Kim Jones, Bloomingdale, Illinois: Over-The-Top Truffled Burgers with Caramelized Balsamic Onion Jam, Roasted Garlic Aioli, and Goat Cheese
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Second Runner-Up: Bill Clifford, Exeter, New Hampshire: Savory French Toasted Burgers with Seasoned Arugula, Bacon-Shallot Chevre, and Merlot Mustard
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Cristen Clark, Runnells, Iowa: Sour Apple Pork Burgers with Cheddar Cheese, Cayenne-Apple-Candied Bacon, and Potato Chip-Onion Haystacks
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Cristen Clark
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Ellen Verdugo, Gloucester, Massachusetts: “Chicken Dressed as Duck” Burgers with Spiced Cherry Mostarda and Orange-Thyme Aioli 
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner Up: Krista Towns, Aiken, South Carolina: German Currywurst Burgers with Tomato Curry-Ginger Jam, Curry-Glazed Pork Skins, and Sweet Pepper, Apple, and Fennel Slaw

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalists:

  • Harold Cohen, Hollywood, Florida
  • Maureen Hiller, Katy, Texas

Other Alternative Burgers Finalists:

  • Jim Bradley, Chicago, Illinois
  • Kelly Randall, Vallejo, California

Judges

  • James McNair, Head Judge
  • Erin Evenson
  • Elaine Johnson
  • Kevin Kolman
  • Angela Tafoya

2012

After taking the BBB Cook-Off on the road to Miami Beach (2010) and Chicago (2011), a spectacular May day under bright blue skies welcomed the event back home to Napa Valley. The lush gardens of Sutter Home’s Victorian Inn in St. Helena put on a showy burst of full bloom for the occasion, and a springtime palate of pale blue and off-white adorned everything from the table coverings to the judges’ shirts.

Since its inception in 1990, the BBB Cook-Off had been held at the end of September or early October. The decision to move the event to the week before the Memorial Day weekend’s unofficial opening of grilling season made it necessary to forgo staging a Cook-Off during 2012, so the Cook-Off for the 2012 BBB Recipe Contest was moved to May of 2013.

Except for the anxious competing cooks, the mood of the day was very relaxed. Guests visited a garden flower-bedecked buffet to pick up hot-off-the-grill versions of the 10 competing recipes, as prepared by the Trinchero Family Estates culinary crew, headed by Culinary Director/Executive Chef James Houghton and Build a Better Burger’s Culinary Director Jeff Starr. Trinchero Pastry Chef Jenny Contreras created a stunning array of tiny “burgers” from espresso macaroons sandwiching chocolate ganache patties along with caramel corn, bite-sized cupcakes, and chocolate truffles.

While guests enjoyed their burger sampling and marking ballots for their favorites, the Cook-Off Judges onstage were served perfectly timed burgers cooked by the competing home cooks, who remained on stage to answer questions and hear critiques of their creations.

When the judging was completed, Head Judge and BBB Honorary Chairman James McNair welcomed the finalists back to the stage and handed an envelope containing the winners’ names to Trinchero Family Estates President Bob Torkelson to announce the prizewinners. This year the crowd and judges did not agree on the winners.

In the Alternative Burgers category, the People’s Choice award of $2,500 went to Kim Jones for her Better than Breakfast in Bed pork burgers, while Mark Richardson’s Indian Lamb Burgers won the $15,000 award as the Best Alternative Burger. Mark Pyne received the $2,500 People’s Choice award in the Beef Burgers category for his Grilled Green Tomato Burgers, and an extremely excited Evin Evenson walked away with the Grand Prize of $100,000 for her 7 Train Caramelized Green Curry Burgers.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened several thousand recipes during the summer and sent the qualified recipes to the five members of the Culinary Review Panel, comprised of Brenda Bosetti , Marilyn Costa, Liccet Guzman, Jill Hunting, and BBB Culinary Director Jeffrey Starr, who selected their favorite recipes. The panel met as a group and narrowed the favorites down to 15 beef burgers and 15 alternative burgers. During a two-day preliminary Cook-Off, the Culinary Review Panel chose five finalists in each of the two categories.

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Erin Evenson, Brooklyn, New York: 7 Train Caramelized Green Curry Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People’s Choice Award: Mark Pyne, Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Grilled Green Tomato Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Mark Pyne, Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Grilled Green Tomato Burgers
  • Grant Prize (Beef Burgers) Second Runner-Up: Jeanette Nowak, Spring, Texas: Razzle Dazzle Burgers
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Mark Richardson, Snohomish, Washington: Indian Lamb Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Kim Jones, Bloomingdale, Illinois: Better than Breakfast in Bed Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Helen Mariscal, Artesia, New Mexico: Lemon-Scented “Salmon-icious” Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: Cheryl Lundquist, Wake Forest, North Carolina: Lamb Burgers with Mango Chutney Mayo and Minted Romaine

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalists:

  • Sharron Pinheiro, Macomb, Michigan: Kickin’ Brunch Burgers
  • Katie Sherrill, Edmonds, Washington: Korean-Hawaiian Taco Truck Burgers

Other Alternative Burgers Finalist:

  • Kathy Keithline, Parker, Colorado Smoky Sweet Salmon Sliders

Judges:

  • James McNair, Head Judge
  • Jennifer Beckman
  • Katie Chin
  • Kevin Kolman
  • Steven Raichlen

2011

Perfect early autumn weather bathed Chicago in sunshine on October 12, as the ten anxious finalists walked the few short blocks from BBB's host Hotel Palomar to the World of Whirlpool, an ultra contemporary facility on the top level of the Reid Murdoch building on the north bank of the Chicago River. The lucky finalists prepared their burger components in state-of-the-art kitchens outfitted with the latest in KitchenAid equipment, and then moved outdoors to the adjacent rooftop terrace to cook on sparkling new stainless steel grills surrounded by fabled Chicago architecture.

Joining BBB's resident head judge, James McNair, were three of Chicago's top chefs: Gale Gand of Tru, Heather Terhune of Sable Kitchen & Bar, and Dave Zino of National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Rounding out the judging panel was Chicago-born Bob Torkelson, President and COO of Trinchero Family Estates.

The judging took place inside a large conference room where the competitors passed their burgers to the judges, and then stayed on stage to answer questions and hear critiques of their entries. Guests were free to sit and watch these proceedings or wander the corridors adjacent to the cooking stations and watch the finalists at work. The competing burgers were prepared by the Whirlpool caterers and offered to the guests who were able to vote for their favorites for the People's Choice awards. They could also load their plates with French fries, onion rings, various salads, milkshakes, miniature sweets, and samples from a pantry display of assorted pickles to enjoy al fresco on the spacious rooftop terrace.

At the end of the competition everyone gathered to hear Bob Torkelson announce the winners. Mark Pyne broke into tears of joy upon hearing of his $15,000 victory in the Alternative Burger category, and Jennifer Beckman reacted to her $100,000 Grand Prize win with resounding laughter and shrieks of delight.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened several thousand recipes during the summer and sent the qualified recipes to the five members of the Culinary Review Panel, comprised of Head Judge James McNair, Marilyn Costa, Jill Hough, Jill Hunting, and Andrew Moore, who selected their favorite recipes. The panel met as a group and narrowed the favorites down to 15 beef burgers and 15 alternative burgers. During a two-day preliminary Cook-Off, the Culinary Review Panel was joined by Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef, Jeffrey Starr, in choosing five finalists in each of the two categories.

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Jennifer Beckman, Falls Church, Virginia: Screen Porch Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People's Choice Award: Jennifer Beckman, Falls Church, Virginia: Screen Porch Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Janette Nowak, Spring, Texas: Cilantro Chimichurri Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef burgers) Second Runner-Up: Monique Ehrhart, Lake Forest Park, Washington: Banh "Moo" Burgers
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Mark Pyne, Kent, Washington: Latino Pork Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers People's Choice Award: Krista Towns, Loxahatchee, Florida Knockout Korean "Soul" Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Lauren Wyler, Austin, Texas: Peppered Pineapple Al Pastor Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: MacKenzie Severson, Germantown, Maryland: Jamaican Pork Burgers

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalists:

  • Jim Buckley, Caledonia, Wisconsin: Chipotle-Infused Avocado Bacon Burgers
  • Loanne Chiu, Fort Worth, Texas: Soul of Seoul Sliders

Other Alternative Burgers Finalist:

Sonali Ruder, New York, New York: Valencia Pork Burgers

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Gale Gand
Heather Terhune
Bob Torkelson
Dave Zino

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2010

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Build a Better Burger, the Cook-Off was relocated from our Napa Valley home base to the great party scene of Miami Beach, Florida. Headquartered at the spectacular Loew’s Miami Beach oceanside hotel, the ten finalists, sponsors, and judges enjoyed several days of Florida sunshine.

