The flavors of Southeast Asia always appealed to Erin Evenson.
One evening, she left her Brooklyn, New York apartment, and took the 7 train to the Woodside neighborhood in Queens, New York to visit her favorite Thai restaurant where she indulged in an amazing fried watercress salad. That trip ultimately changed her life and made her $100,000 richer.
Evenson says watercress was the inspiration behind her 7 Train Caramelized Green Curry Burger with Crispy Watercress Salad, Roasted Cashews, and Minted Basil Aioli, which took the grand prize in the recent Build a Better Burger competition, sponsored by Sutter Home.
Evenson, who has no formal chef training, said she had no fear of messing up when began experimenting with different ingredients for her winning burger. “You have to be willing to go through about 10 or 20 things that don’t work, and then you finally find that one thing that just works” she says.
Her recipe was selected by a panel of expert judges from 10 finalist recipes, and thousands of submissions. The annual challenge is open to chefs of all levels, and finalists compete for a grand prize of $100,000 for the best beef burger.
Evenson's winning burger may sound complicated to make at home, but she promises it is not. “If you just work through it and get each of the elements together ahead of time, it comes together rather quickly and easily,” she says.
Mark Richardson of Snohomish, Wash. took the prize for Best Alternative Burger and won $15,000 for his Indian Lamb Burger. The People’s Choice Award Burgers were The Grilled Green Tomato Burger from three-time finalist Mark Pyne of Troy, Ala. and the Better than Breakfast in Bed Burger from Kim Jones of Bloomington, Ill., selected by the cook-off attendees.