Culinary Fight Club 2016: The Blended Burger Battle in San Diego, California

A bright sunny afternoon became the backdrop of an ensuing battle…the battle of the best blended burger. There can be only one! Culinary Fight Club presented their inaugural Southern California event called the Blended Burger Battle where 4 contestants must turn in a burger whose patty is blended with 25% mushrooms. The burgers are scored by a panel of judges and the winner receives $200, the Culinary Fight Club Trophy, and a Golden Ticket for entry into the World Food Championships. There is also a people’s choice vote. That winner receives $50 and a Culinary Fight Club Apron.

The competitors were Chef Tom Logsdon of The Balboa Bar and Grill,

Chef Bobby Mariner of Viejas Casino,

Chef Cheryl Cruz of Loft 94 and Beer Garden,

and Chef Alexis Rangel of Svante's Restaurant.

All competitors were able to source their own proteins (beef, bacon, seafood, etc.) Produce, seasonings, condiments, buns, cheeses, etc. were available in the pantry. But, the chefs only had 60 seconds in which to shop for them but couldn’t use any sort of basket or cart. So they elected to use their aprons as their “shopping basket”. The chefs were allowed to view what was in the pantry ahead of time so they could at least strategize on what to grab. 

During the mad dash, similar to what you might have seen in a show called, “Cutthroat Kitchen”, a bottle of molasses became an unfortunate casualty. You can almost hear a bugle softly playing Taps as the jar’s sticky, sweet goodness bled out onto the pavement.

The clock started and the chefs had 1 hour in which to prep, grill, cook, and plate their burger for presentation to the judges. It seems like a long time, but I know firsthand that these timed competitions can easily get the better of you. Suddenly you hear, “Chefs, you have five minutes left!” Frantic mode kicks in but you need to stay focused.

Chef Tom Logsdon’s entry was “The Good Trip” made with a blended beef and mushroom patty, rosemary aioli, beer and butter sautéed onions, green leaf lettuce, and tomato.

Since I was judging, I was unable to take notes on the ingredients and I’m recalling what I can from memory. Chef Bobby Mariner’s entry was a blended mushroom and beef burger topped with a tomato bacon jam, cheese, and shrimp.

Chef Cheryl Cruz’s entry was her take on a Banh Mi sandwich. The burger patty had an Asian flavor profile with hoisin, ginger, scallions, and shiitake mushrooms. She topped it will pickled jicama, watermelon radish, rainbow carrots, onion, and cilantro on a toasted black and white sesame seed bun. It was presented on a banana leaf inside a Chinese steam basket.

Again, since I was judging, I was unable to take notes and recalling ingredients from memory. Chef Alexis Rangel’s entry was a blended mushroom and beef burger with heirloom tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, avocado, and sliced zucchini.

The judges for the Blended Burger Battle were yours truly, Chelsea Madren aka OC Food Diva. I’ve judged several other regional competitions as well as the World Food Championships in 2014 and 2015. As such, the Cheferee let me hold the Golden Ticket! 

Tommy Gomes, fishmonger extraordinaire, from Catalina Offshore Products, was the second judge. Chef Bobby procured the shrimp from him. 

And finally there was Chef Jeffrey Roberto of Sushi on a Roll. He kindly lent his location for the event along with Chef Keoni Simmons to help coordinate the logistics. As a teenager, he apprenticed with the first Japanese sushi bar in San Diego. His knife and hand skills are masterful. You’ll need to come to SOAR one day to watch him work.

After the judges marked their scores, it was time to tally up and announce the winner. Here were my scores and notes:

  • Chef Alexis Rangel: Execution – 9, Appearance – 8, Taste – 7 (Notes: Beef mixture was overworked resulting in a tough burger patty. Burger needed a creamy sauce or cheese.)
  • Chef Cheryl Cruz: Execution – 9, Appearance – 10, Taste – 9 (Notes: Beef mixture was perfectly blended and had an Asian flavor profile similar to what you might see in Hawaii. Very juicy. The presentation was beautiful! Definitely up to par for World Food Championships. Since her dish was finished after the final whistle blew, she received penalty points.)
  • Chef Bobby Mariner: Execution – 8, Appearance – 8, Taste – 9 (Notes: Surf and Turf profile was a great idea. Shrimp were cooked perfectly with a nice snap. The tomato bacon jam was a great idea for flavor and sauce but it overtook the dish. Mushrooms were not detectable in the meat, but I know they were in there. Presentation could use more color like green leaf lettuce either on top or underneath burger to make it pop.)
  • Chef Tom Logsdon: Execution – 10, Appearance – 9, Taste – 10 (Notes: This is one of the best burgers I have ever had! It was juicy and hit all of the flavor notes I was looking for. Presentation could have been better by using a nicer plate.)

Chef Tom Logsdon swept the competition with a win from the judges. He received a Golden Ticket to the World Food Championships, Culinary Fight Club Blended Burger Battle trophy, and $200. He also won the people’s choice vote and received a Culinary Fight Club Apron and another $50.

Congratulations, Chef Tom. I look forward to seeing you at the 2016 World Food Championships in Orange Beach Alabama!

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