On Cook-Off Thursday, the morning skies were ominous with the threat of showers. Shortly after the first finalists began cooking, torrential rains drenched the beach park location and almost everyone involved. The stalwart Sutter Home staff, some soaked to the bone, miraculously managed to keep the contestants and their burgers dry under a canopy of giant golf umbrellas held aloft over the finalists as they worked at at their shiny new Weber grills.

Inside the big tent, invited guests and sponsors were kept dry and cozy as Trinchero Family Estates President, Bob Torkelson, and Sutter Home Senior Director of Marketing, Wendy Nyberg, presided over the festivities, made even more exciting by the stormy weather. Guests lunched on samples of the ten competing burgers prepared on site by the caterers, and then marked ballots to determine the $2,500 People’s Choice winners in both the Beef and Alternative Burgers categories.

When introducing his fellow judges, each returning to BBB from previous years as part of the anniversary celebration, Head Judge and Honorary Chairman, James McNair, quipped that the event should be renamed “Build a Wetter Burger”.

For the first time in BBB history, a slider recipe took one of the two top prizes when self-described domestic diva Jeanette Nelson of Sophia, West Virginia won $15,000 for the Best Alternative Burgers for her Lucky Tiki Sliders.

Jaeger Stoltz, a stylist from Seattle, Washington, was joined in his victory dance by judge Daisy Martinez after he was proclaimed winner of the $100,000 Grand Prize for his Strawberry BBQ Bacon Burgers. He was still dancing a week later when he cooked his winning burgers on the Today Show in New York.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened about 7,000 recipes during the summer and sent over 4,000 qualified recipes to Head Judge James McNair and his culinary associate, Andrew Moore, who selected their favorite recipes. They were joined by Sutter Home’s Culinary Director and Executive Chef, Jeffrey Starr,  and Sutter Home chef Matthew Bennett to narrow the field to 10 recipes in each category. During a two-day preliminary Cook-Off, the group chose five finalists in each of the two categories.

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Jaeger Stoltz, Seattle, Washington: Strawberry BBQ Bacon Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People’s Choice Award:  Jeanette Nelson, Sophia, West Virginia; Sweet Chili Citrus Changsha Sliders
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Peter Kim, New York, New York: Venezuelan “¡Ole!” Arepa Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Second Runner-Up: Jeanette Nelson, Sophia, West Virginia; Sweet Chili Citrus Changsha Sliders
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Gina Haase, Wallington, New Jersey: Lucky Tiki Sliders
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Mark Pyne, Kent Washington: Cranberry Ultimate Pork Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Teri Ralston, New Albany, Ohion: ‘Ono ‘Ohana Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: Mark Pyne, Kent Washington: Cranberry Ultimate Pork Burgers

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalists:

  • Christina Capone, Seattle, Washington: Bengali Blaze Burgers
  • Kathi Jones-DelMonte, Rochester, New York: Americana Smokeshack Burgers

Other Alternative Burgers Finalists:

  • Deborah Biggs, Omaha, Nebraska: Herbed Chicken-Walnut Cheeseburgers
  • Barbara Estabrook, Rhinelander, Wisconsin: Minted Lamb Burgers, Greek Style

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Lucy “Lulu” Anne Buffett
Fran Carpentier
Daisy Martinez
Steve McDonagh
Dan Smith
Jeffrey Starr

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2009

For the second consecutive year, the temperature in Napa Valley soared to over 100 degrees on the day of Build a Better Burger’s 19th Cook-Off. And the competition on the lawn of the Sutter Home Victorian Inn was even hotter!
 
Anthony Torres, Principal and Senior Vice President Administration of Trinchero Family Estates, welcomed the invited guests gathered under the big tent. Wendy Nyberg, TFE Senior Director of Marketing, announced the news that BBB would be doubling the Grand Prize money for 2010, making the contest the highest paying annual cooking contest in America!

James McNair, BBB’s Honorary Chairman and Head Judge, introduced his fellow wine-country judges, and then welcomed each finalist, one at a time, to the stage. After passing their hot-off-the-grill burgers to the judges, contestants answered questions and heard comments from the judges. After leaving the stage, each finalist prepared another round of their burgers for a select group of guests who marked ballots for the People’s Choice awards.

Cook-Off attendees feasted on slider-sized burgers made from past BBB finalists’ recipes and side dishes that will be featured in Burger Parties, a new cookbook by James McNair and Jeffrey Starr that will be published to salute the 20th anniversary of the contest in 2010. And almost everyone enjoyed more than one visit to the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream wagon for a cooling respite from the hot sun.

After the scores were tallied, Roger Trinchero, Vice Chairman and CEO of Trinchero Family Estates, joined his nephew Anthony Torres in welcoming all of the finalists back to the stage. James McNair announced the winners, who were presented with checks and the distinctive and coveted BBB trophies created by wine-country artist Cynthia Hipkiss.

Naylett LaRochelle of Miami was selected by the judges as winner of the $10,000 prize for Best Alternative Burgers for her Miami “Frita” Chicken-Chorizo Burgers, while Anthony Czech of Decatur, Georgia captured the $2,500 People’s Choice award for his Crunchy Coconut Shrimp Burgers.

In another split decision, Suzanne Banfield from Basking Ridge, New Jersey captured the $50,000 Grand Prize with her Roman Patty Melts, and Patrice Hurd of Bemidgi, Minnesota garnered the $2,500 People’s Choice prize for her Spanish-inspired Burgers La Mancha.

Later in the afternoon, Suzanne headed to New York City to prepare for a Monday morning appearance on NBC’s Today Show.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened about 3,000 recipes during the summer and sent over 1,000 qualified recipes to Head Judge James McNair and his culinary associate, Andrew Moore, who selected their favorite recipes. They were joined by Sutter Home’s Culinary Director and Executive Chef, Jeffrey Starr, Sutter Home chefs James Houghton and Matthew Bennett, and Sutter Home’s Marketing Event Manager, Michele Ashby, to narrow the field to 15 recipes in each category. During a two-day preliminary Cook-Off, the group chose five finalists in each of the two categories.

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Suzanne Banfield, Basking Ridge, New Jersey: Roman Patty Melts with Balsamic Peppers and Onions and Sun-dried Tomato Aïoli
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Julie Hession, Las Vegas, NV: Blue Corn Desert Oasis Burgers with Cactus-Corn Salsa, Ancho-Honey Bacon, and Pepita Guacamole
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Second Runner-Up: Rick Rohr, Darien, Connecticut: Jezebel Burgers with Sweet-and-Sassy Shallots
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People’s Choice Award:  Patrice Hurd, Bemidgi, Minnesota: Burgers La Mancha with Sweet Caramelized Reds and Smoky Olive Aïoli
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Naylett LaRochelle, Miami, Florida: Miami “Frita” Chicken-Chorizo Burgers with Guava Ketchup, Black Bean and Sweet Pimento Relish, and Crispy Shoestring Potatoes
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Amy Green, Carrollton, Texas: Farmers’ Market Burgers with Grilled Red Onion Relish and Peppered Tomato Mayonnaise
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: Patterson Watkins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Dutch Biscuit Sliders with Quick Apple Chow-Chow and Spicy Bacon Mustard
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Anthony Czech, Decatur, Georgia: Crunchy Coconut Shrimp Burgers with Asian Slaw

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalist

  • Jana Atwood, Boise, Idaho: Cool as a Cucumber Slaw Burgers with Dill-Feta Spread and Crispy Potato Pancakes

Other Alternative Burgers Finalist

  • Teresa Ralston, New Albany, Ohio: Spice-Crusted Pork Burgers with Crispy Brown Sugar Bacon, Maple Apple Chutney, and Smoked Cheddar

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Sondra Bernstein
Hugh Carpenter
Teri Sandison
Scott Warner

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2008

Build a Better Burger turned 18 in 2008, voting age in America. Since this anniversary coincided with an important national election year, the contest focused on a search for America’s best local burgers. Entrants were asked to send in recipes that were representative of where the contestant lives or grew up, or those that highlighted the foods, products, or cooking traditions of a community, state, or region of the nation. To support the theme, head judge James McNair invited acknowledged experts in the cooking of the five regions of the country into which the contest was divided.

Competition at BBB is always heated, but the 2008 event will probably be remembered as the hottest cook-off ever, with mid-afternoon temperatures soaring to 105 degrees! In addition to nature’s heat, warmth generated from High Noon Productions’ television light banks, installed for Food Network coverage, raised the temperature inside the big tent to record a record high.

James McNair, BBB Honorary Chairman and Head Judge, introduced each finalist to the onstage judges and the invited guests. After passing their burgers to the judges, the contestants remained onstage to read aloud the introductions that they had written as to why their burger was a great regional American burger, then remained to answer questions about their recipes and to hear opinions of the burgers from the strongly opinioned judges. Sutter Home’s culinary team prepared each of the ten competing burgers for serving to the cook-off guests at the same time that the burgers prepared by the finalists were presented to the judges, and attendees marked their ballots for the People’s Choice awards.

