Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

Burger Building
—for Fun or Profit

by Kate Heyhoe

On your mark, get set, grill!

Last fall I had the pleasure of being one of nine judges at the Build a Better Burger contest, sponsored largely by Sutter Home Winery in Napa Valley, California. Now, the contest is back for its 13th year, and although for quirky legal reasons it's not open to residents of California or Utah, the rest of the country can enter.

James McNair
James McNair has burgers on the brain.

If you've got a flare for burger fixing, the contest is mighty tempting—it offers a grand prize of $20,000, an additional prize of $5,000 for best potato side dish, and an award of $5,000 for the winner of the People's Choice Award. Best-selling cookbook author James McNair picks the contest's ten finalists and selects the judges. Then the fun begins.

A finalist heads toward the judges.

At the winery's grassy Zinfandel Lane ranch, a band plays on an outdoor stage, deejays broadcast the event live, and folks from Napa Valley and the Bay Area line up to sample the contestants' recipes, prepared en masse by the winery's corporate chef and culinary team. Those who merely want to attend the event pay a small admission fee, then spend the September afternoon sipping wine and sampling each finalist's burger. Ticket proceeds go to City of Hope, an organization dedicated to breast cancer awareness, research, and treatment programs.

The judges' table: author Pam Anderson in rear (reacting
to a burger?), and TVFN's Joey Altman in foreground.

One by one, the finalists grill up their entries on the spot, serving a quarter burger to each judge. Judges taste, rate, and score the burgers hot off the grill. In the end, the scores are tallied and James McNair, in fetching burger hat, announces the winners. Last year's judges, hand-picked by McNair, included cookbook authors, television hosts, magazine editors, and chefs: Joey Altman, Pam Anderson, Charles Neave, Katie O'Kennedy, Caprial and John Pence, Jamie Purviance, and myself.

Sutter Home's Zinfandel Lane Ranch,site of the
Build a Better Burger Contest.

In short: Sutter Home's Build a Better Burger Contest is a blast! Plus, it's the tastiest way to possibly round up a cool $20,000. Now's the time to enter, or at least warm up your burger candidates. Entries must be received between May 26, 2003 and August 29, 2003. Even if you don't enter, experimenting with new burger recipes can be fun and challenging. To get you started, I've included the past five years' winning grand prize recipes of the Build a Better Burger Contest.

Fire up those Memorial Day grills and go for it!

Build a Better Burger Contest Rules (on their site)

Past Winning Recipes

Vitello Focaccia
Soy-Glazed Salmon Burgers with Ginger Lime Aioli
Hawaiian Tuna Burgers with Maui Wowee Salsa
Down Island Burgers with Mango Mayo & Grilled Onions
Carolina Pork Barbecue Burgers


Kate's Global Kitchen for May 2003:
5/02/03     Spicing Up Cinco de Mayo
5/09/03     For Mom, a Bouquet of Vanilla
5/16/03     An Army Moves on Its Stomach
5/23/03     Burger Building—for Fun or Profit
5/30/03     Mint, Mint, and More Mint


Copyright © 2003, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

Current Kate's Global Kitchen
Kate's Global Kitchen Archive

This page created May 2003