Detroit, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, RochesterAugust 28, 2012
Burger Brawl names winners at inaugural event
By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer
The grills were hot, but the competition was even hotter Aug. 25 as the first ever Detroit Burger Brawl took place in Detroit’s Eastern Market.
Fifteen restaurants from around the area met in front of Fairway Packing Co., which sponsored the event, to duke it out in front of an all-star panel of judges to see which burger would be named the best in Detroit. Employing everything from secret sauces to unique grinds, the competitors grilled up burgers as a packed crowd of spectators cheered them on.
The restaurants competed in five heats to separate chefs from different areas. The chefs each had a limited amount of time in front of three massive grills to create their award-winning burgers. As fans and the judges looked on, Fox Sports personality Ken Daniels grilled the cooks while they were preparing their masterpieces.
One by one, chefs set their creations in front of the judges, who tasted each one and scored them based on categories such as taste, style, dressing and more. Restaurateur Luciano Del Signore, who owns the popular Southfield restaurants Bacco Ristorante and Pizzeria Biga, said he was excited to be chosen as one of the esteemed adjudicators.
“Fairway has been my meat packer for 25 years. I’m happy to be on the judges panel,” said Del Signore, who said he might not be opposed to getting behind the grill himself for a future brawl.
Sitting alongside Del Signore were other local celebrities, including Chuck Bennett of the Detroit News, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Detroit Red Wings zamboni driver “Octopus” Al Sobotka.
Though the judges were busy doing all the eating, spectators were doing all the cheering as they watched people from their favorite restaurants man the grill. Andy Gillett of Bloomfield Hills said he enjoyed watching what all of the different competitors brought to the table.
“It’s cool to see all the restaurants you would normally go to one at a time, all in one place,” he said. “I like hamburgers, and it’s just something different to do on a Saturday.”
Even the hard-working chefs were able to appreciate the festive environment, despite being behind the grills as temperatures climbed to near 90 degrees. Chef Michael Little of Birmingham’s Café Via said he had fun building his specialty burger for the judges, which included a blend of chuck, brisket and rib-eye grinds combined with onions, bacon and barbecue sauce, topped with an array of accoutrements, including Dubliner cheese, Fresno chilies and house-made bread-and-butter pickles.
“Look at it out here. It’s a beautiful day, we’ve got everybody out to the market,” he said, taking a torch to his burgers in order to perfectly toast the Irish cheddar on top. “Today’s easy. This is fun.”
Chef Travis Waynick took to the grill to create a burger to represent Detroit Prime, which will open its new restaurant in Farmington Hills Aug. 31. He said he’s excited to see such a traditionally casual meal get so much buzz in the local culinary scene.
“(Detroit Prime) is going to reinvent the steakhouse. We’re not focused on the tenderloin or the porterhouse. We’re going to have off-cuts, which keep the price down for you and for us,” he said. “It’s what foodies want to eat. It’s what I was raised on because we didn’t have a lot of money, and now it’s trendy.”
Alas, there could only be one winner. Though restaurants like Chapman’s Mill of Rochester Hills and Mt. Chalet of Royal Oak took the titles of Most Creative, and Motor City Casino grabbed Most Stylish, it was Birmingham’s Townhouse Bistro that was named the champion.
“It’s great,” exclaimed chef Jay Gundy as he received his title of Best Burger in Detroit 2012.
He added that though his winning burger was created exclusively for the event, hungry burger fans can grab a similar version at the restaurant in downtown Birmingham.
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