After the scores were tallied, Jeffrey Starr, Sutter Home’s Culinary Director and Executive Chef, announced the winners and Bob Torkelson, Sutter Home’s President, presented them with giant checks and arty trophies.

The judges chose the Tidewater Boil Burgers from Susan Scarborough of Fernandina Beach, Florida, as winner of the $10,000 prize for Best Alternative Burgers, but another seafood creation, Ocean State Swordfish Burgers from Valerie Szlatenyi of Wakefield, Rhode Island, captured the People’s Choice award of $2,500.

Contest rules allow previous winners of the Grand Prize who did not win with a beef burger recipe or won before the big increase in prize money in 2004 to try again and go for the big bucks. The 2000 Grand Prize Winner, Jamie Miller of Maple Grove, Minnesota, made a return trip to the finals, as did our 2001 Grand Prize Winner, Kristine Snyder, a harpist from Kihei, Hawaii. Early in the year the two women, who are good friends yet fierce competitors, had been finalists in Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Burgers. Kristine took the top prize in that showdown. The next month, it was announced that Jamie had won Rachael Ray’s annual Burger Bash contest and appeared on Rachael’s show to make her winning burgers. Having won every burger competition in the nation, these two women are arguably the undisputed “Burger Queens” of America, so it was a fun sideline to BBB to watch them compete once again.

Kristine Snyder captured the Grand Prize for the second time with her Hawaii Da Kine Burgers. The cook-off guests agreed with the judges and awarded Kristine the People’s Choice prize of $2,500 to be added to her $50,000 check. Later that afternoon, Kristine headed to New York City to prepare for a Monday morning appearance on NBC’s Today Show.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened almost 10,000 recipes during the summer and sent all qualified recipes to a preliminary panel of judges: James McNair, Head Judge; Andrew Moore, McNair’s Culinary Associate; Jeffrey Starr, Sutter Home’s Culinary Director and Executive Chef; and Sutter Home chefs James Houghton and Matthew Bennett. They each selected their five favorite recipes in each category from one of five regions. The panel then met as a group and narrowed the field to three recipes from each region in each category, then chose a finalist in each of the two categories from each of the five regions.

Cook-off Coordinator

Michele Moline, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award: Kristine Snyder, Kihei, Hawaii: Hawaii Da Kine Burgers with Sweet-Chili Glaze, Ginger-Goat Cheese Spread, and Hot Watercress Salad
  • Grand Prize First Runner-Up: George Graham, Lafayette, Louisiana: Bluesiana Burgers with Zydeco Sauce, Mardi Gras Slaw, and Root Beer Glaze
  • Grand Prize Second Runner-Up: Sonalie Ruder, New York, New York: New York Steakhouse Burgers with Tarragon Mayonnaise and Frizzled Onions
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Susan Scarborough, Fernandina Beach, Florida: Tidewater Boil Burgers with Charred Sweet Corn Salsa and Lemon-Lime Crem-onnaise
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Valerie Szlatenyi, Wakefield, Rhode Island: Ocean State Swordfish Burgers with Tangy Apple Tartar Sauce
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Sharyn Hill, Las Cruces, New Mexico: Ole Mole Chicken Burgers with Pepita Pesto and Tomatillo Slaw
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: Lisa Huff, Clive, Iowa: Yooper Sausage Burgers with Mustard-Zin Mayo

Other Grand Prize Finalists

  • Jamie Miller, Maple Grove, Minnesota: Smoky-Sweet Bacon Burgers with Crisp Apple and Blue Cheese Slaw
  • Mary Thompson, Lexington, South Carolina: Palmetto Pride Pimento Cheese Burgers with Tangy Bacon Slaw and Spicy Grilled Green Onions

Other Alternative Burgers Finalist

  • Kathleen Stubler, Kansas City, Kansas: Kansas City Barbeque Pork Combo Burgers with Barbeque Bean Spread and Piccalilli Slaw

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Lucy “Lulu” Ann Buffett
Cathy Cochran-Lewis
Nathalie Dupree
Barbara Pool Fenzl
Rick Rodgers
Art Smith

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2007

After three years under the scrutiny of multiple Food Network cameras, the 17th annual burger competition returned to the relaxed, party-like atmosphere of earlier years, and it was difficult to tell whether the finalists, the guests, or the judges had the most fun. A build-your-own-better-burger buffet offered diners a chance to try many of the unique condiments that had been created by the winning burgers in previous years. An ice cream wagon, a gigantic burger cake, lively music, and an exceptionally profuse season of flowers in the Sutter Home Victorian garden all added to the celebratory mood of the day.

Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeffrey Starr introduced each finalist to the onstage judges and the crowd gathered under the big tent. After passing their burgers to the judges, the contestants remained onstage to answer questions about their recipes and to hear opinions of the burgers from the personable judges. VIP guests seated in front of the stage sampled extras of the competing burgers that were prepared by the finalists and their volunteer grilling assistants.

After the scores were tallied, Sutter Home Culinary Director Chef Jeffrey Star announced the winners and Sutter Home President Bob Torkelson presented them with giant checks.

The judges chose the Little Italy Sausage Burgers from Rebecca Reece of Henderson, Nevada, as winner of the $10,000 prize for Best Alternative Burgers.

Capturing the $50,000 Grand Prize for the Best Beef Burgers was Karen Bernards, a seed company owner from McMinnville, Oregon, with her Sweet-Hot Thai Burgers. Before her feet touched the ground from her victory celebration, Karen was whisked off to New York City in order to appear on the Monday morning Today Show.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened almost 7,000 recipes during the summer and sent all qualified recipes to a preliminary panel of judges: Head Judge James McNair, his culinary associate Andrew Moore, Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeffrey Starr, and Sutter Home chefs James Houghton and Brenda Bosetti. They selected their five favorite recipes from each of five regions in each category. The panel then met as a group and narrowed the field to three recipes from each region in each category, then chose a finalist in each of the two categories from each of the five regions.

Cook-off Coordinator

Michele Moline, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Karen Bernards, McMinnville, Oregon: Sweet-Hot Thai Burgers
  • Grand Prize First Runner-Up: Erin Evenson, Brooklyn, New York: Black Pepper Caramel Burgers with Mango-Green Apple Slaw and Basil-Mint Mayonnaise
  • Grand Prize Second Runner-Up: Jamie Martin, Madison, Alabama: Argentinean Burgers with Chimichurri Sauce, Grilled Avocados, and Roasted Corn and Jicama Slaw
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Rebecca Reece, Henderson, Nevada: Little Italy Sausage Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Brigitte Nguyen, Lexington, Kentucky: Vietnamese Five-Spice Pork Burgers Zippy with Jalapeno Chiles, Sweet & Sour with Pickled Daikon and Carrot, and Absolutely Indulgent with Pate on a Buttered Bun!
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: Harold Cohen, Hollywood, Florida: Albuquerque Chicken Burgers with Jicama Slaw and Ancho Sour Cream

Other Grand Prize Finalists

  • Lorie Roach, Buckatunna, Mississippi: Smoky “Pimento” Cheese Black Angus Patty Melts
  • Cynthia Ross, South Barrington, Illinois: Datilles con Bacon Hamburguesas

Other Alternative Burgers Finalists

  • Mary Beth Harris-Murphree, Tyler, Texas: Lamb Burgers with Grilled Haloumi and Eggplant Salsa
  • Rick Rohr, Darien, Connecticut: Home on the Range Buffalo Burgers with Fresh Garden Herbs and Huntsman Cheese

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Jacquelyn Buchanan
Daisy Martinez
Susan Feniger
Christopher Styler

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2006

Guests at the cook-off watched the entire judging process on the stage inside a big tent. Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeffrey Starr escorted each finalist from their grilling station to the stage and introduced them to the judges and the crowd. After burgers were passed to the judges, the nervous contestants remained onstage to answer questions about their recipes and to hear opinions of the burgers from the judges. For the first time in contest history, the lively panel of judges, television cooking show stars from Food Network and PBS joining Napa Valley resident head judge James McNair, stole the show from the finalists with their humorous and slightly naughty interchanges. At one point, McNair exclaimed that his fellow judges were “out of control!”

VIP guests seated in front of the stage sampled extras of the competing burgers that were prepared by the finalists and their volunteer grilling assistants.

Throughout the day, camera crews from High Noon Productions roamed every inch of the Sutter Home Victorian gardens to capture the excitement of the competition for the Food Network Challenge show.

After the scores were tallied, Sutter Home President Bob Torkelson announced the winners. The first honoree was Olga Esquival-Holman of Wichita, Kansas, whose Paella Burgers were chosen by visitors to the BBB website as America’s Favorite Burgers.

The judges chose the Greek-inspired Opa! Burgers from Elizabeth Bennet of Mill Creek, Washington, as winner of the $10,000 prize for Best Alternative Burgers.

Capturing the $50,000 Grand Prize for the Best Beef Burgers was Camilla Saulsbury, PhD, a sociology professor and cookbook author. The California native, now a resident of Nacogdoches, Texas, created her award-winning Born in Berkeley Burgers in honor of her childhood home.

