Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 2007
After three years under the scrutiny of multiple Food Network cameras, the 17th annual burger competition returned to the relaxed, party-like atmosphere of earlier years, and it was difficult to tell whether the finalists, the guests, or the judges had the most fun. A build-your-own-better-burger buffet offered diners a chance to try many of the unique condiments that had been created by the winning burgers in previous years. An ice cream wagon, a gigantic burger cake, lively music, and an exceptionally profuse season of flowers in the Sutter Home Victorian garden all added to the celebratory mood of the day.
Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeffrey Starr introduced each finalist to the onstage judges and the crowd gathered under the big tent. After passing their burgers to the judges, the contestants remained onstage to answer questions about their recipes and to hear opinions of the burgers from the personable judges. 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.
After the scores were tallied, Sutter Home Culinary Director Chef Jeffrey Star announced the winners and Sutter Home President Bob Torkelson presented them with giant checks.
The judges chose the Little Italy Sausage Burgers from Rebecca Reece of Henderson, Nevada, as winner of the $10,000 prize for Best Alternative Burgers.
Capturing the $50,000 Grand Prize for the Best Beef Burgers was Karen Bernards, a seed company owner from McMinnville, Oregon, with her Sweet-Hot Thai Burgers. Before her feet touched the ground from her victory celebration, Karen was whisked off to New York City in order to appear on the Monday morning Today Show.
Sutter Home staff members screened almost 7,000 recipes during the summer and sent all 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, then chose a finalist in each of the two categories from each of the five regions.
Michele Moline, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home
- Grand Prize: Karen Bernards, McMinnville, Oregon: Sweet-Hot Thai Burgers
- Grand Prize First Runner-Up: Erin Evenson, Brooklyn, New York: Black Pepper Caramel Burgers with Mango-Green Apple Slaw and Basil-Mint Mayonnaise
- Grand Prize Second Runner-Up: Jamie Martin, Madison, Alabama: Argentinean Burgers with Chimichurri Sauce, Grilled Avocados, and Roasted Corn and Jicama Slaw
- Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Rebecca Reece, Henderson, Nevada: Little Italy Sausage Burgers
- Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Brigitte Nguyen, Lexington, Kentucky: Vietnamese Five-Spice Pork Burgers Zippy with Jalapeno Chiles, Sweet & Sour with Pickled Daikon and Carrot, and Absolutely Indulgent with Pate on a Buttered Bun!
- Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: Harold Cohen, Hollywood, Florida: Albuquerque Chicken Burgers with Jicama Slaw and Ancho Sour Cream
Other Grand Prize Finalists
- Lorie Roach, Buckatunna, Mississippi: Smoky “Pimento” Cheese Black Angus Patty Melts
- Cynthia Ross, South Barrington, Illinois: Datilles con Bacon Hamburguesas
Other Alternative Burgers Finalists
- Mary Beth Harris-Murphree, Tyler, Texas: Lamb Burgers with Grilled Haloumi and Eggplant Salsa
- Rick Rohr, Darien, Connecticut: Home on the Range Buffalo Burgers with Fresh Garden Herbs and Huntsman Cheese
James McNair, Head Judge