From 2015 – 2019, thousands of chefs nationwide took part in the highly celebrated, annual James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project, which featured restaurants menuing their own creative take on a mushroom/meat blended burger. Over the five years, restaurant-goers voted for their favorite burgers nearly 2 million times.
For some of the competitions’ winning chefs, blended burgers earned a permanent spot on their menus long after the Blended Burger Contest ended. In addition to reimagining the traditional burger, they understand that The BlendTM was a delicious way to bring extra flavor, nutrition and sustainability to their menus. With unique creations featuring ingredients like fried green tomatoes, halloumi, preserved lemons, pulled pork, corn fritters and jalapenos, it’s no wonder customers keep coming back for more.
We recently connected with past winners to discover why they continue blending.
Chef Spotlight: Chef Alejandro Barrientos
Chef Alejandro Barrientos from Curb Side Bistro in Odessa, Texas, created the Tejano Borracho Burger aka The Drunken Texan. A 2018 Blended Burger Contest winner, his inspiration behind this blended burger comes from summer cookouts with family and friends that always lead to plates piled high with pitmaster delights. A bite from this burger delivers big flavors and textures from pulled pork, jalapeños, queso, corn fritters and, of course, ranch. It’s a whole cookout in one bite!
Tips for Blending at Home
Chef Barrientos offers a word of advice when making your own blended burger: “have fun with the recipe and season aggressively. A lot of times I see people under-season their vegetables. Be bold with the spices and rubs.”
Another tip Barrientos recommends is to use white button mushrooms. “They hold up to the high heat sear of our flat top [grill] really nicely and give that unique umami flavor everyone enjoys. Plus, they’re easy to find just about anywhere.”
The Reason Chef Barrientos Blends
“The sustainability aspect is really important to us, especially being in beef country. The blended burger has become one of our most popular sliders we have on the menu. We took it off the menu once the contest was over, but we received an overwhelming amount of messages and comments. The people demanded it be put on the menu permanently.”
Chef Spotlight: Chef Toni Elkhouri
Chef Toni Elkhouri of Cedars Cafe in Melbourne, Fla., is no stranger to the blended burger, creating her first blended burger for the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project in 2016 and being named one of the winners in 2017, not to mention supporting and encouraging nearby chefs to take part in subsequent years. Her current blended burger boasts bold, fresh, unexpected ingredients like fried green tomatoes, halloumi and preserved lemon tahini. Her Mediterranean roots prove to be the main source of inspiration while also incorporating current food trends into the mix.
Tips from Toni
Chef Toni makes the most of her ingredients by using the entire mushroom in the burger. Talk about taste not waste! Her recommendation: “Use a blend of mushrooms like crimini and oyster so the flavor and texture are on point without overpowering the protein.”
The Reason Chef Toni Blends
“I blend because it’s sustainable, it’s better for my customers and it helps with the bottom line. especially with costs going up.” We hear you, Toni!