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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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SDSU Dining's Blended Burger Recognized

The burger placed seventh in the James Beard Foundation's “Blended Burger Project: Campus Edition” competition.
By Cory Marshall

There’s a certain sound—more than just a sizzle—synonymous with grilling a burger. There’s the initial sear when the patty hits the smoky surface, the scraping of the spatula against the grill, and—at least in the case of the culinary crew inside San Diego State University’s University Towers Kitchen (UTK)—the consistent orders that come from creating an award-winning dish.

Recently, the prestigious James Beard Foundation recognized the UTK team for their blended burger, which placed seventh in the foundation’s national “Blended Burger Project: Campus Edition” competition.

The contest, open exclusively to chefs at colleges and universities across the country, challenged contestants to create a blended burger by combining a protein of their choosing, with at least 25 percent finely chopped and freshly cultivated mushrooms.

The competition ran from Sep. 4 to Dec. 15, 2017.

“Until now, the Blended Burger Project has been a summer-long initiative for all chefs,” said Steve Solomon, foodservice director of The Mushroom Council. “The new ‘Blended Burger Project: Campus Edition’ focused solely on colleges and universities to highlight the great culinary work happening on college campuses and acknowledge that these campuses have been leaders in culinary trends and sustainable food practices. We are impressed with the level of participation and the creative blended burgers shared by leading colleges and universities across the country like San Diego State University.”

John Zamora, chef de cuisine at UTK, pulled from his background in Pacific Rim cuisine to create the unique fusion of flavors—pureeing mushrooms and onions before sautéing the mixture. Once the mushroom-onion combination is cooled, Zamora adds certified angus beef and dried Hondashi, a seasoning typically used in miso soup and other vegetable stews.

The burger is assembled on a buttery brioche bun topped with aged cheddar, shredded lettuce, Roma tomatoes, tempura sliced pickles, and finished with a roasted garlic pepper aioli.

“Participating in national culinary competitions gives us the opportunity to grow in our craft,” said Zamora. “This was truly a team effort, and as a team we feel honored to take part in the JBF burger project.”

Blended-burgers came about as a way to move toward more plant-based entrées. By reducing beef consumption, less water is used in the growing and raising of the ingredients. According to industry experts, the end result is more sustainably sound.

UTK has served the award-winning burger since the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. A popular dish, it is now a permanent menu item.