Selection

Sutter Home staff members screened almost 9,000 recipes during the summer and sent qualified recipes to a preliminary panel of judges: Head Judge James McNair, his culinary associate Andrew Moore, Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeffrey Starr, and Sutter Home chefs James Houghton and Brenda Bosetti. They selected their five favorite recipes from each of five regions in each category. The panel then met as a group and narrowed the field to three recipes from each region in each category. The chefs of Sutter Home's culinary center prepared those 30 recipes for tasting and scoring by the preliminary judging panel to select the finalist in each of the two categories from each of the five regions.

Event Manager

Michele Moline, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Camilla Saulsbury, Nacogdoches, Texas: Born in Berkeley Burgers (a.k.a. Bacon Cheeseburgers with Aged Teleme, Arugula-Fig Topping, Pepper Bacon, and Lemon-Grilled Fennel)
  • Grand Prize First Runner-Up: Jenny Flake, Gilbert, Arizona: Feta Florentine Burgers with Frizzled Prosciutto on Parmesan-Toasted Ciabatta Rolls
  • Grand Prize Second Runner-Up: Diane Sparrow, Osage, Iowa: Honey-Chipotle Glazed Beef Burgers with Mint-Avocado Sauce
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Elizabeth Bennett, Mill Creek, Washington: Opa! Burgers
  • America’s Favorite Burgers Winner: Olga Esquival-Holman, Wichita, Kansas: Paella Burgers

Other Grand Prize Finalists

  • Kathi Jones, Rochester, New York: Mirin-Glazed Burgers with Sesame-Ponzu Spinach and Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise
  • Daljeet Singh, Coral Springs, Florida: Masala Burgers with Tangy Tamarind Sauce and Red Onion-Mint Relish

Other Alternative Burgers Finalists

  • Richard Boulanger, Williston, Vermont: Bouillabaisse Burgers with Tomato-Fennel Relish and Saffron Mayonnaise
  • Olga Esquival-Holman, Wichita, Kansas: Paella Burgers
  • Heather Kenny, Arlington, Virginia: Casablanca Bisteeya Burgers
  • Karen Tedesco, Webster Groves, Missouri: Coconut Basil Chicken Burgers with Thai Peanut Pesto

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Cat Cora
Daisy Martinez
Steve McDonagh
Dan Smith

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2005

The 15th anniversary of Build a Better Burger® was celebrated in grand style under perfect blue skies in the full-bloom gardens of the Sutter Home Victorian. Six camera crews from Food Network recorded every detail of the day for the Food Network Challenge show.

For the first time in contest history, the guests at the cook-off were allowed to watch the judging process. Andrew Moore introduced each contestant to the crowd and to the judges, who were lined up on stage inside the big tent. After each finalist passed their burgers to the judges, they remained onstage to field questions about their recipes. A lucky group of VIP guests, including two former Grand Prize winners, the publisher and designer of the Build a Better Burger® cookbook, and the sponsors, were seated in front of the stage and sampled extra burgers prepared by the finalists.

During the afternoon, Sutter Home President Bob Torkelson shared bits of BBB's colorful history and introduced guests who'd played a part in the contest through the years. He and ceramic sculptress Cynthia Hipkiss presented a trophy similar to those given to the prizewinners to Head Judge/Honorary Chairman James McNair, in appreciation for his 15 years of service to BBB.

After the scores were tallied, Chef Scott Leibfried, host of Food Network Challenge, joined James on stage to present the awards. The Best Alternative Burgers Prize went to Ellie Matthews of Port Townsend, Washington, who has the distinction of also being a $1,000,000 Grand Prize winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

For the first time in BBB history, a professional chef captured the Grand Prize. Chef Barry Rosenstein, a food and beverage director in Chicago, caught the judges' eyes with burger buns that had been painted bright red and lured their tastebuds with his flavor-packed, Moroccan-inspired burgers.

A special anniversary cake created by Napa pastry master Sam Godfrey topped off the afternoon. As guests departed, they each received a copy of the newly released Build a Better Burger® book, containing 15 years of contest history and prize-winning burgers.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the recipes and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing three recipes from each of five regions. The chefs of Sutter Home's culinary center prepared those 30 recipes for tasting and scoring by the preliminary judging panel to select the finalist in each of the two categories from each of the five regions. Judges were James McNair and his assistant Andrew Moore; Linda Carucci, the Julia Child Director of Culinary Programs at Copia: the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts; freelance food writers Jill Hunting and Lori Narlock; and Sutter Home personnel Wendy Nyberg (brand manager), Mary Ann Vangrin (public relations director), Colleen LeMasters (public relations assistant), James Houghton (chef) and Brenda Bosetti (chef).

Event Manager

Michele Moline, Public Relations and Event Manager, Sutter Home

Winners:

  • Grand Prize: Barry Rosenstein, Elmhurst, Illinois: Sweet and Spicy Red Fez Burgers
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Ellie Matthews, Port Townsend, Washington: Grilled Pork Burgers Indochine

Other Grand Prize Finalists:

  • Allan Brantley, Atlanta, Georgia: Southern Burgers with Caramelized Vidalias, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Georgia Pecan Chevre
  • Robert Mongeon, Colchester, Vermont: Bourbon Street Burgers
  • Renata Stanko, Lebanon, Oregon: Viva la Bistecca Burgers
  • Gina Wilson, Austin, Texas: Pineapple Upside-Down Jerk Burgers

Other Alternative Burgers Finalists:

  • Kelly Krauss, Clinton, New Jersey: King Salmon Club Burgers with Lemon Mayonnaise and Crispy Bacon
  • Phyllis Krupp, Wellington, Florida: Sesame-Crusted Tuna Burgers with Sweet Napa Slaw and Wasabi-Ginger Mayo
  • Norita Solt, Bettendorf, Iowa: Midwest Pork Loin Burgers with Caramelized Apple-Onion Relish and Quick-n-Easy Sweet BBQ Sauce
  • Olga Esquivel-Holman, Wichita, Kansas: Pistachio Lamb Burgers

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Pam Anderson
Fran Carpentier
Barbara (Babs) Chernetz
Mark Miller
Cindy Pawlcyn
John Willoughby

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2004

The 2004 contest celebrated the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the burger to America at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. The Grand Prize was increased to $50,000, making BBB one of the five highest-paying cooking contests in the USA. Once again California Avocado Commission, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Tabasco joined Sutter Home as sponsors.

At a media lunch in New York City to launch the contest, head judge James McNair asked the 2003 Grand Prize winner, Susan Mello, her partner, Ann Simmons, and his partner, Andrew Moore (all three professional singers) to join him in a rendition of the theme song of the St. Louis Fair, written by Andrew Sterling and Kerry Mills and re-popularized in the 1944 movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" starring Judy Garland. After presenting the history of the burger in America, the singers offered an updated version of the song.

"Meet us in Napa Valley, Sally,
Meet us at BBB!
Don't forget to send us in
Your winning recipe.

We will build a better burger,
Fifty Thousand for the winner.
If you will meet us in Napa Valley, Sally,
Meet us at BBB!"

After three years at the Trinchero Family Estates ranch, the cook-off returned to the Sutter Home Victorian, the perfect focal point to mark the burger's centennial. With the music of Scott Joplin, a featured performer at the 1904 World's Fair, playing in the background, finalists presented their burgers to the Judges inside the white gazebo in the beautiful rose-filled White Zinfandel garden that surrounds the Victorian home.

In addition to burgers, invited guests to the event sampled other foods and drinks that were introduced at the St. Louis World's Fair—cotton candy, peanut butter, ice cream cones, iced tea, and Dr. Pepper.

Susan Mello, 2003 Grand Prize winner, returned as a special guest, along with her partner, Ann, so the reunited quartet from the New York media launch reprised their musical salute to the St. Louis World's Fair and BBB before the awards were presented and led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to the burger a spectacular cake created by Napa baker Sam Godfrey was presented.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to win BBB, but it helps," proclaimed Sutter Home president Bob Torkelson after Clint Stephenson, a mass-properties engineer who calculates spacecraft centers of gravity, blasted off to victory.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the recipes and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing three recipes from each of five regions. Those recipes were prepared by James and chef Jeffrey Starr and his team in the Sutter Home culinary center. The cooks then joined the Event Manager, Michele Moline, and Sutter Home's Public Relations Director, Mary Ann Vangrin, in choosing two finalists from each region.

