MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — When Ryan Horst brought a piece of Korea to Martinsburg, W.Va., last summer, it was a big hit.
Horst's Korean-inspired shrimp burger won the Grand Champion award at last year's Big Bad Burger Contest.
"He won by a landslide," said event coordinator Selina Meehleib, "He won the judges' vote and the crowd vote."
This year's Big Bad Burger Contest will be held Saturday, June 11, in the Martinsburg Mall parking lot, and all proceeds from the event will benefit the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic. Admission at the gate is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Contestants pay a $50 entry fee and can enter their burger in either the Beef or Alternative category.
Horst, 29, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a former Army specialist, said he discovered shrimp burgers when he was stationed in Korea. He said that he immediately liked the shrimp burger because it was very flavorful but not as spicy as other Korean foods. But when he returned to the States he could not find shrimp burgers, nor could he find a recipe that successfully re-created them.
"I ended up making my own recipe to most accurately represent the burger in Korea," he said.
Horst said his Crispy Korean Shrimp Burger is prepared similar to a crab cake and served on crunchy Vienna rolls, which are very similar to the buns used in Korea.
Horst said he only entered his burger after some prodding by his friends, but this year he needs no extra encouragement.
"I will be there again, defending my title with the exact same recipe," he said.
He won't only have bragging rights, but a chance to walk away with the $1,000 cash prize, which is awarded to the grand champion. Awards will also be given to the first and second place burgers in each category.
"It's like a big backyard barbecue, (but) in a parking lot at the mall," said Stacie Rohn, a clinic representative.
Meehleib said about 20 contestants have registered, and registration will remain open until the mandatory contestants' meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 9. She said about 1,000 people attended last year's event.
Meehleib said the contest has seen is a very broad range of burger styles in the past two years.
"One of the most interesting burgers we ever had was last year," she said, "It was called a ‘Air and Sea Burger.'"
Meehleib said that the Air and Sea Burger patty was made from a mixture of ground duck and chicken and it was stuffed with imperial crab meat.
She said past entries have included an apple butter barbecue pork burger, an Aloha Chicken Burger with grilled pineapple and sweet barbecue sauce, and a turkey burger with apple slices on brioche bread.
"One of the quirky ones we had was a pot roast burger," said Meehleib, "It was topped with pureed carrots and mashed potatoes. Let me tell you, you needed a knife and fork to eat that one!"
The first year, an Italian-themed burger took the top prize. Meehleib said the burger was topped with grilled scallions, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella and served on ciabatta bread.
Rohn said contestants will prepare their burgers on location during the event, and electricity is provided by a sponsor.
"One burger goes to a panel of judges and they judge blindly, which means that the judges don't know who made the burger," she said, adding that the contestants also prepare burgers for the crowd to sample. Because of the size of the crowd, Meehleib said contestants usually prepare about 25 pounds of meat during the event.
Judges critique the burgers based on the burger's taste, creativity of the recipe, ease of preparation, and presentation, Meehleib said .
"Half of the score comes from the judges, and the other half comes from the crowd," she said.
Meehleib said attendees will be given a ticket that allows them to sample each burger, and tickets to vote for their favorite burgers. Each attendee will receive votes equal to the number of entries, and can use them as they choose. Attendees can also purchase extra votes.
In addition to the burger-tasting, beverages will be available for purchase, and there will be an amateur band showcase, kids zone and beer garden.
6 pounds ground beef
3 tablespoon fresh garlic
3 tablespoon Italian spice blend
2 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
1 pound mozzarella cheese
1 pound provolone cheese
Fresh basil leaves
24 green onions, sliced thin
1 large jar of roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups of mayonnaise
Mix first four ingredients and shape into rectangular patties. Grill to 160 degrees on medium heat. Grill onions until clear, basil until lightly charred and focaccia bread until it gets a nice grill marks. Top the burger with slices of mozzarella and provolone slices. In separate bowl, mix drained red peppers into mayonnaise. Assemble burger by spreading mayonnaise on bread. Place burger on bread. Top with onions, basil and bun.
— Courtesy of Cindy Jenkins
2 Granny Smith apples
5 pounds of ground pork
1/2 cup fresh basil
Pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
4 tablespoons Legg's Old Plantation Seasoning
Brown sugar for rub
White sharp cheddar cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Fry bacon, set aside. Grate apples, reserving a slice for each burger. Make patties by mixing pork, grated apples, basil, pepper, garlic powder, and Legg's seasoning. Rub brown sugar on the outside of each patty and grill. Dip apple slices in extra virgin olive oil and grill. Spread apple butter on Kaiser roll and then grill, apple butter side down, until brown. Top burger patty with apple slice, bacon and cheese.
— Courtesy of The Church of Martinsburg
If you go ...
What: Big Bad Burger Contest
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 11
Where: Martinsburg Mall, 800 Foxcroft Ave., Martinsburg, W.Va. Meet in parking Lot, near the golf course entrance
Cost: $7 adults, $2 children in advance; $10 adults, $5 children at the gate
Contact: Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, 304-724-6091, ext. 228
More: To register go to www.bigbadburger.blogspot.com