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Blended Burgers and a Trip to the James Beard House

Chef Mike Rakun's blended burger at Marin uses shiitake and roasted ramp mushrooms.

Explaining his version of a blended burger to the crowd gathered at Marin in downtown Minneapolis, Executive Chef Mike Rakun noted his use of shiitake mushrooms, roasted ramp mushrooms and brie cheese for added juiciness.

Rakun and Marin were playing host May 9 for a preview event of the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project, which challenges chefs to create a “more nutritious, delicious, sustainable burger.” A partnership with the Mushroom Council, the project invites chefs to create their own burger blend using 25 percent mushrooms, then spread the word about their new featured menu item on social media and encourage customers to vote online May 30 through July 31. The five chefs with the most online votes will win a trip to the James Beard House in New York City, where they’ll cook their burgers for a reception during the annual JBF Food Conference in October.

The Blended Burger Project is a natural fit for Marin and sister restaurant Mill Valley Kitchen (which will feature a burger of ground bison and marinated portobello mushrooms), said Rakun, as both restaurants focus on fresh, locally sourced food while highlighting the nutritional information for each menu item. Rakun also noted the social media exposure from customers posting photos of the burgers, something the foundation touted as another way to engage in a conversation about the future of food.

Originally born out of an educational initiative by high-volume chefs at the Culinary Institute of America to highlight and address the demand for healthier, more sustainable meals, the project evolved with the Mushroom Council and the James Beard Foundation and is now in its second year.

“The program was inspired by chefs,” said Bart Minor, president and CEO of the Mushroom Council, as he spoke during the preview event. “The blend is really a movement that’s happening at schools and colleges and now restaurants. And because mushrooms take away some of the calories, chefs can actually add back in with cheese or bacon.”

Minor closed with some words of advice to participating chefs: “Don’t call it a mushroom burger” on the menu or you’ll risk alienating some diners from the start. Instead he encouraged chefs to have some fun and come up with a unique burger name.

Chefs and restaurant owners interested in participating in the Blended Burger Project can find more information here.

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