Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 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.
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.
Michele Moline, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home
- 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
James McNair, Head Judge