An update from 2006 Grand Prize Winner Camilla Saulsbury
Itâ€™s hard to believe that itâ€™s close to a year since winning the Grand Prize in last yearâ€™s Build a Better Burger Contest. Although much has happened over the course of months, the thrill of getting the initial phone call that I was a finalist has not faded (I think it was the first time I actually sat by the phone willing it to ring). And the event itself? Yes, itâ€™s every bit as good as you can imagine. From grilling under the palm trees (with wine at every cooking station), to meeting and competing with some of the best (and most interesting and affable) home cooks, to presenting my burgers (albeit with trembling hands and a queasy stomach) to a panel of celebrity judges, to immediately being whisked away to New York to appear on the Today showâ€”phew! It all added up to the thrill of a lifetime.
After returning home to Nacogdoches, Texas, it was something of a burger-fest all over again as we (I and my husband) made multiple batches of burgers and poured many a glass of wine to share with family and friends (itâ€™s a small townâ€”everyone wanted a taste!). It was finally a bit of a relief to slip back into something of a regular routine of teaching classes and spending time with my husband and son. In just the last few weeks, itâ€™s been back to a burger whirlwind. No, itâ€™s not a strange new weather pattern here in Texas. Rather, Iâ€™ve been hitting the road, traveling to major cities throughout the state to promote this yearâ€™s contest at HEB supermarkets, cooking up hundreds of Born in Berkeley Burgers to passing shoppers willing to munch. What fun! Since Iâ€™m still relatively new to the state, itâ€™s been a great chance to explore new cities as well as to talk up the cook-off to my fellow Texans. From San Antonio to Austin, to Corpus Christi and Houston, Iâ€™ll never have any doubt that Texans love their burgers (even if said burgers have a nutty California spin).
The HEB events have all had local television coverage, and each reporter inevitably asked me the same question (ok, actually two questions; the first was â€œWhat on earth are figs doing in a burger?!!!). And that question was, â€œWhat did you do with your winnings?â€ I think they were hoping for an over-the-top response, perhaps one to match the eclectic (or some might even say â€œwackyâ€) combination of ingredients in my burger. But the truth is far more down-to-earth. First, I set aside a chunk for a trip for my parents (they both celebrated milestone birthdays this year); they are waiting until the spring of â€™08 to embark. In the meantime, I also outfitted their backyard with a spanking new gas grill and all the accoutrements so they can have as much fun grilling as I am having. Second, I squirreled away the rest in my little boyâ€™s saving account (he just turned one). And thatâ€™s it (oh, accept for a fancy new purse for me; it probably would not be a big deal for many, but I tend towards frugality, so it was a very fun splurge).
So in case there is any lingering doubt of whether itâ€™s worth making one more batch of burgers in the coming weeks to get your recipe just right for the August 20th deadline, wash it away with a chilled glass of Sutter Home Chardonnay. Then fire up the grill, mix up those patties, invite some friends over to judge your prowess (donâ€™t forget the extra wineglasses), and let the sizzling begin. I think youâ€™ll find, as I did, that entering the Build a Better Burger Contest can be as much fun as winning.
Here are a few pics from Camilla's adventures at HEB (click to enlarge):
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