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SNC will be cooking at the James Beard House in New York City. The campus’ favorite Lodi Dodi burger is among the winners in a nationwide Blended Burger Project contest.

Burger Bash Sees St. Norbert Triumphant

Victory is sweet. But for the award-winning Lodi Dodi burger crafted by SNC Dining Services, it is also savory.

The burger, created by Ben Sauer, assistant head chef, and Amanda Beck, event manager for Conference & Event Services at the time, is one of six winners in the 2017 Blended Burger Project Campus Edition sponsored by the James Beard Foundation. 

In April, Sauer and Beck will travel to New York City, where they and fellow winners will serve their culinary masterpieces in the James Beard House. 

“Cooking in the James Beard House is an honor in the culinary world, and we are excited to represent St. Norbert College,” says Beck. “The win is an amazing accomplishment after competing with other colleges and universities around the country.”

What’s a blended burger?
Blended burgers substitute at least 25 percent of the meat in a recipe with chopped mushrooms. The switch makes for a juicier, healthier, more environmentally friendly burger that tantalizes taste buds. The Blended Burger Project encourages professional chefs to experiment with burger blends for more nutritious and sustainable menu options.

The Lodi Dodi is made from beef brisket ground with grilled portabella and roasted cremini mushrooms. It is served on a black sesame seed-studded brioche bun with smoked sun-dried tomato and cherry chutney, melted smoked Gouda cheese, quick-pickled tangy red onions, and crispy, honey-garlic-seasoned sweet potato straws.

Sauer says he loves the recipe because it has everything he looks for in a burger: “All the different flavor notes, tastes and textures work so perfectly together – sweet, salty, savory, tangy, smoky, crunchy and the lesser-known umami, which comes from the mushrooms in the burger patty itself.”

Road to victory
While the burger competition might end in the national spotlight, it began as a friendly campus competition and student-learning opportunity.

Inspired by the Blended Burger Project, Head Chef Dan Froelich in March 2017 challenged his staff to form teams and create their own blended burger recipes in an on-campus competition. The winning team would earn bragging rights, have its burger featured on a campus wellness menu, and have a chance to enter the national contest. 

Students delighted their senses with the four competing gourmet burgers during dinner at Ruth’s Marketplace on March 23, then cast their ballots for their favorites. The Lodi Dodi was hailed as the winner during the March 29 community discussion on healthy eating, the future of food and sustainable practices. 

Two national contests? A win-win 
The 2017 Campus Edition marks the first year the Blended Burger Project has focused specifically on colleges and universities to acknowledge the work and creativity of campus chefs. 

While the regular contest is open to all professional chefs, it takes place during the summer months when students are not on campus to taste and vote for their favorites. Presumably, without the support of their regular customers, campus chefs might have a harder time competing with their restaurant counterparts.

This, however, did not stop Sauer and Beck from entering the regular 2017 Blended Burger Project competition (voting took place May-July 2017). Nor did it keep them from earning 13th place in a field of more than 350 contestants.

When the Blended Burger Project announced the campus edition of the contest starting in September 2017, entering was a no-brainer. “It gave us the opportunity to menu our burger during a semester when students were on campus and another shot to put St. Norbert College on the map,” says Sauer in an interview with The Mushroom Council, co-sponsor of the contest. 

In fall, St. Norbert students were able to really sink their teeth into the competition and vote for the Lodi Dodi all over again. Both Sauer and Beck are grateful for their enthusiastic endorsement. 

“For all who supported and helped promote us and our burger – we can’t thank you enough!”

Since the on-campus contest, Amanda Beck has changed jobs at St. Norbert and now works in College Advancement as donor relations coordinator. No matter where her profession takes Beck, she has been, is now and ever shall be a co-creator of the winning Lodi Dodi burger!

Feb. 6, 2018