Event Manager

Michele Moline, Public Relations and Event Manager, Sutter Home Family Vineyards

Winner

  • Grand Prize: Clint Stephenson, Friendswood, Texas—Grilled California Avocado BLT Burgers with Caramelized Chipotle Onions

Other Finalists

  • Debbi Bracker, Carl Junction, Missouri – Peppercorn Burgers with Goat Cheese Spread & Honeyed Greens
  • Veronica Callaghan, Glastonbury, Connecticut – All-American Hero Burgers with Avocado Tomato Dressing
  • Jan Curry, Raleigh, North Carolina – Midway Hamburger Steak Sandwiches
  • Jenny Flake, Gilbert, Arizona – Feta Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Prosciutto Burgers
  • Christopher Kirigin, New York, New York – All-American Zinburgers
  • Nikki Norman, Winter Park, Florida – Island-Style Key West Burgers with Caribbean Mayonnaise
  • Darlya Oehler, Ingram, Texas – Colibri Ranch's Mesquite-Grilled Centennial Burgers
  • Karen Tedesco, Webster Groves, Missouri – New-Fashioned American Drive-In Cheeseburgers
  • Tom Wickham, Portland, Oregon – Southwest "Chili" Burgers with Avocado Crema and Lime-Marinated Slaw

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Antonia Allegra
Pierce Carson
Lori Lyn Narlock
Jeff Morgan
Jodi Morgan

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2003

As a test, Sutter Home and co-sponsors California Avocado Commission, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Tabasco divided the pros from the home cooks by creating a Professional Division. And in co-sponsorship with the United States Potato Board, a Best Potato Side Dish category was added.

The cook-off theme celebrated the 30th anniversary of the invention of White Zinfandel by Sutter Home CEO Bob Trinchero, so the cook-off event team turned back the clock to capture the look and feel of 1973. The staff and contestants wore matching tie-dyed T-shirts. The Judges, all editors of America's top food magazines, showed up in vintage clothing; James McNair decorated his faded jeans with smiley-face and flower patches, topped it off with one of Sutter Home's tie-dyed shirts, and carried a fringed leather bag that he'd bought in his New York hippie days in 1972. Peace-sign pendant necklaces were presented to the 500 guests who attended the cook-off, once again a fundraiser for City of Hope's Breast Cancer treatment programs. An Austin Powers impersonator entertained the crowd and The Dave Martin House Party Band, one of the most sought-after bands in northern California, provided high-energy disco sounds for celebrating and dancing.

Susan Mello, a classical soprano from New York City, returned to the competition for a second try for the prize and hit the high note this time, winning the Grand Prize with her lamb burger inspired by her former Greek neighborhood and the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Chef Justin Ward grabbed the Best Professional Burger prize, while Elaine Sweet, a veteran contester and member of Cooking Contest Central's Hall of Fame, cooked up the Best Potato Side Dish.

Once again, Chef Jeffrey Starr and his team prepared enough of each competing burger recipe for guests to sample and vote for their choice. Nikki Norman, another veteran contester and member of Cooking Contest Central's Hall of Fame, was the People's Choice winner.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the recipes and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing two finalists from each of five regions for the Build a Better Burger® contest, and one finalist from each region in the Professional Division and the Potato Side Dish competition.

Event Manager

Michele Moline, Event Manager, Trinchero Family Estates

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Susan Mello, Jackson Heights, New York – My Big Fat Greco-Inspired Burgers
  • Best Professional Burger: Justin Ward, chef-owner, Harvest Restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia – Andouille-Shrimp Burgers with Creole Honey Mustard
  • People's Choice Award: Nikki Norman, Milton, Tennessee – Buttered Pecan Buffalo Burgers with Cabernet Cranberries and Herbed Mayonnaise
  • Best Potato Side Dish: Elaine Sweet, Dallas, Texas – Really Red Jackets with Tomato Chevre Gratin

Other Finalists

Build a Better Burger®:

  • Margee Berry, White Salmon, Washington – Noteworthy Northwest Burgers with Reved Up Raspberry Ketchup
  • Loanne Chiu, Fort Worth, Texas – Indian Masala Burgers with Cucumber Raita
  • John Hanrahan, Winlock, Washington – Bahn Mi Burgers
  • Karyn Hentz, Arlington, Virginia – Kokomo Burgers
  • Daniel Howard, Lockport, Illinois – Guava Jack Burgers with Roasted Pepper and Avocado Salsa
  • Jay Kakuk, Plymouth, Minnesota – The Cobb
  • Mary Beth Harris Murphree, Tyler, Texas – 3 Times the Garlic, 3 Times the Flavor Burgers!
  • Peter Thomas, West Hartford, Connecticut – 321 Hamburgers

Professional Division:

  • Harry Crane, Executive Chef, Kraft Foodservice, Glenview, Illinois – Machego Melt with Chipotle Avocado Aioli
  • Craig Priebe, Executive Chef, Henry Crown and Company, Glen Ellyn, Illinois – Double Blue Berry Burgers
  • Fred Ramos, Printer's Row Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois – Venison Burgers with Tabasco Chipotle Mayonnaise
  • Howie Velie, C.E.C., Charlottesville, Virginia – Grilled Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Fresh Bleu Cheese Dressing on a Cornduster Kaiser

Potato Side Dish:

  • Liz Barclay, Annapolis, Maryland – Hot Potato Tort
  • Lillian Julow, Gainesville, Florida – Baker's Potato Pie
  • Carole Resnick, Cleveland, Ohio – Mushroom, Artichoke, Roasted Pepper, and Olive Tart in a Crispy Potato Crust
  • Douglas Root, Kennewick, Washington – Chipotle Potato Salad

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Martha Holmberg
Ellen Koteff
Krista Montgomery
Susan Spungen
Tina Ujlaki
John Zehnder

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2002

Expensive, luxury-ingredient burger wars erupted in 2002 among New York chefs and made big news across the country, especially when prices soared to $41 for a burger at Mark Sherry's Old Homestead and $50 for a truffled burger at Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne. Reflecting the times, a number of BBB entries echoed this trend, with recipes calling for Kobe beef, truffles, foie gras, and caviar.

In an effort to make it possible for Californians to once again participate in the contest, the American Culinary Federation presented the competition, with Sutter Home and National Cattlemen's Beef Association as sponsors. Finalists were chosen in two divisions: Best Beef Burger (Grand Prize) and Best Alternative Burger.

The cook-off was open to the public as a benefit for City of Hope's Breast Cancer treatment programs. Pride and Joy once again provided upbeat music from a large stage located on one side of the expansive lawn of the Trinchero Family Estates ranch, while on the other side, guests sampled each of the competing recipes (prepared by Chef Jeffrey Starr and his Sutter Home kitchen crew) and marked their ballots for the People's Choice Award.

Throughout the afternoon, guests purchased raffle tickets for burger-related items and shopped the general store for burger paraphernalia and cookbooks written by several of the Judges, with all proceeds going to City of Hope.

Chef John Zehner, a regional vice president of American Culinary Federation, emceed the cook-off ceremonies. As in the previous year, the people and the Judges chose to honor different burgers, with the crowd going for a beef burger topped with barbecue sauce, bacon, and blue cheese created by Adam Payson of Omaha, Nebraska. The Judges chose the Italian-style tender veal patty on focaccia made by Annelle Williams as the Grand Prize winning "Best Beef Burger." The spicy shrimp burgers topped with crisp pancetta, created by Kelly Bailer Krauss won the "Best Alternative Burger" prize.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the recipes and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing five regional finalists in each of two categories: Best Beef Burger and Best Alternative Burger.

Event Manager

Michele Moline, Event Manager, Trinchero Family Estates

Winners

  • Grand Prize (Best Beef Burger): Annelle Williams, Martinsville, Virginia – Vitello Focaccia
  • Best Alternative Burger: Kelly Bailer Krauss, Little Falls, New Jersey – Spicy Summer Shrimp Burgers with Crisp Pancetta
  • People's Choice Award: Adam Payson, Omaha, Nebraska – Chipotle-Honey BBQ Bacon Burgers with Gorgonzola Cheese

Other Finalists

Best Beef Burger:

  • Scott Collier, Austin, Texas – Burgers Wellington
  • Karen Nicholes McVarish, Davis, California – Relleno Burgers with Fresh Chile Mango Salsa
  • Susan Mello, Jackson Heights, New York – Portuguese Pineapple Picando Burgers

Best Alternative Burger:

  • Virginia C. Anthony, Blowing Rock, North Carolina – Autumn Pork and Apple Burgers
  • Jim Bradley, Chicago, Illinois – Ragin' Cajun Pecan Pork Burgers with Spicy Onions
  • Robin Ekiss, San Francisco, California – Thanksgiving Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Pecan Mint Pesto
  • Peter Halferty, Corpus Christi, Texas – Peking Duck Burgers

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Joey Altman
Pam Anderson
Kate Heyhoe
Todd Humphries
Charles Neave
Katie O'Kennedy
Caprial Pence
John Pence
Jamie Purviance

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2001

The infamous events of September 11, only 2 weeks before the cook-off, caused everyone involved with BBB to question whether to go ahead with the event, especially after the two finalists from New Jersey and New York declined to attend. Sutter Home President Roger Trinchero issued a statement that while our hearts were sad, we felt it was our patriotic duty to go ahead with our plans to honor an American food icon.

