A New Burger King Emerges Triumphant at SUPERBURGER

This year’s SUPERBURGER wasn’t so much a Burger Bloodbath, as it was formerly known, but more than a few chins were glistening in the mid-afternoon Montauk sun, anointed as they were with plenty of sweet, sweet burger nectar. My chin included. 

Standing in a fenced off section of lawn on Star Island, feet from the Mega Yacht docks of the Montauk Yacht Club, was to be in a microcosm of the perfect summer get-together: lithe, long-legged beauties accompanied bottomless taps of Amstel Light and Amstel Wheat; games of ping (or beer) pong popped up at branded tables; and the pervasive aromas of hot coals suffused with the sizzling scent of ground meat drippings wafted gently through the air. This is how outdoor grilling is meant to be. 

Despite the fact that all were present to witness or to partake in what was to be a competition between masters of the culinary craft, very little about the event carried that charged, emotionally volatile atmosphere that comes with your standard cook-off. All the chefs were focused, no doubt, but affable and genuinely having a great time talking with friends and fans alike. 

“What more could I want?” said a smiling Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly of the West Village’s Fedora. “I’m here with friends, and this is a good balance between work and play. We’re just here to have fun. Winning is just, whatever. It’s not about that.”

Then what was it all about, I found myself asking. Is it just about standing around on a beautiful summer day, pushing yourself to consume as many insanely delicious meat-bun-condiment concoctions within a three-hour period? Well, as it turns out, yeah pretty much.

“The goal is to celebrate summer and have some good burgers,” said event organizer and progenitor Ben Leventhal, who first started the event six summers ago. “It’s a fun thing to bring the best of these great chefs together and watch them do something different. I think this is by far the strongest field we’ve ever had. The average quality of these burgers is very, very high. These are at least eights and nines, all of them.” 

Even head judge Kate Krader from Food & Wine magazine was smitten by the entrees. “So far, three years in, this is the best year ever,” she opined, speaking between bites into a heavily greased microphone.

The tune of the day seemed to be sticking to tradition, with each chef adding at least one personal twist to their creations, ranging from the somewhat simple (bacon grease for Jesse Gerstein and Dan Aldworth) to the innovative (chorizo and refried beans on Alex Stupak’s Mexican Hamburguesa) to the off-the-beaten path (Zak Pelaccio’s Lamb Burger). The judges were apparently looking to see who could best capture the essence of the consummate ‘Beach Burger,’ which the crowd and myself were blissfully unaware of until the very end. 

For my money, the absolute standouts were Pelaccio’s lamb burger (or lamburger, as it is pronounced à la mode Parisien) with Lady Jayne’s barrel-aged worcestershire sauce, sheep’s milk cheese, salted chilies, and aioli; PJ Calapa’s Butterfly Burger, which came straight to Montauk via Texas with French’s yellow mustard, white American cheese, and, hands-down, the best buttery, toasty bun in the game; and Stupak’s La Hamburguesa, a short rib patty with chorizo, refried beans, Chihuahua cheese and lime mayonnaise. 

Alas, I am no burger judge, and those select few saw things differently. Perhaps my judgment was clouded by Momofuku’s Christina Tosi’s Grasshopper Pie with basil mint foam, or merely by the fact I was unable to take one bite of each burger and throw the rest away for fear of hurting feelings or receiving a reprimand for wasting food. But when the judges cast their lot, the cards fell as followed:

Rated on a 100-point scale, with the points awarded as the judges see fit, first place was decided by a margin of only .4 points while third was a mere 1.2 points behind second; margins that are, as judge Josh Capon so eloquently phrased it, "very small numbers.”

Third place with 82 points was last year’s runners-up Jesse Gerstein and Dan Aldworth, one of two amateur groups in the event. Second place came in at 82.4 and was Harold Moore of Commerce.

And the winner of the Amstel Light SUPERBURGER Trophy and a spot in the New York City or Miami Food and Wine Festival was Seamus Mullen of Tertulia with his Hamburguesa Ligeramente Ahumada; a lightly smoked beef burger topped with smoked American cheddar, caramelized onion jam, and nora pepper ketchup. It was, to be sure, a most excellent burger; the first one I sampled, in fact, and more than worthy to bear the savory mantle of SUPERBURGER. 

Up In Your Grill: The Annual Burger Bloodbath Heats Up the Hamptons

Saturday’s Hamptons Burger Bloodbath, founded by former Eater editor Ben Leventhal (who is currently executive editor of The Feast), was one of the season’s juiciest tickets. On a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon, at a gorgeous Gilt City Hamptons House off Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton, bloodthirsty guests gathered to watch eight chefs, some of whom are noted professionals, go grill-to-grill to construct the “ideal beach burger,” which was this year’s theme.

In the sprawling backyard, eight grill stations were set up, four on each side of the pool. At the gazebo, a station serving ice cold beer. It was going to be a fun day. The only rule was that each chef had to use ingredients sourced from, or available on the East End. Judges included Lee Brian Schrager, Kate Krader, Marc Murphy, and Pat LaFrieda. They got to taste entries from Michael White, who created an aged beef patty with white American cheese, and a olive and mustard sauce on a potato bun, as well as from Wylie Dufresne, used ground wagu chuck and short rib patties with homemade American cheese on a potato bun, with a wedge of homemade pine-flavored pickled green tomato on the side. Jesse Gertstein submitted a bacon American cheeseburger with homemade spicy jalepeno pickle chips. Preston and Ginger Madson, of Peels fame, used a pimento cheese sauce with country ham and iceberg lettuce, on a beef patty with a potato roll. Marc Vidal from Boqeria concocted a chorizo burger with roasted and smoked onions in sherry vinegar, heirloom tomatoes, bibb lettuce and a Spanish cheese called Mahon on a brioche roll. Zach Chodorow used a beef patty with a special sauce, American cheese, onions, dill pickles and bacon on a potato bun, and Josh Ozersky made a “Puritan Burger” with beef, American cheese, onion, and a potato bun. But they weren’t strong enough to defeat the offering from Mo Koyfman, a venture capitalist from Manhattan and the defending champ, who took home the prize again on Saturday. The winning burger included shredded lettuce, melted yellow American cheese, a huge slice of a Vicki’s Veggies homegrown red tomato, Nana’s bread and butter pickles (which Mo says helped him win last year and which I actually make), a secret sauce, and an 8 oz. beef burger, on a toasted Martin’s potato hamburger bun, proving that sometimes, the simplest burger is the best burger.