Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 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.
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.
Barbara Billings, Public Relations Assistant, Sutter Home Winery
- 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
- 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
James McNair, Head Judge