2019 Build a Better Burger Judges

Meet our Fab 5 Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest Judges

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Who better to judge our Top 5 finalists in the 2019 Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest than our very own Fab 5 Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest judges?

This year, like every year, our notable judges are as renowned for being makers of their own culinary masterpieces as they are for championing the boundless, inventive recipes of other passionate foodies.

So, we asked our five judges what “WOW” factor they look for when determining which recipe should be the grand prize winner of the Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest.

Here’s what the judges shared

  • I want the recipe to be real savory, interesting, textured and have an amazing balance of flavors — that’s my jam.
  • First and foremost, I look for taste and creativity, and great attention paid to every layer of detail, including the wine pairing.
  • I look for someone who uses all of the components. What kind of bun is it, and is it toasted? Is the meat caramelized? Are the condiments being used out of a jar or are they personalized? I want a sense of real hands-on craftsmanship.
  • I look for unique taste, flavors and big textures. I’m a sucker for sweet and savory. Attention to the wine pairing comes with great expectations, too. Something easy. I’m a mom, so I like recipes where I can also hide vegetables.
  • I want the recipe to be reflective of the person making it. I want them to take me on a culinary journey. I think the ideal recipe is one that combines art and science and grilling. That’s what great BBQ is all about.

The Fab Five in action

The Fab Five in action.

Casey Thompson, Top Chef alumni

Casey Thompson

Chef Casey Thompson is a former finalist, fan favorite and All Star of the Emmy-winning cooking competition Top Chef. Casey has opened and operated four restaurants in Dallas and Ft. Worth, San Francisco and San Diego areas. She currently owns a private dining and event business in the California Wine Country. Her partner of 11 years makes wine in the Napa Valley, and together they entertain and educate in the food and wine world. Thompson has been the ambassador of such brands as Moet-Hennessey, Budweiser, Lean Cuisine, Stella-Artois, James Beard, Miele and BMW among countless others. She loves to create dishes using indigenous ingredients while being playful and culinarily daring.

Chef Lars Kronmark, CWP Professor Culinary Arts

Chef Lars Kronmark

Lars Kronmark is a native of Denmark. He was educated in Denmark and is now the senior chef-instructor at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Besides conducting wine-related cooking classes, Lars also participates in events at local wineries and has been involved with the Napa Valley Wine Auction for the past 20 years. He was also voted Chef of the Year by Cordon d’Or-Gold Ribbon, Inc.


Kevin Kolman, Weber’s Head Grill Master

Kevin Kolman

Kevin Kolman is Weber’s Head Grill Master and leading BBQ expert in the country. After more than a decade working at Weber, Kevin’s true calling is inspiring and instilling a passion for outdoor grilling to everyone he encounters. He has improved and enhanced their grilling skills through TV, radio, podcast appearances, popular how-to videos, blogs and social media. He has taught BBQ classes all over world including 15 different countries stretching as far as Japan, Singapore, Germany and Denmark. He brings depth and experience to all that he does.

As a leading BBQ expert Kevin continues to build his BBQ resume through world class experiences with the best Pit Masters and Chefs in the world. In 2017, he co-instructed a world record for the largest grilling class in Kansas City. He also developed the curriculum for and helps co-instruct a popular Barbecue Science course at The Ohio State University. Kevin is also a standing panelist at The Camp Brisket at Texas A&M University. He is also a certified Kansas City Barbecue Judge, has competed in and judged World BBQ championships with and against the best Pit Masters in the world.

Kevin believes that barbecue is our country’s cuisine and has eaten at over 50 of the top BBQ restaurants in the US. Many of these pit masters are close friends to Kevin which allows him to learn the best ways of cooking barbecue. He uses these experiences to help build his knowledge and his creativity. He is constantly learning new and innovative ways to use fire and meat to create and recreate world class barbecue dishes.

Not only is Kevin a pro at what’s happening on the grill, he is also relied on to test and scrutinize the mechanics of what’s inside the grills—from gas and charcoal to smokers and electric models. It’s this level of expertise that makes Kevin a highly sought-after expert and ambassador of grilling, smoking and barbecue.

Juliana Evans, @farmgirleats

Juliana Evans

Juliana Evans is the owner of Farm Girl Eats, a popular food and farm Instagram channel. Since the age of 3, she has been whipping up fun in the kitchen. Juliana has owned and operated a popular dessert catering business, food truck, and brick and mortar dessert boutique. Her television debut was on the Today Show in 2014, where she was crowned the Christmas Cookie Queen. From then on, Juliana has been featured on Food Network, The Chew, Rachel Ray, Live with Kelly and Ryan, Hallmark’s Home & Family, Good Morning America, and many local news stations. Juliana knows a thing or two about burgers. She is a veteran to Sutter Home’s Build a Better Recipe Contest and was voted 2016’s Good Morning America’s best Super Bowl Burger. Juliana currently works as a freelance food stylist/photographer and recipe developer. In her free time, Juliana enjoys spending time with her family and working on their rescue farm.

Naylet LaRochelle, Build a Better Burger 2009 Champion

Naylet LaRochelle

Naylet LaRochelle is an amateur competitive cook. She participated in the Build a Better Burger recipe contest in 2009 and took the grand prize in the alternative burger category.

Beyond Build a Better Burger, Naylet won the Gilroy Garlic Cook-Off in 2017, the Great Midwest “I Love Grilled Cheese” contest in 2013, the Louisiana Cookin’ Seafood contest in 2012, and the DOLE California Cook Off 2014.

Naylet’s appearances as finalist include Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championships Season 1 and Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship – Redemption edition. She was also recognized as a finalist at the Del Monte Crown the Cook contest in 2012, the Beringer Great Steak Challenge in 2010, the 45th Pillsbury Bake Off contest, the 46th Pillsbury Bake Off contest, the National Cornbread cookoff in 2016, the Manischewitz All-Stars contest in 2014, the Cavit Gourmet Pizza Classic in 2014, and the Bush’s Grillin’ Beans/Pioneer Women contest in 2012.

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