For the first time, the cook-off moved from the St. Helena Victorian to the Trinchero Family Estates Zinfandel Ranch in the heart of the valley vineyard and was open to the public. Money raised from ticket sales and raffles went to Project Open Hand, a San Francisco-based organization that prepares food for homebound people living with HIV/AIDS as well as seniors and the critically ill.

The 1950s theme was established by rows of shiny classic cars of the era that flanked the entrance. Life-sized cutouts of 1950s carhops bearing trays of burgers graced the grounds of the cook-off and party area. As guests entered the gate, they received booklets containing the Grand Prize-winning recipes from BBB's first ten years and drew tickets for prized slots on a panel that would later determine the People's Choice winner. After the judging team of Napa Valley chefs completed their task, the contestants prepared a new round of burgers for the panel of guest Judges to sample. Although they didn't agree on the winner, both judging panels favored burgers with Asian flavors.  The professionals were wowed by the salmon burger created by Maui harpist Kristine Snyder, who has since continued her winning streak by nabbing top honors at the National Chicken Cook-Off and a category First Place at National Beef.

Meanwhile, guests assembled their own version of a better burger from the various patties, condiments, and toppings prepared by Chef Jeffrey Starr and his team. After indulging on burgers and a buffet of side dishes, many partygoers danced off the calories to the raucous sounds of Pride and Joy, a popular Bay Area band known for its Motown, soul, R&B, and pop dance music.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the recipes and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing two finalists from each of five regions.

Event Manager

Heidi Schuler, Public Relations Coordinator, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Kristine Snyder, Kihei, Hawaii – Soy-Glazed Salmon Burgers with Ginger Lime Aioli
  • People's Choice Award: Norma Molitor, Austin, Texas – Tamarind-Glazed Thai Burgers

Other Finalists

  • Patti Honda Blezard, Honolulu, Hawaii – Tuscan Turkey Burgers
  • Joyce Bowman, Raleigh, North Carolina – Ranch-Hand Grilled Buffalo Burgers with Chipotle'n Honey Glaze and Corn'n Avocado Salsa
  • Norma Fried, Denver, Colorado – Pastrami BagelBurgers with Quick ZinfanDills
  • TerryAnn Moore, Oaklyn, New Jersey – Anytime Grilled Brunchburgers*
  • L. Monique Porche-Smith, Canton, Georgia – Bayou Burgers with Balsamic Spinach Slaw
  • Richard Rizzio, Traverse City, Michigan – Grilled Eggplant and Fennel Burgers with Tomato Tapenade
  • Claudia Shepardson, Loudonville, New York – Green Mountain Burgers*
  • Diane Sparrow, Osage, Iowa – Fruit of the Vine Burgers with California Relish

*Withdrew from the competition due to the events of September 11, 2001

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Greg Cole
Duncan Gott
Joel Gott
Philippe Jeanty
Cindy Pawlcyn
Giovanni Scala
Steven Tevere

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2000

"California's Napa Valley is renowned for fine wine and haute cuisine, so when five of the nation's most renowned food personalities gather (along with a Napa Valley winery chef) to judge a recipe contest cook-off, the featured food must be . . . burgers?" The Sutter Home press release for the first Build a Better Burger® contest of the new century poked a bit of fun at the upscale wining and dining experiences for which Napa Valley is known. It also announced that the Grand Prize for the cook-off had been doubled in honor of the new century and in celebration of the contest's tenth anniversary.

An all-white scheme added elegance to the Victorian garden setting for the five competitive cooks and invited guests.

Normally not a big fan of fish burgers, head judge James McNair's palate was easily won over by Jamie Miller's tropical tuna burgers. Most of his fellow Judges agreed and the wine sales consultant from Minnesota was awarded the $20,000 Grand Prize.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the recipes and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing five regional finalists.

Event Manager

Heidi Schuler, Public Relations Coordinator, Sutter Home Winery

Winner

  • Grand Prize: Jamie Miller, Maple Grove, Minnesota – Hawaiian Tuna Burgers with Maui Wowee Salsa

Other Finalists

  • Steve Bradley, Bolingbrook, Illinois – Asiago Pine Nut Burgers with Smokey Aioli
  • Mary Louise Lever, Rome, Georgia – Shogun Char-Grilled Beef Burgers
  • Frank Rodriquez, Houston, Texas – Vintner's Burgers Provençal
  • Claudia Shepardson, Loudonville, New York – Roquefort Lamb Burgers with Grilled Pears

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Bruce Aidells
Marion Cunningham
Sheila Lukins
Arthur Schwartz
Jeffrey Starr

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1999

With Californians now ineligible to participate in BBB, an effort was made to generate more entries to make up for losing the state that had generated 50 to 60 percent of the contest submissions. A winning recipe was chosen each day from Memorial Day through Labor Day and awarded $100. Sutter Home wine bottles on grocery store shelves sported bottleneck brochures containing burger recipes, mail-in grocery and wine rebate offers, and instantly-redeemable coupons for mustard and cheeses.

Classic white with deep green accents was the look of the last cook-off of the century. The cooking stations sported white awnings and white table coverings on the lush green lawn, and green tablecloths surrounded by white chairs under white umbrellas provided comfortable seating for the guests. Three Napa Valley chef Judges in crisp white jackets added to the theme. Chef Thomas Keller, who had recently been honored as Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and whose restaurant, The French Laundry, had been named the best restaurant in America by numerous sources, confessed that he judged all burgers by his benchmark—the burgers served at In-and-Out Burgers, a West Coast chain that's been around since 1948.

While waiting for the results, the finalists and guests were entertained by comedian David Feldman and the rocking tunes of Gigi and Snake Boy.

Julie DeMatteo, a veteran cooking contester and retired schoolteacher, had been trying for eight years to be selected as a finalist for BBB. Turning to Caribbean cuisine for inspiration finally did the trick and landed her a spot as one of the five regional finalists. Her jerk-inspired, spicy pork patties dressed with mango mayonnaise on seeded rolls landed her in the top spot at the end of the day.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the entries and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing five regional finalists.

Event Manager

Kristin O'Connor, Public Relations Coordinator, Sutter Home Winery

Winner

  • Grand Prize: Julie DeMatteo, Clementon, New Jersey – Down Island Burgers with Mango Mayo & Grilled Onions

Other Finalists

  • Frances Benthin, Scio, Oregon – Korean Beef Burgers with Creamy Kimchi Sauce
  • Wolfgang Hanau, West Palm Beach, Florida – Bertesca Piedmont Burgers with Gorgonzola and Grilled Italian Eggplant and Tomato Salad
  • Camilla Saulsbury, Bloomington, Indiana – Punjabi Burgers with Grilled Mango and Raita
  • Patricia Schroedl, Jefferson, Wisconsin – Belt-Bustin' Chile Burgers with Cheddar-Cilantro Butter

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Antonia Allegra
Lynne Rosetto Kasper
Thomas Keller
Donna Scala
Jeffrey Starr

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1998

Blue and white décor was the order of the day at the annual cook-off, and both Judges and finalists wore white aprons emblazoned with the Sutter Home logo. As the grills were fired up on the lawn of the Sutter Home Victorian, a brush fire across the highway added more smoke to the blue skies and caused a few minutes of anxiety among the cook-off attendees.

1998 was the year that the broadcast media discovered BBB. San Francisco's KGO radio broadcast its very popular show Dining Around with Gene Burns live from the cook-off for the first time, a tradition that's continued ever since. And Marjorie Poore Productions filmed the event for the Cook-Off America series on PBS television.

Nevadan Connie Emerson was back for her third try as a finalist, a record surpassed only by Floridian Theodore Skiba, who returned to the competition for his fourth try at the big bucks (he won the Award for Creativity in 1991).

Inspired by the pulled-pork sandwiches of his home area, North Carolina technical-business consultant Larry Elder edged into first place. Larry's wife, Janice, had been a finalist in the 1993 BBB cook-off, and both Janice and Larry have been finalists and winners in numerous contests and cook-offs before and after Larry's BBB victory, including the Pillsbury Bake-Off®, National Chicken, National Beef, Paul Newman's Own, and Fine Cooking magazine's Best Home Cook in America.

Shortly after the 1998 cook-off, Sutter Home Public Relations Director Stan Hock made the bleak announcement that "this was our last Build a Better Burger® contest. We are not discontinuing the promotion because of any dissatisfaction on our part but because the State of California has changed its regulations on contests. It is no longer legal for us to sponsor any contest in which the prize exceeds one dollar And that's no prize, because for a buck you can only get one of those other burgers, not the one-in-a-million variety but just another one of the eight or twenty billion or so."

As it turned out, the legal experts at Sutter Home determined that the new California law only made California residents ineligible to participate in the contest, joining the state of Utah where the contest is also illegal, so BBB was able to continue after all.

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the entries and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing seven regional finalists.

