Friday, August 16, 2013

What's Between the Buns: Diary of a Build a Better Burger Winner

I've had the great fortune to have participated in some pretty amazing cooking contest events.  When I started doing this almost 10 years ago there were some big contests out there with some big prizes. At the time there were two big contests with $100,000 prizes, National Chicken and Southern Living.

Unfortunately, two years after my one and only trip to the Southern Living event in 2006, it was permanently discontinued.  Then in 2009, it was announced that the National Chicken Cook-Off was being suspended indefinitely after 60 years and 48 cook-offs.  Many of us still mourn its demise.

The National Beef Cook-Off was also a big one back then with a cook-off trip and a $50,000 purse. Thankfully it is still in existence but with an abbreviated, convoluted trip structure of some sort, and only half of the prize money of the past.  I'm not complaining by any means, just reminiscing about the good old days.

When I was fortunate enough to have won the very first Ocean Spray Ultimate Recipe Contest in 2007, I took home a check for $25,000.  After just a couple of years they reduced the prize money and winners then received a check for $10,000.  Still not too shabby, but less than half of what it once was.  After not seeing anything about it in a couple of years, I fear this once exciting contest has gone by the wayside too.

Of all the contests that have come and gone, there is one that has only gotten bigger and better over the years, Sutter Home's Build a Better Burger.  Over the past few years the prize money in both the beef and alternate categories have increased from $10,000 to $15,000 for alternate and a very respectable increase from $50,000 to $100,000 for the beef.  I have tried my best for the better part of 15 years to get an invitation to compete, but it has eluded me every year.

In a few days the entry period for this year's BBB will be a mere memory.  Like thousands of others, my best burger recipe will be in the stack for Sutter Home's attention and approval.  Suffering from recipe rejection and burger exhaustion from years of entering, I am only working on one recipe this year, but it is a masterpiece according to the best taste tester ever, my dog Jack.  I can only hope that this will be my year.  Jack assures me that it is.

Last year my friend Erin Evenson competed and won this contest with her Seven Train Caramelized Green Curry Burgers with Crispy Watercress Salad, Roasted Cashews, and Minted Basil Aioli.  Looking for some sort of leg up on the competition, I recently asked her if she had any insight into what they might be looking for because it is apparent that I have no clue.

Erin let me in on her plan to publish a post about her BBB experience on her new blog, We Eat in Sound.  I'm so happy she wrote about it.  Her post is an informative and detailed account of her experience at this contest.  After reading it, I thought it would be fun to link up to her post and let my readers join in the burger fun and introduce you to her blog too.  So if you'd like to go behind the scenes of this great contest and see how Erin brought home the grand prize, please click here.  Thanks Erin for sharing your experience with us.

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