As we strolled out of Burger Bash among throngs of 3,500 or so people — “Our largest crowd ever!” gushed host Rachael Ray — a guard asked, “Did you vomit?”
Burger Bash, one of the Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s signature events on the sands outside Lincoln Road’s Ritz Carlton on Friday night certainly proved an excuse to overindulge.
About 30 restaurants showcased their most creative burgers and competed to win top honors from a series of celebrity judges that included music producer Emilio Estefan, sportscaster Jill Martin and Run-D.M.C’s Rev Run. Chefs also jostled to win the highest honor, a people’s choice award voted on by the folks who spent $250 a ticket to feast on all that meat. Sponsor Heineken Light popped open 10,000 bottles of cold brew to wash it all down, according to spokeswoman Lisa Cannellos.
Twelve votes out of 2,000 cast by the public separated the three finalists — with the two runners-up differentiated by one vote, an incredulous Ray said from the stage.
At the end, JR’s Gourmet Burgers of Miami Springs won the night’s coveted Heineken Light People’s Choice Award. Chef Jesus de la Torre Jr. won for his “That Guy’s Burger,” a beaut featuring a seasoned Angus patty, cream cheese and guava ketchup tucked between two slices of white bread, all wrapped in bacon.
Burger Bash presenter Schweid & Sons’ The Very Best Burger Award went to Little Jack’s Tavern from Charleston, South Carolina for its slider-sized burger drenched in gooey American cheese and served with herb French fries.
South Florida returned to the winner’s circle with the Red Robin Best of the Bash award going to Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox from Deerfield Beach. The eatery, which also has a Boca Raton location, won for its $13 Marmaduke burger. No mutt, this one. The Marmaduke is a chuck and brisket blend with bacon and fig chutney, melted brie, shaved red onions and arugula served with a side of jalapeño bacon mac and cheese.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews also announced the winner of its Golden Robin Award. The $10,000 scholarship prize went to The 305 Burger, submitted by Florida International University chemistry major Given Suman. The competition is part of an annual partnership between burger chain Red Robin, the festival and FIU’s Chaplin School.