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.
My 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.