A little over a month ago was the inaugural Best Memphis Burger Fest. For the first time ever, 21 local restaurant chefs, BBQ teams and grill master hobbyists went head to head to see who had the Best Memphis Burger. With over 60 burgers entered and judged, it was an amazing display of grilling talent competing for a title that until this day only existed on paper at the Memphis Flyer. For one group of burger enthusiasts calling themselves I Like Big Burgers and I Can Not Lie, this day was different. When all the names were called and awards handed out, they were the team holding the trophy and title of Best Memphis Burger Fest Grand Champion. Additionally, they also won $500 in cash, a Golden Ticket to the World Food Championships in Las Vegas and a one week spot for their burger on the menu of Kooky Canuck restaurant.
In the days immediately following Burger Fest, team I Like Big Burgers decided they would take that Golden Ticket all the way to Las Vegas and show the world what a Best Memphis Burger is all about. The only problem was that the Golden Ticket to the World Food Championships didn’t include travel, accommodations, entree fees or food costs. With partial sponsorships secured from Grill Grates and Shoemaker Financial, the team went to see Shawn Danko, the owner of Kooky Canuck. I didn’t get the details of the sponsorship, but team I Like Big Burgers was now Team Kooky Canuck and heading to Vegas. This move by Danko further increased his chances for victory in Las Vegas as he was already on his way to compete with his BBQ team out of London, Ontario, Black Pig BBQ.
The World Food Championships hosted by Adam Richman, featured approximately 350 teams in seven categories (burger, chili, sandwich, recipe, side dish, BBQ, & top chef) with the winners of each division competing at a final table of seven going head to head with their winning dishes. The competition took place at Ballys Casino with the final table event in front of Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas strip. Celebrity judges included Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), Chef Jeff Henderson (host of Food Network show “The Chef Jeff Project”) and former Memphian Chef Ben Vaughn (host of Food Network’s show “Health Inspectors”) with Man v Food’s Adam Richman as MC.
Team Black Pig BBQ/Kooky Canuck won an earlier qualifying event in another city and were favorites at the World Food Championships in the Recipe category. They made it all the way to the final table of seven with their signature steak and lobster dish, taking home 6th place overall and $6,500.00 in prize money. Congratulations Shawn & Lana Danko and Black Pig BBQ!
Kooky Canuck Burger team consisting of Tal Goldsby, Amy Jenkins, Lauren Cooper & Shawn Danko finished 4th place overall in the Burger division taking home $2,000 with their signature Wicked Strip Burger and a Korean inspired burger.
The Wicked Strip Burger featured a mix of 60 day aged NY Strip steak and East Tennessee Benton’s Bacon. It was also served with caramelized onion, a combination of goat and smoked cheddar cheeses, grilled tomato, fried egg, bacon relish and a couple other secret treats whipped up by Jenkins and Cooper. This awesome burger was finished on a buttered and toasted burger bun.
The Kooky Canuck burger team made the finals with their Wicked Strip burger. However in the finals, each team drew a different theme burger that had to feature A1 Steak Sauce. Not much of a surprise with Kraft being the big tournament sponsor. Kooky Canuck picked a Korean Burger theme. For this burger, the patty featured, fresh ground chuck mixed with Bentons Bacon, soy, ginger, and garlic. It was topped with had A1 seasoned caramelized onions, and Asian slaw with Amy’s special sweet and spicy sauce, crunchy spicey fried wonton strips sprinkled in brown sugar, and a sunny side up egg with toasted sesame seeds.
This was quite an interesting experience and challenge for the Kooky Canuck team, who had access to a very limited food pantry at the championships. Most of their competition food was brought with them from the Memphis area. Challenges or not, Tal Goldsby refused to serve anything but freshly ground burger patties. “I was grinding meat 15 yards from Las Vegas Boulevard”, laughed Goldsby. He went as far as saying that he’d put his ground patty up against anyone’s and beat it. That just may have been the case in Las Vegas had a woman not bumped him, knocking his butter pan over and hitting his coals, causing extra char on the team’s first round entry. Hind-sight is 20/20, but all things considered, had their burgers not been charred like that, they might have had enough points to win the whole category. They’ll be back next year for sure. With a top 10 finish, they’ve already secured their 2013 invite.
Goldsby, who is no stranger to cooking competitions, is a founding member of Smoke Master BBQ. His BBQ resume reads something like this:
- Invited to every Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest from 2005 to 2013
- Currently are in the Top 15 Teams in Memphis BBQ Network rankings
- 2012 Memphis Best Burger Competition Grand Champion, 1st Place Extreme Burger, 2nd Place Anything But Burger
- 2012 Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest Finalist, 3rd place Ribs
- 2012 Southaven Spring Fest 2nd Place Ribs
- 2011 Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest 11th place ribs
- 2011 Variety Club 1st place Exotic
- 2011 Southaven Spring Fest 3rd place Whole Hog and 3rd Place Ribs
- 2011 National Rippin Rips Tour sponsored by Gnarly Head Wines Grand Champion, Kansas City, MO
- Smoke Masters BBQ has won over $12,000 in prize money since 2005
He and Danko came together for this competition but will both be battling head to head in Whole Hog at the 2013 Memphis in May World BBQ Cooking Championship. I think that’s what made this sponsorship even more awesome – two opponents in one competition working together at another, showing the world that Memphis is More than BBQ.
Congratulations to Team Kooky Canuck who broke into the burger world at the Best Memphis Burger Fest and took the World Championships by storm just four weeks later. If you want to get a taste of their winning Best Memphis Burger Fest entry, head down town this week (November 12-18, 2012) to try their championship entry being featured on The Kooky Canuck menu.
If you have a favorite burger that you think is Memphis’ best and should be reviewed on Best Memphis Burger, please drop a note in the suggestion box. If you’re interested in guest posting your favorite burger, send an email and let us know why.