Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 1990

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 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!


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


  • 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


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

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