Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 2011

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 2011

Perfect early autumn weather bathed Chicago in sunshine on October 12, as the ten anxious finalists walked the few short blocks from BBB’s host Hotel Palomar to the World of Whirlpool, an ultra contemporary facility on the top level of the Reid Murdoch building on the north bank of the Chicago River. The lucky finalists prepared their burger components in state-of-the-art kitchens outfitted with the latest in KitchenAid equipment, and then moved outdoors to the adjacent rooftop terrace to cook on sparkling new stainless steel grills surrounded by fabled Chicago architecture.

Joining BBB’s resident head judge, James McNair, were three of Chicago’s top chefs: Gale Gand of Tru, Heather Terhune of Sable Kitchen & Bar, and Dave Zino of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Rounding out the judging panel was Chicago-born Bob Torkelson, President and COO of Trinchero Family Estates.

The judging took place inside a large conference room where the competitors passed their burgers to the judges, and then stayed on stage to answer questions and hear critiques of their entries. Guests were free to sit and watch these proceedings or wander the corridors adjacent to the cooking stations and watch the finalists at work. The competing burgers were prepared by the Whirlpool caterers and offered to the guests who were able to vote for their favorites for the People’s Choice awards. They could also load their plates with French fries, onion rings, various salads, milkshakes, miniature sweets, and samples from a pantry display of assorted pickles to enjoy al fresco on the spacious rooftop terrace.

At the end of the competition everyone gathered to hear Bob Torkelson announce the winners. Mark Pyne broke into tears of joy upon hearing of his $15,000 victory in the Alternative Burger category, and Jennifer Beckman reacted to her $100,000 Grand Prize win with resounding laughter and shrieks of delight.


Sutter Home staff members screened several thousand recipes during the summer and sent the qualified recipes to the five members of the Culinary Review Panel, comprised of Head Judge James McNair, Marilyn Costa, Jill Hough, Jill Hunting, and Andrew Moore, who selected their favorite recipes. The panel met as a group and narrowed the favorites down to 15 beef burgers and 15 alternative burgers. During a two-day preliminary Cook-Off, the Culinary Review Panel was joined by Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef, Jeffrey Starr, in choosing five finalists in each of the two categories.

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery


  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Jennifer Beckman, Falls Church, Virginia: Screen Porch Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People’s Choice Award: Jennifer Beckman, Falls Church, Virginia: Screen Porch Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Janette Nowak, Spring, Texas: Cilantro Chimichurri Burgers
  • Grand Prize (Beef burgers) Second Runner-Up: Monique Ehrhart, Lake Forest Park, Washington: Banh “Moo” Burgers
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Mark Pyne, Kent, Washington: Latino Pork Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Krista Towns, Loxahatchee, Florida Knockout Korean “Soul” Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Lauren Wyler, Austin, Texas: Peppered Pineapple Al Pastor Burgers
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner-Up: MacKenzie Severson, Germantown, Maryland: Jamaican Pork Burgers

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalists

  • Jim Buckley, Caledonia, Wisconsin: Chipotle-Infused Avocado Bacon Burgers
  • Loanne Chiu, Fort Worth, Texas: Soul of Seoul Sliders

Other Alternative Burgers Finalist

Sonali Ruder, New York, New York: Valencia Pork Burgers


James McNair, Head Judge
Gale Gand
Heather Terhune
Bob Torkelson
Dave Zino

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners - 2010

Build a Better Burger

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners - 2010