My experience at Best Memphis Burger Fest

I remember the first time I was asked to be a judge for Best Memphis Burger Fest like it was yesterday. I was so excited — I literally ran down the hall giddy with excitement to tell Tammy — and so nervous at the same time.

Fast forward to 2015, my third-straight year judging the Anything But Beef category, and I was still very excited at being chosen. But now, as a seasoned veteran, the nervousness was no longer there. So much so that I almost missed getting to be a judge this year.

I was enjoying myself at Burger Fest’s new location at Tiger Lane (in the shadow of the Liberty Bowl Stadium) so much that I lost track of time. If it weren’t for a coworker (Billy) saying “Didn’t you have to be there at 1:45?” I most likely would have completely forgotten.

When I saw the time (1:47) I literally ran to the judges tent and got there just in the nick of time.

url-1My precious judging spot was about to be replaced with the first able-bodied person they could find. Seriously. They were in the process of asking someone standing near the tent when they saw me sprinting their way.

Obviously, I was the last judge to arrive. I missed the speech about the judging criteria, but since I had heard it before I wasn’t worried.

Once I settled in, everyone at our table engaged in small talk as the contestants started arriving with their Anything But Beef entries. Turns out I had met one of the judges in my group during last summer’s Dish Crawls. She even remembered which one!! She also writes about food and her adventures in the Bluff City over at Loving My Memphis. Stop by and tell her JWo sent you!

Here’s a sample of what goes on inside the judge’s tent and pictures of the four burgers at my table.

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This is what the Best Memphis Burger Fest judging slips look like. (Photo from Loving My Memphis)

Inside the judge’s tent. That’s me behind the guy in the yellow shirt.

Inside the judge’s tent. That’s me behind the guy in the yellow shirt. (Photo from Memphis Flyer)

The main category (beef) is filled with local media and celebrities like Master Chef Junior winner Logan Young.

The main category (beef) is filled with local media and celebrities like Master Chef Junior winner Logan Young. (Photo from Memphis Flyer)

The burgers arrive in covered boxes and this is how they are presented to the table.

The burgers arrive in covered boxes and this is how they are presented to the table.

Some teams get creative with their presentation.

Some teams get creative with their presentation.

Others take a more simple approach.

Others use greens and veggies as garnishes to spruce up the look.

Others take a more simple approach. (Photo from Memphis Flyer)

Others take a more simple approach. (Photo from Memphis Flyer)

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A seafood patty with shrimp and crab meat, topped with corn relish.

This was prolly my favorite. It was pork-sausage mixture with caramelized onions and some incredible smoked mozzarella cheese.

This was prolly my favorite. It was pork-sausage mixture with caramelized onions and some incredible smoked mozzarella cheese.

This was my least favorite. I REALLY wanted to like it because of the apples, but the patty (pork) had very little flavor.

This was my least favorite. I REALLY wanted to like it because of the apples, but the patty (pork) had very little flavor.

I was hesitant about this option because of the bun and all of the veggies. I was expecting them to be vinegary like the giardiniera I ate in Chicagoland...

I was hesitant about this option because of the bun and all of the veggies. I was expecting them to be vinegary like the giardiniera I ate in Chicagoland…

... but I was wrong. If it weren’t for that smoked cheese, this would have been my favorite. The veggies were tossed in a sweet sauce and weren’t overly crunchy like I expected. The use of cilantro added a really fresh taste. Very well done burger.

… but I was wrong. If it weren’t for that smoked cheese, this would have been my favorite. The veggies were tossed in a sweet sauce and weren’t overly crunchy like I expected. The use of cilantro added a really fresh taste. Very well done burger.

A recently hired coworker (Derric) was actually competing with guys from his previous job and that’s where I found Tammy, Billy, and his wife Cathy when I was finished.

Team Prime Grind

Team Prime Grind. The white tent at the left is the judge’s tent.

Everyone checked out my to-go containers (I get to bring home what I don’t eat) and Tammy was raving about Derric’s Anything But Beef entry. Since his team, Prime Grind, took home the 2nd place trophy in the category last year, I figured I’d give it a shot.

2014 Anything But Trophy

The 2014 Anything But trophy.

His 2015 entry was a Greek chicken burger (ground chicken patty, with feta cheese, topped with a sriracha-tiziki sauce, in a pita). It was incredible!

Derric’s Greek chicken burger.

Derric’s Greek chicken burger. (Photo from Memphis Flyer)

He found out his entry finished 15th out of 32 and that he got the lowest scores in the appearance category because the patty stuck outside of the pita.

But all was not lost as the team Prime Grind took home 2nd place in the margarita category.

Prime Grind’s 2015 margarita trophy.

Prime Grind’s 2015 margarita trophy.

Needless to say, Tammy has been pushing me to invite Derric and his wife over so he can recreate this award-winning margarita.

Derric has also been trying to get me to join him on the competition side of things next year, either as a Prime Grind member or as our own team.

I’ve been mulling it over. And maybe, just maybe, my three-year run as a judge could be coming to an end.

I want to give a huge shout out to Seth and Tim, the founders of Best Memphis Burger Fest. They started this thing back in 2012 and it’s grown like crazy since then — this year’s version was the best yet. Seth and Tim put in countless hours prepping for this and brought in some great sponsors this year. A lot of what they do goes on behind the scenes and sometimes they may not get the appreciation they deserve. So I want to make sure they know how great everything turned out. I can’t wait to see how big Burger Fest continues to grow.

Seth and Tim playing with their meat.

Seth and Tim playing with their meat.

Follow them on Instagram @bestmemphisburger or on Twitter @BestMemBurger.

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2 Responses to My experience at Best Memphis Burger Fest

  1. Looks incredible. Now I’m starving and want that pork sausage and caramelized onion burger!

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