Event Manager

Christel Fouquet Milcan, Public Relations Assistant, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Larry Elder, Charlotte, North Carolina – Carolina Pork Barbecue Burgers
  • First Prize: Jason Boulanger, Williston, Vermont – Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burgers with Garlic Crostini
  • Second Prize: Ron Perkins, Scottsdale, Arizona – Samurai Burgers
  • Award for Creativity: Debbie Vanni, Libertyville, Illinois – Sauerbraten Burgers

Other Finalists

  • Connie Emerson, Reno, Nevada – Burgers Italiano with Avocado Aioli
  • Richard McHargue, Richmond, Kentucky – Caribbean Couscous Burgers with Mango Salsa
  • Theodore Skiba, Tequesta, Florida – Stilton-Glazed Toasted Walnut Sirloin Burgers with Grilled Tomatoes and Spicy Leeks

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Gene Burns
Janet Fletcher
Patricia Unterman
Bob Trinchero

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1997

Due to marketing decisions at Sutter Home, there was no cook-off held for the Build a Better Burger® competition. Instead, after the best recipes were selected, James McNair and his staff grilled, tasted, and ranked each burger in the author's cookbook test kitchen. The Italian-inspired burger from veteran contester Susan Asanovic was the favorite.

In the press release from Sutter Home, James stated that "it was an extremely close call between the very creative and delicious top burgers this year, but Susan Asanovic's Grand Prize winner edged out the competition with a perfectly seasoned patty encasing a molten nugget of fresh mozzarella served on grilled crusty rosemary Italian bread. I think that she should bottle her sweet-and-tangy spread of sun-dried tomatoes, fresh grapes, capers, and parsley."

Selection

James McNair's staff screened the entries and a panel of independent food experts assisted him in choosing eight non-regional finalists.

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Susan Asanovic, Wilton, Connecticut – Siciliano Burgers with Fresh Ciliegine and Sweet Tomato Butter
  • First Prize: Mary Lou Newhouse, South Burlington, Vermont – Jamaican Me Crazy Burgers
  • Second Prize: Gloria Piantek, Skillman, New Jersey – Cubana Pork Burgers

Other Finalists

  • Gina Bolles, Marietta, Georgia – Homestead "Ham"burgers
  • David Conwell, Fairhope, Alabama – Hot Beefy-Dog Burgers with Sweet-Hot Mustard
  • Mark Forbert, Pacifica, California – South of the Border Burgers
  • Bob Gadsby, Great Falls, Montana – Black Thai Beef Burgers with Sauteed Shiitakes
  • Edie Young, San Francisco, California – Garlic-Grilled Thai Turkey Burgers

Judges

James McNair

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1996

Blue tablecloths, white awnings, and red baseball caps added to the All-American theme of the cook-off. The aprons designed for the contestants and Judges were printed with a colorful painting of a burger cookout.

Lori Welander from Vermont trounced the male-dominated world of backyard grilling to become the first woman to win BBB. Describing her winning burger, the mega-contester told a reporter, "I went with a low-fat recipe, using low-fat mayonnaise combined with stronger flavors inspired by the Mulligatawny curried chicken soup." Another key ingredient: the famous tart apples of Vermont. "I always try to incorporate the products of the regions I live in and learn from the local cuisine." She carefully carried the apples to Napa Valley from Vermont, where her seven-year-old son had picked them the previous day.

In the press release announcing the winner, head judge James McNair stated, "The burgers at this year's cook-off were more exotic than in the past, but they all were well executed and very tasty. It just goes to show what a little imagination can do with something as basic as the burger."

International Association of Culinary Professionals President Flo Braker summed up her experience as a judge, "It was a spectacular event in every way. I loved the camaraderie, the delicious dinner, the wine, the contestants and their better burgers, and, of course, the glorious weather. We were indeed treated like royalty by a gracious team of professionals."

Selection

For the second time, under James McNair's direction, Melinda Pride screened the entries and chose seven regional finalists.

Event Manager

Christel Fouquet, Public Relations Assistant, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Lori Welander, Shelburne, Vermont – Mulligatawny Burgers
  • First Prize: Lloyd Roczniak, Rochester, Minnesota – Fresh Salmon Burgers with Lemon-Cilantro Mayonnaise
  • Second Prize: Edwina Gatsby, Great Falls, Montana – Casablanca Burgers with Citrus-Olive Relish and Harissa Aioli
  • Award for Creativity: Julie Winter, Grosse Point Park, Michigan – Indian Burgers with Grilled Banana Raita

Other Finalists

  • Joyce Bowman, Raleigh, North Carolina – Bimbukuu Groundnut Burgers with Black Bean Salsa
  • Connie Emerson, Reno, Nevada – Casbah Burgers with Moroccan Mint Sauce
  • Paula McHargue, Richmond, Kentucky – Olympic Burgers with Georgia Peach Salsa

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Anthony Dias Blue
Flo Braker
Zanne Stewart
Bob Trinchero
Jennifer Crutcher Wilkinson

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1995

The promotional materials for this year featured a gigantic, towering burger with the top bun being lowered into place by a crane hook, while a tiny man on scaffolding and a woman down below built the fantasy creation. It was completely opposite to any entry that would be chosen for the contest, but conveyed the idea that the sky was the limit in building better burgers.

Blue and white tablecloths and balloons decorated the grounds of the Sutter Home Victorian for the cook-off, where male contestants swept the prizes. Perpetuating the mythic role of men as the masters of outdoor cookery, appliance retailer Porter Lansing continued the male winning streak, scoring the 5th consecutive win for men at BBB.

Selection

After the complex structure of the previous year, James McNair simplified the selection process and directed Melinda Pride, a Napa Valley food consultant and recipe tester for Appellation magazine, who screened the entries and chose seven regional finalists.

Event Manager

Diana Fratessa, Public Relations Assistant, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Porter Lansing, Englewood, Colorado – Chicken Oriental Burgers with Grilled Shiitake
  • First Prize: Vince Grosse, Marietta, Georgia – Mediterranean Tuna Burgers with Lemon Basil Mayonnaise
  • Second Prize: Martin Kokotaylo, Sylvania, Ohio – Green Chile Chicken Burgers with Orange Chili Mayonnaise and Three-Pepper Cheese Spread
  • Award for Creativity: Nicol Spedus, Petaluma, California – San Francisco Cioppino Burger

Other Finalists

  • Gloria Bradley, Naperville, Illinois – Peppered Pita Burgers with Apple-Shallot Chutney
  • Lisa Keys, Middlebury, Connecticut – Greek Salad Burgers
  • Lloyd Roczniak, Rochester, Minnesota – Lamb Burgers with Minted Mango Chutney

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Jan Birnbaum
David Duran
Fred Halpert
Cindy Pawlcyn
Roger Trinchero

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1994

Red-and-white-checked tablecloths formed the backgrounds for blue and white plates and county-fair ribbons that identified the 1993 winning recipes in the promotional brochure for the 1994 contest. The visual theme was echoed at the cook-off, where red and white striped umbrellas dotted the lawn of the Sutter Home Victorian and shaded a gathering of invited guests, who munched on burgers and eagerly awaited the results.

Before the awards were presented, Sutter Home President Roger Trinchero presented a check for $50,000, which had been raised from the winery's distributors through the BBB promotion, to the director of Second Harvest.

Interviewed at the end of the day, Grand Prize winner Kurt Wait, a financial manager for Pacific Bell, credited the inspiration for his award-winning burger to three food personalities: Nancy Oakes, chef/owner of L'Avenue restaurant in San Francisco and creator of a celebrated portobello burger; The San Francisco Examiner Food Editor Jim Wood, whose recent article on goat cheese got Kurt's creative juices flowing; and James McNair, for suggesting in his burger cookbook the addition of liquid when meat is ground in advance. Kurt later became the first person to win a million-dollar Grand Prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off® and remains the only man to win that venerable cooking competition to date.

Selection

This was James McNair's first year to supervise the selection process in addition to the overseeing cook-off judging. After his staff screened each entry, three potential finalists from each of seven regions were chosen by Napa Valley chefs Mark Dierkhising, Fred Halpert, Gary Jenanyan, Cindy Pawlcyn, and Grant and Sharon Showley and cookbook authors Hugh Carpenter, Teri Sandison, and Cort Sinnes. At a lunch at Sutter Home, the entire preliminary panel voted to choose one finalist from each region.

Event Manager

Barbara Billings, Public Relations Assistant, Sutter Home Winery

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Kurt Wait, Redwood City, California – Portobello Burgers
  • First Prize: Nancy Strande, Snohomish, Washington – Peppered Lamb Burgers with "Hot Tomato" Jam
  • Second Prize: Ellen Burr. Truro, Massachusetts – Brazilian Burgers
  • Award for Creativity: Janie Duffy, Dripping Springs, Texas – Tropical Burgers

Other Finalists

  • Eddy Jones, Okemos, Michigan – Grilled Hamburgers Au Poivre
  • Kathy Morikawa, Natural Bridge Station, Virginia – W-W Burgers
  • Theodore Skiba, Tequesta, Florida – Ginger Grouper Burgers with Mango Mustard

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Michael Bauer
Marion Cunningham
Susan Mayo
Mark Miller
Judy Rodgers
Bob Trinchero

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1993

Public demand persuaded Sutter Home to revive the Build a Better Burger® contest for the summer of 1993, and it again proved an immensely successful promotion, garnering not only multitudes of grocery displays but also widespread coverage in newspaper and magazine food columns across the country.

