Thousands flocked to Rachael Ray's Burger Bash at the New York City Wine & Food Festival tonight to try 27 of the best burgers New York City has to offer. With all those flipping patties, there were bound to be some repetitive features. From bacon condiments (yes, you heard right!) to Eastern-influenced burgers, one thing's for certain: burger makers are thinking outside the bun.
- Don't even bother with chicken burgers. When asked by an audience member why her chicken burgers never turn out quite right, Flay had a simple, definitive answer: "Don't make them!" Ground chicken breast doesn't work: it's too rubbery and dry. Instead, he offers customers a chicken breast sandwich and turkey burgers to satisfy those in need of a poultry fix.
Andrew Zimmern's got a show on the Travel Channel, a food truck, a wife and kids, a new book, nearly a dozen partnerships, and a place on Anthony Bourdain's new book tour. But for a culinary personality juggling so many projects, he's got a surprisingly laid-back attitude about it all. Case in point: at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, hours before competing in a volleyball tournament, appearing living on Sirius Radio, and judging the festival's Burger Bash, he was sunning shirtless by the pool at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel with friend and fellow chef Michael White. Before burgers but after volleyball, we had a chance to catch up with the TV host when he was at a kickoff event for his new partnership with travel company Traterra.
PopSugar: What have you been up to in South Beach thus far?
Andrew Zimmern: Last night I went to the Q; I had my son with me, and kids weren't allowed in, so we played tag on the beach and smelled barbecue. It was just as good. Today I did a volleyball tournament: my team — the old, fat men — won the tournament, which was just unbelievable. I have this event with Traterra. I believe strongly in what they're trying to do: to bring real travel, not tourism, to everyone. I'm judging Burger Bash tonight. We have a system so you don't have to eat all 34 [burgers]. You divide them, and everybody takes [a flight], and you rate your top two or three, and then everybody tastes them again. The aggregate is you're only eating 16 burgers, or something like that. It's a good system: I judged it [in previous years] when you had to eat all 22. It was terrible. Talk about the meat sweats! We'll go to some fun afterparties tonight. Tomorrow, I'm doing my kids event out in Jungle Island, which is wonderful: it's cooking healthy food with kids. I make them laugh, and we have a good time. I get more out of it than my kid, I'm sure. I've got my event on Sunday, Trucks in the City. We've taken over a corner of the [Miami] Design District, and we're putting 24 of the best trucks from town in one place, and we having a great truck meet-up. And my truck is there, AZ Canteen.
Keep reading for more on what's next for Zimmern.
How do you pick a favorite older brother? That's kind of how it feels to choose a winning burger between the likes of Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon at Burger Bash. As Rachael Ray promised, this year's event had the most competing patties of any Burger Bash — 34, to be exact — and festivalgoers were obliged to make a Sophie's choice of sorts to pick the winner.
We didn't get around to trying all 30-plus burgers, so we can't confidently say that one was best. Attendees seemed to have a favorite — Bobby Flay took home the People's Choice Award and Jeff Mauro the Judges' Choice Award — but we did select seven burgers to showcase as our favorites of the night. Read on to get inspired — and hungry.
On judging Burger Bash: As a judge who's trying to remain unbiased, Zakarian doesn't believe in favorites or front-runner bias. When judging burgers, he pulls the patty out of the burger to taste the beef unadorned. "I want to taste the beef first — I don't care what they put on it," he says.
On advice for those new to an event like Burger Bash: The Iron Chef suggests trying first-timers new to the competition first over legendary names; sometimes they provide a new, unexpected perspective.
See what's in the pipeline for him when you keep reading.
We sat down with Rachael Ray just before she took the stage to announce the coveted People's Choice Award. She shared her thoughts on South Beach versus Miami, patty purists, and how she manages to taste all those burgers.
PopSugar: So how many Burger Bashes has this been for you?
Rachael Ray: Seven.
PS: What's different and what's new this year?
RR: Nothing's new about our event, except it gets bigger every year. What I love about our event is that I think it really embodies what I love about food: everybody's welcome, and it's for everyone. Whatever your skill level, whether you're rich or poor, young or old, good food should be for everybody. That's why you see the world's greatest chefs coming out and putting their souls between the buns.
PS: How many burgers are in the running at this year's event?
PS: Is that the most you've ever had?
RR: It's the largest number of entries, yeah. It's the biggest we've ever had — it grows every year.
Find out if she's really eating 34 burgers when you keep reading.
Friday night at the New York City Wine & Food Festival saw the return of Rachael Ray's biannual Burger Bash. With 3,000 people in attendance, it was the biggest Burger Bash ever held in New York. "They worked their patties off to give you thousands of patties!" Rachael reminded the crowd.
No doubt Burger Bash was hard work all around, as partygoers sampled 28 different pieces of beef. We couldn't tackle 'em all, but did notice a wide range of beefy buns from perfectly cooked to poorly executed. See what worked (and what didn't).
Photo: Anna Monette Roberts
Brick cheese spread
Give the burger a further nod to nostalgic Americana by adding creamy, dreamy brick cheese spread. Keep it honest and go for one made by one of Wisconsin's cheese artisans, like Abe & Arthur's did.
Bacon mixed into the beef patty
Tons of restaurants were doing this, from Shake Shack to Chicago's NoMI Kitchen (served with a spiked watermelon slice, no less!). We were most fond of applewood-smoked bacon coarsely chopped into the beef patty, then served with cherry pepper relish, as seen in Danny Meyer's SmokeShack burger.
Without a doubt, the biggest event at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival is Rachael Ray's annual Burger Bash. The event was bigger and badder than ever, with 32 burgers from top restaurants and chefs across the country. It was also incredibly loud, hot, sweaty, sandy, and chaotic; frankly, we're not sure how we survived it. But we did eat some stellar burgers: read on to see who served what, and — of course — who won the coveted Burger Bash prizes!
Day two of the New York City Wine & Food Festival has just wrapped, and I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed to survive one of the weekend's flagship events, the Burger Bash. This year's fête, which was hosted by comedienne Whoopi Goldberg (regular host Rachael Ray was out of the country on vacation), featured 21 different burgers, mostly from the New York area. Not only did I manage to survive the impressively big bovine lineup, but I came out on top: nearly ever contender I bit into was so creative that it left me with a takeaway that's guaranteed to make me a better burger builder, too. See the burgers — and their best takeaways — when you keep clicking.