Yesterday as dusk turned to night, 27 chefs gathered on a strip of sand in South Beach to wage war, medium rare. It was the fourth annual Burger Bash, hosted by Rachael Ray, who sauntered around the tent surrounded by four large men in black suits with earpieces. The tent filled with smoke and the smell of blood on the grill.
As in bashes past, defending champion Spike Mendelsohn was there with poor hot, nearly naked girls shivering in the Miami night. This year, Jeffrey Chodorow jumped on the lady train, too, planting a shivering scantily clad lady next to his “beach burger.” To be fair, there was also a shivering topless man there, too. The girls helped neither.
The evening came down to competing ideologies. The judges — expert, urbane, and mostly arrived that day from New York — chose a burger that would happily feed New York’s hunger for culinary simplicity. Michael Schwartz, representing Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami, cooked what he said was “the perfect bacon cheeseburger.” It was as pared down as a bacon cheeseburger could be: house-smoked bacon, white Cheddar, heirloom tomato, and local lettuce on a homemade brioche bun. He took home the Golden Grill Award.
Cleveland’s Michael Symon won the People’s Choice award for understanding that his audience was filled with transplanted New York Jews. Symon’s burger, the Fat Doug, was awash with Swiss, pastrami, and coleslaw — a half-burger, half-Reuben chimera that channeled Katz’s Delicatessen while still technically being a burger. Symon’s margin of Victory, said Ray, was Bush v. Gore slim.
View our slideshow to see a sampler of the burgers and their chefs.