Stan Hock, Sutter Home's publicity director, contracted James McNair to continue as head judge of the burger contest, to secure the other Judges, and to be the food spokesperson for all things related to food for the winery. James produced a colorful contest promotional brochure, featuring images from his recently published James McNair's Burgers. $100 bills lined the plate used for the cover burger and the back of the brochure offered a special coupon for ordering the book, which contained recipes of the winners of the first two cook-offs. The brochure generated over 3,000 entries.

That year, twelve finalists competed for the prize money, while over 200 guests gathered beneath the big tent to sip Sutter Home wines and sample more conventional burgers. Everyone relished the music of the jazz-fusion group Fatburger (no, this is not a pun!) and awaited the results of the Judges.

Robert Allen, a 76-year-old grandfather, grabbed the big prize with one of the simplest burgers in BBB's history. The Judges, each bedecked in white aprons printed with a design of big red chiles, were impressed by the purity of flavors and the unusual use of grilled jicama, which none of them had ever seen before. The late Barbara Tropp announced that grilled jicama would be added to the menu at her China Moon Cafe in San Francisco the next day.

In typical Trinchero family style, Sutter Home combined the recipe contest with raising funds for Second Harvest, a national network of 185 local food banks that annually distribute more than 600 million pounds of surplus and donated food to the needy. During the awards ceremony, Sutter Home and its distributors contributed $50,000 to the charity.

Selection

Under the direction of City Marketing agency in San Francisco, Lori Lynn Narlock headed a panel of independent food experts to assist her in choosing twelve regional finalists.

Event Manager

Lori Lynn Narlock for City Marketing

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Robert Allen, Port Townsend, Washington – Gingered-Beef Burgers
  • First Prize: Diane Lentz, Nicholasville, Kentucky – Peppered Jamaican "Jerk" Burgers Normandy
  • Second Prize: Caryl Welsh, Clarksville, Maryland – Choucroute Burgers with Green Apple Salsa
  • Third Prize: Janet Steck, Cortland, New York – Tuscan Burgers with Bruschetta
  • Award for Creativity: Robert Anzovino – Beijing Burgers

Other Finalists*

  • Linda Ackerman – Blackberry Wine Burgers
  • Susan Asanovic, Wilton, Connecticut – Four-Chile Fiesta Burgers with Cool Tomatillo Salsa
  • Gloria Bradley, Naperville, Illinois – Greek Burgers with Tomato-Cucumber Relish
  • Karen Davis – Chorizo Burgers
  • Janice Elder, Charlotte, North Carolina – Smoked Salmon Burgers with Roasted Corn Salsa
  • Porter Lansing, Englewood, Colorado – Burgers DiMedici
  • Theodore Skiba, Tequesta, Florida – Green Peppercorn Duck Burgers

*The hometowns and states of two of the 1993 finalists are missing from Sutter Home's files. For the record, if you know that information, please contact BBB, Sutter Home Family Vineyards, P.O. Box 248, St. Helena, CA 94574.

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Marion Cunningham
Anne Rosenzweig
Chris Schlesinger
Roger Trinchero
Barbara Tropp
John Willoughby

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1992

There was no Build a Better Burger® competition in 1992, as Sutter Home's marketing department decided to refresh its summer promotion by staging a "Great Grilling Giveaway" sweepstakes instead of the recipe contest.

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1991

To promote the 1991 contest, cookbook author and head judge James McNair was asked to edit the prizewinning recipes from the first cook-off, prepare and photograph them, and design a brochure for distribution in grocery stores throughout the participating states. To create the building theme, James commissioned an architectural blueprint of a burger for the brochure cover, positioned grilling tools in a carpenter's box, and used various raw woods as backgrounds of the prizewinning to further emphasize the construction theme.

Festive red, white, and blue balloons and red-checkered tablecloths decorated the grounds of Sutter Home, where contestants and guests enjoyed a festive party along with the cook-off. The Judges quickly narrowed in on the lamb burgers grilled by Rob Chirico and served in warm pita pockets with a fresh herb sauce.

Selection

Entries were screened and twelve regional finalists were chosen by The Gold Group agency in Santa Monica, California.

Event Manager

Diana Schwam of The Gold Group

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Robert Chirico, Greenfield , Massachusetts – Lamburgers à la Grecque with Cilantro-Mint Chutney
  • First Prize: Debbie Russell, Colorado Springs, Colorado – Hazelnut-Crusted Lamb Burgers
  • Second Prize: Caryl Welsh, Clarksville, Maryland – Italian Burgers with Confetti Salsa
  • Third Prize: Dr . Helen Conwell, Fairhope, Alabama – Calypso Burgers
  • Award for Creativity: Theodore Skiba, Tequesta, Florida – Three-Nut Turkey Burgers with Tropical Fruit Salsa

Other Finalists

  • Karen Davis, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Tea-Smoked Ginger Sesame Burgers
  • Monty Degenhardt, Indianapolis, Indiana – Tuna, Mint, and Wheatberry Burgers with Three-Citrus Salsa
  • Margie Godwin, Greensboro, North Carolina – Stir-Fry Topped Burgers
  • Janet Hill, Sacramento, California – Golden Salmon Burgers
  • Carol Ann Islam, Corvallis, Oregon – Oriental Shrimp Burgers with Mushroom Relish Sauté
  • Judith Mettlin, Snyder, New York – Hunan Chicken Burgers
  • Julie Winter, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan – Third Coast Grilled Veal Burgers

Judges

James McNair, Cookbook author, Head Judge
Kathleen Buckley
Elaine Corn
Elaine Johnston
Harvey Steiman
Bob Trinchero
Bill Rice

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1990

During Memorial Day weekend of 1990, colorful displays of Sutter Home wines and assorted burger-related ingredients announced the birth of a new cooking competition called Build a Better Burger® and popped up in grocery stores and supermarkets throughout twenty states. The displays contained tear-off entry forms that introduced the contest's rules to an eager group of competitive cooks. During that summer, Alex Morgan, marketing director at Sutter Home, personally invited cookbook author James McNair to head the judging panel for the first-ever Build a Better Burger® National Cook-off.

James recalls that what sounded like an ideal task—sampling his favorite food in a beautiful garden setting– quickly took its toll. All of the Judges launched into their task with great gusto and hearty appetites, but by the time they reached the halfway point, most realized that much smaller bites would have to suffice. Late in the judging, when Sutter Home CEO Bob Trinchero confronted a pink salmon burger with pale green kiwi sauce, his eyes sort of glazed over and it appeared that he just couldn't sample another burger. A few minutes later, however, Bob bit into Jim Pleasants Italian-inspired burger and his face lit up as he proclaimed, "Now that's a burger!" The rest of the Judges agreed and awarded the retired U.S. Army Colonel BBB's first Grand Prize.

BBB was off to a grand start!

Selection

Entries were screened by The Gold Group in Santa Monica, California, who chose a finalist from each of twenty participating states.

Cook-off Coordinator

Diana Schwam of The Gold Group

Winners

  • Grand Prize: Jim Pleasants, Williamsburg, Virginia – Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers
  • Second Prize: Betty Shenberger, Beaverton, Oregon – Mustard-Grilled Lamb Burgers with Grilled Eggplant Salsa
  • Third Prize: Priscilla Yee, Concord, California – Spicy Sausage Burgers with Roasted Pepper Relish
  • Award for Creativity: Wayne Fairchild, Shreveport, Louisiana – Hearty Southern Bean Burgers

Other Finalists*

  • A. Y. Atoulikian, Ohio
  • Rosemarie Berger, North Carolina
  • Betty Brown, Arizona
  • Mary Cummings, Massachusetts
  • Robert Cummisford, Wisconsin
  • Alex DeSantis, New Jersey
  • John Douglas, New Mexico
  • Lois Dowling, Tacoma, Washington – Oslo Burgers
  • Connie Emerson, Reno , Nevada – Foxy Loxy Burgers
  • Lee Jorik, Illinois
  • Mary Louise Lever, Rome , Georgia
  • Jacquelyn Paine, Baltimore , Maryland
  • Marina Polvay, Florida
  • Debbie Russell, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Linda Sarkisian, South Carolina
  • Angela Trusty, Indiana

*For many of the 1990 finalists, only the names and states in which they lived remain in Sutter Home's files. For the record, if you know the hometowns or the name of the burgers missing here, please contact BBB, Sutter Home Family Vineyards, P.O. Box 248, St. Helena, CA 94574

Judges

James McNair, Head Judge
Kelly McCune
Chris Schlesinger
Bob Trinchero
John Willoughby

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