Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 2004

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 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.


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


  • 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


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

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners - 2003

Build a Better Burger

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners - 2003