St. Norbert's smoky burger hits national stage
DE PERE - Bring on the Lodi Dodi Smoke Burger.
Two St. Norbert College employees have cooked their way into the James Beard Foundation's 2017 Blended Burger Project competition.
"This is a really big deal," said Benjamin Sauer, assistant head chef for St. Norbert College's catering department. "We are very excited."
The James Beard Blended Burger Project challenges chefs to create a unique recipe for a healthier, more sustainable burger using meat blended with mushrooms. The trick is to craft a burger that has fewer calories and less sodium, but still tastes great.
Sauer and events manager Amanda Beck teamed up earlier this year to compete against fellow staff members in a campus competition that mirrored the standards of the Blended Burger Competition.
The duo's recipe calls for a whole beef brisket ground with grilled portabella and roasted crimini mushrooms. It's served on a black sesame seed studded brioche bun with smoked sun-dried tomato and cherry chutney, melted smoked Gouda, pickled red onions and crispy honey garlic seasoned sweet potato straws.
Their Lodi Dodi burger recipe won 38 percent of the student vote during the college's contest, and Sauer and Beck are now representing St. Norbert College in the official Blended Burger competition.
Nearly 200 teams have entered the competition. Five teams will be selected by online voters to advance to the final competition in New York, where they will cook their burgers at the Beard House.
"We do have some stiff competition," Beck said. "But we're passionate and confident about what we came up with."
The "Lodi Dodi" was in 13th place Friday afternoon. Sauer and Beck are hoping that will change soon. Online voting will be open through July 31. Individuals are able to vote once every 24 hours at https://www.jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject/vote.
"It would be really awesome to make St. Norbert a name on a national scale," Sauer said. "To be little old De Pere, Wisconsin, a college of 2,000 students, and be known for this competition for a great tasting burger among some of the best chefs out there, that recognition would be great. Pure joy."
Trial and error
It took about three weeks for the team to get the recipe just right — or as Beck joked, "far too long."
"It was kind of nerve-wracking because we didn't really have a theme going into this," Sauer said. "I just knew that I wanted a crunchy and smoky component and she wanted a hint of fruit . . . I think all of those things worked out really well together."
The two said the trial and error was perhaps the most fun part about the competition thus far.
The only tweak they made to the recipe heading into the nationwide competition was swapping sweet potato peels for sweet potato straws. The peels fulfill a requirement at St. Norbert's initial competition that the recipe includes an ingredient that otherwise would have been tossed into the trash.
And the name?
First off, it's pronounced "La-dee, da-dee," and yes, it's the title of a song by Snoop Dogg, the rapper whose work often celebrates his use of marijuana.
“It’s not that the song is great or that we necessarily like what’s sung or the message,” Beck said. The name, she said, is just a play on the burger's smoke flavor — something that adds a little comedy to the recipe.
“And we just liked the way the name sounded.”
About the competition
The James Beard Foundation celebrates the accomplishments of the late James Beard, a chef who championed American cuisine. The foundation focuses on culinary education as well as honoring chefs and other leaders in the culinary industry for making America's food culture more sustainable, diverse and delicious.