Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 2013

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners – 2013

Following on the heels of a sizzling spring heat wave in Napa Valley, everyone participating in  the 23rd Build a Better Burger Cook-Off was thrilled with the perfect May 2014 weather that dawned for the cooking showdown between the ten finalists in the 2013 BBB Recipe Contest.

This was the first year in the history of the contest where a father and son competed head-on against each other.  Michael Cohen, a musical composer for film and television from Los Angeles, won the $100,000 grand prize with Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burgers, beating out his returning finalist father Harold Cohen from Hollywood, Florida, who prepared crowd-pleasing Mexicali Burgers. The younger Cohen’s burger was also named as the $2,500 People’s Choice Beef Burger by Cook-Off attendees. “It was fun competing with my dad,” noted Michael Cohen, “I learned my love of food from him.”  When asked how he was going to spend the $100,000 prize, Michael answered, “I’m going to start by buying a nice shiny new guitar!”

Head judge James McNair noted after sampling Michael’s burger during judging, “This burger is perfect – I wouldn’t change a thing.” Erin Evenson, Build a Better Burger judge and last year’s $100,000 winner, added, “Blue cheese and bacon – I now understand what the fuss is about.”

The panel of judges also awarded the $15,000 prize for the Best Alternative Burger to the Sour Apple Pork Burgers from Cristen Clark of Runnells, Iowa. The audience also agreed, voting the $2,500 People’s Choice Award to Cristen. James McNair exclaimed when first trying the burger, “I have only had one bite so far, but I am in Hog Heaven!”


A Culinary Review Panel, comprised of Brenda Bosetti , Marilyn Costa, Liccet Guzman, Jill Hunting, and BBB Culinary Director Jeffrey Starr screened recipes during the summer and and selected their favorites. 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 assembled to choose finalists in each of the two categories.

Cook-Off Event Manager

Michele Ashby, Marketing Event Manager, Sutter Home Winery


  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers): Michael Cohen, Los Angeles, California: Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burgers with Creamy Blue Cheese and Pear, Spinach, and Hazelnut Salad
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) People’s Choice Award: Michael Cohen
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) First Runner-Up: Kim Jones, Bloomingdale, Illinois: Over-The-Top Truffled Burgers with Caramelized Balsamic Onion Jam, Roasted Garlic Aioli, and Goat Cheese
  • Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Second Runner-Up: Bill Clifford, Exeter, New Hampshire: Savory French Toasted Burgers with Seasoned Arugula, Bacon-Shallot Chevre, and Merlot Mustard
  • Best Alternative Burgers Prize: Cristen Clark, Runnells, Iowa: Sour Apple Pork Burgers with Cheddar Cheese, Cayenne-Apple-Candied Bacon, and Potato Chip-Onion Haystacks
  • Alternative Burgers People’s Choice Award: Cristen Clark
  • Alternative Burgers First Runner-Up: Ellen Verdugo, Gloucester, Massachusetts: “Chicken Dressed as Duck” Burgers with Spiced Cherry Mostarda and Orange-Thyme Aioli
  • Alternative Burgers Second Runner Up: Krista Towns, Aiken, South Carolina: German Currywurst Burgers with Tomato Curry-Ginger Jam, Curry-Glazed Pork Skins, and Sweet Pepper, Apple, and Fennel Slaw

Other Grand Prize (Beef Burgers) Finalists

  • Harold Cohen, Hollywood, Florida
  • Maureen Hiller, Katy, Texas

Other Alternative Burgers Finalists

  • Jim Bradley, Chicago, Illinois
  • Kelly Randall, Vallejo, California


  • James McNair, Head Judge
  • Erin Evenson
  • Elaine Johnson
  • Kevin Kolman
  • Angela Tafoya
Build a Better Burger Contest Winners - 2012

Build a Better Burger

Build a Better Burger Contest Winners - 2012