Top Five Takeaways from Culinary Fight Club

Culinary Fight Club: gourmet and flavor-packed burgers created by Chicago-based chefs in an outdoor cook-off? I’m in! And you should be too, if only for the inspiration (and bites!).

Culinary Fight Club

Culinary Fight Club – The Blended Burger Battle, Chicago, IL

You guys, I had an absolute blast at the exciting, up close & personal, dynamic event, Culinary Fight Club. Picture this: 4 local chefs, 4 unique burgers, 60 minutes and 1 taster’s choice (read: you get to try all the delicious entries).  Unlike other beloved food festivals or restaurants, Culinary Fight Club allows you to witness every part of the creation and cooking process from the pros: planning, prepping, mixing, grilling and plating.

Wide eyed and bushy tailed, I stopped at each tent, taking notes on the chefs’ individual techniques, eagerly chatting with my date about what the ingredients were developing into: is that pimento cheese? Is the avocado going on top of the burger or on the plate? What is he going to do with all those mushrooms? And the best part?: seeing the blended burgers come together and tasting the sloppy goodness of each bite.  And then, bringing the inspiration to my own kitchen.

Culinary Fight Club

Top Five Takeaways from Culinary Fight Club for your own kitchen.

1. Do not underestimate the power of the burger and corn combo.

Chef Steve Singer from Knife & Tine created my all time favorite burger of the night: a stacked number made with a corn, mayo and cheddar mix, roasted tomato sauce and mushrooms. The sweet of the corn was a perfect mix with this meaty sandwich.  At home, I’d try a Corn Jalapeño Salsa on top, roasted corn mash or, take a page out of Steve’s (genius) book, and mix corn with pimento cheese.  Then broil it before the placing the top bun.

Culinary Fight Club

2. Whatever you do, don’t forget to season.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but all three judges at the event commented on the necessity of seasoning right.  I always do the staple salt and pepper, but the winning burgers were seasoned with paprika or Worcestershire (which will totally add extra juiciness of your meat).  And we couldn’t stop raving about the flavor.

3. Even though I love my burger loaded with toppings, the minimalist option will blow you away (as it did to me).

The winner of the Culinary Fight Club night came from Chef Darren McGraw of Ampersand Wine Bar and he killed it! Perfectly seasoned burger, mayo aioli, lettuce, pickles and avocado.  The minimal flavors allowed the taste of the burger to really stand out, the aioli added some richness and the avocado/pickle was the only topping I needed. Looking for an aioli at home? Try the aioli from Skinny Wraps with Lemon Garlic Aioli or Skinny Wraps with Horseradish Aioli.

Culinary Fight Club

4. The square bun.

I’ll be honest, I never would have thought about this! Are you the burger-lover that thinks there is too much bun and not enough meat? Or do you toss the bun because it’s just too much bread and you can’t fit your toppings? Regardless, Chef Darren knows how it’s done.  He placed his burger on a square bun by cutting off the corners.  This allowed the burger to line up directly with the bun so that there was no excess bread taking all the attention.  Done and done.

5.   Looking for burger variety? Try some mushrooms!

Every exceptional burger that we tried had to include mushrooms (in the burger itself), as a Culinary Fight Club/James Beard Burger project rule. And it was awesome. Some chefs even topped their burger with mushrooms as well. It is a healthier option, that also brings a welcomed earthiness to the burger.  I can’t wait to try at home by swapping 25% of the protein to minced mushrooms.

Culinary Fight Club

(Pictured below: setting up for plating, roasting corn and peppers for topping and me, loving burger town.)

Thank you to the Culinary Fight Club team for putting on such a fun show!  Even after the delish experience, Culinary Fight Club exclusively gives back to Fight2Feed, an organization that partners restaurants and food trucks to support hungry men, women and children in our communities. Go, CFC!

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Thanks for reading, loves. Cheers!

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  1. So much fun trying these with you!! I need to go to Ampersand – I know the burger from the challenge isn’t on the menu but everything else must be delicious too!

  2. This write up is awesome! My favorite was creative conecepts with the bacon jam.. but ampersand was a close second!


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