Lafayette advertising executive George Graham's Bluesiana Burgers were first runner-up in the Sutter Home Build A Better Burger competition in Napa Valley, Calif., this past weekend. Graham clearly gave $50,000 grand prize winner Kristine Synder of Hawaii a run for her money. His burgers, which feature a root beer glaze, topped with zydeco sauce and Mardi Gras slaw, were inched out by Snyder's Hawaii Da Kine Burgers with sweet-chili glaze, ginger-goat cheese spread, and hot watercress salad. A newcomer to food competition, Graham was the sole male in this year's contest; Snyder is a veteran, having won the BBB grand prize in 2001.
Graham piqued the judges' interest with his mix of regional ingredients like Tabasco and Steen's molasses, and when they asked why he used rootbeer instead of cola, George informed them that sassafras is a staple around Louisiana.
Graham says the competition was stiff and that he knew going into it any one of the five finalists could have easily walked away with the grand prize. But he's still on a high just to have been plucked from a field of 9,000 entries in the 18-year-old national competition. "The execution of my recipe in the three-hour timeline went off flawlessly," he wrote in an e-mail yesterday. "I have no regrets on the final burgers I delivered to the judges. Although it was an intense day with Food Network filming my every move and microphones in my face for commentary as I cooked, I remained calm during the whole process. I guess all those practice sessions in Lafayette paid off."
Before he took off last week, Graham said his primary goal was to represent Louisiana with a burger that would make the state proud on this respected national scene. "You'll have to wait until the Food Network Challenge Build A Better Burger begins airing around March 2009 to see if I delivered on that objective," he said.
For more on the competition and photos of the judging, click here. Check back with The INDsider for an update on the Food Network's plans to air the burger competition.