The judges had a very tough time with this year’s Nelson Star Burger Week(s) burger tasting. They agonized. They made detailed notes. They honed their taste buds to unheard-of levels of sophistication. They tried 14 burgers, all in two days, all delicious and unique, and then after much deliberation made a decision in three categories.
1. West Coast Grill
1. Cantina del Centro
2. West Coast Grill
“It was in incredible challenge,” said Len MacCharles, Nelson’s fire chief, who served as one of the judges. “Try any one of them and you will be happy, because the chefs put their heart and soul into it. Each one is an incredible creation and I mean this sincerely. If I was going to go out and have a burger now, I would be confused. They are all so good.”
Val Yowek, who runs the Nelson visitor centre, was also a burger judge and agreed with MacCharles.
“Each burger offered something very different and I loved them all but I had to decide,” she said. “In the voting, they were very close, so we had to pull in our second choices to determine the winners. The best part was the chefs when the brought out their burgers, they were very passionate about the food and what they had put together.”
The team of judges was rounded out by Chuck Bennett of Black Press, Mayor Deb Kozak, and Sgt. Dino Falcone of the Nelson Police Department.
Most Creative: The West Coast Grill (Will Johnson photo)
“The West Coast Grill’s burger was extremely creative,” MacCharles said. “The chef has an East Indian background and brought that cooking knowledge to the burger with a really nice use of 13 different spices.”
Yowek loved the spices too.
“He used cooking techniques that he learned from his mother in India. He put his heart into it. The burger also came with a mint cilantro yogurt dipping sauce with a lemon squeeze. The fresh taste of the sauce complemented that Indian spices of the burger. The burger left your palate with many exotic tastes, none overwhelming or too spicy.”
Best Presentation: Cantina del Centro (Will Johnson photo)
MacCharles was a big fan of the winner in the best presentation category, Cantina del Centro.
“The chef came out and did a very nice presentation, explained how it was a traditional Mexican street vendor burger. It was fun, you could hold the burger in one hand and drink beer with the other. There were little deep fried wafers in there as well. It was a burger with flair. It had a pickled pepper standing on the top of it, looking like a sail.”
As for Finley’s entry that won for best tasting burger, Yowek said “The highlights were the goat cheese and beets, and the aioli was very tasty. He had crispy prosciutto that added amazing texture.”
MacCharles agreed, saying “The chef went to great lengths to match or pair everything well. It was very simple yet good flavour. The garnish and condiments each had their own distinct flavour and texture that when combined made a very great tasting burger.”
Best Tasting: Finley’s (Will Johnson photo)
In his interview with the Star, MacCharles said he had an exclusive news scoop for us, namely that “in a previous life I was a Red Seal chef.” He explained that from 1978 to 1981 he worked as a chef and ran a catering business for six years after that.
He said people are more sophisticated about food, including simple things like burger buns, than when he was in the business.
“Today people know what a good bun is. We experienced this in our tasting: a number of brioche buns, pretzel buns, an in-house made bun, so the quality of the bun made a difference, whereas years ago it would be all the same bun.”
Yowek was impressed by the creativity displayed by all of the Nelson chefs.
“Between each burger the judges enjoyed tasting things like mango chutney, organic beef from Creston and Pemberton, flambé burgers sprayed with Jack Daniels, Nelson Brewing Company beer cheese, red wine au jus dipping sauce, beet root and goat cheese, maple bacon, dried fruit, secret burger sauce, homemade buns, veal, lamb, chorizo beef burgers, Indian oven roasted spices.
“Gourmet cheeses of various varieties were used, mushrooms pastes, aioli sauces, caramelized onions, arugula, cilantro and many other fine fresh ingredients. It was very hard for each of us to decide which burger to vote for as all burgers were different and unique in every way.”
Public online voting for their favourite burger in Nelson Star Burger Week runs until Saturday at nelsonstar.com under the contests tab. Voters will be entered into a draw, and the winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to all 14 of the participating restaurants.