The Blended Burger Project

 

Several Cleveland-area chefs are taking part in a nationwide challenge to craft a burger recipe that is equal parts delicious and earth-friendly. Chefs from Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, Lopez, Nuevo Modern Mexico and Tequila Bar, Spice Kitchen + Bar, and Thyme2 are among the 400-some chefs nationwide who are participating this summer in the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project. The initiative encourages chefs to reimagine the iconic burger by swapping out at least 25% of the meat with finely chopped mushrooms for a tastier, more nutritious, and environmentally friendly patty.

The participating local chefs recently unveiled their iterations to a dining room full of members of Cleveland Independents at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse/Beachwood. Alison Tozzi Liu of James Beard Foundation and Steve Solomon, a culinary strategist with the Mushroom Council, also were part of the multi-course fungi-forward event.

Chef John Kolar and sous chef Cody Fascione of Thyme2 collaborated on a Magic Mushroom Burger with portabella fries and a root beer float.

“I like the blended burger because it doesn’t put me down for a nap after I eat it,” Fasscione said. “You’re saving some calories and staying light on your feet. It looks like I’m eating a big burger, but I’m not feeling like I am. I can still work all day after I have one.”

Chef Kevin Foley’s Wellington Burger was blended with mushroom duxelle and paté, and topped with a bordelaise brie, watercress and fried oyster mushrooms. The robust burger was served with crab and truffle tater tots.

Chef Michael Herschman of Lopez created his Brisket Beer-Belly Mushburger by blending wild mushrooms and brisket points with beer-braised pork belly, then adding in tangy crunchy slaw, chipotle thousand island dressing and habanero cream cheese. The amalgamation was nestled between Stone Oven bakery’s challah bread. “So you chomp through the slaw and 1000 isle into an almost loose and deconstructed meaty burger. The cream cheese element from the bottom up is creamy, and a bit of that chili punch ties it all up,” Herschman said.

Over the past two summers, more than 500 restaurants have taken part in the Blended Burger Project, and diners have cast more than 2 million votes for their favorite entries.

“Producing one pound of mushrooms requires less than two gallons of water, among other environmental metrics, making them one of the most sustainably produced foods,” said James Beard Foundation vice president Kris Moon, in a press release.

Diners can vote through July 31 for their favorite burger and can post their favorites through social media channels using the #BlendedBurgerProject hashtag. (Please help make at least one Cleveland chef a winner!)

The top five winning chefs will earn a trip to New York City to showcase their burger at the James Beard House in January 2018. One randomly selected voter also will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City.

— Photos by Karin McKenna