The mouth-watering aroma of succulent burgers sizzling on the grill filled the air at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter on January 30. An all-star line-up comprised of renowned chefs Lorena Garcia, Todd English, and Johnny Hernandez; chefs David Kamen and David Bruno from The Culinary Institute of America; and HMSHost President and CEO Tom Fricke were in attendance to judge airport dining’s largest restaurateur, HMSHost’s first Burger Throwdown – an exciting cooking competition where top company chefs competed fiercely for prizes and bragging rights. The Throwdown was part of HMSHost’s Directors of Operations Conference for Company leaders.

The Burger Throwdown was an unusual contest where HMSHost Branch Chefs were given the opportunity to demonstrate their creative culinary abilities through the art of burger-making. An intense culinary competition ensued amongst the following top HMSHost Branch Chefs:

  • Gio Osso, Phoenix
  • Fabio Montijo, Los Angeles
  • John Pekka Woods, Toronto
  • Juan Maradiaga, Miami
  • Christopher Bellizzi, Montreal

Much like well-trained athletes, the chefs arrived well-prepared and were focused for competition. The Throwdown rules allowed each competitor 30 minutes to cook, plate, and deliver their tempting dish of ground-beef goodness to the judges.

During the competition each chef managed to exhibit impressive displays of talent and competitive drive, while dutifully sculpting their creations of meat, bun, and fixings.

Observing this process provided a unique perspective on the chefs’ many years of culinary training, careful planning, and the rare quality necessary for cooking competitions: instinctive gastronomic expertise.

After the hour was up, all chefs managed to deliver a downright lipsmacking burger to the ravenous judges – making their jobs that much more challenging.

“For a burger-lover like me, choosing a winner was no easy task at the Burger Throwdown. The burgers that our chefs created were absolutely wonderful to look at, and more importantly, they were delicious to eat! The fact that they were able to create them with limited time and under great pressure is a real tribute to the true talent of the chefs at HMSHost,” says HMSHost president and CEO Tom Fricke.

The burgers:

  • Chef Gio created The Matador
  • Chef Fabio created a LaBlue Burger
  • Chef John created a Maple Bacon Candied Bacon Burger
  • Chef Juan created a Super Burger
  • Chef Christopher created The Ultimate Burger

After bellies were full, some tough private reflection, and a tallying of results by the judges, the final result was determined. The best burger and winner was the LaBlue Burger by Chef Fabio. Prizes for Chef Fabio included a $500 gift card and a trophy. Additional special recognition that the winner benefited from was having their burger recipe featured as the main dish served to all conference guests at a luncheon the following day. Further distinction and undoubtedly, some personal satisfaction for Chef Fabio, will come in the form of a future special promotion in which his LaBlue Burger recipe will be incorporated into HMSHost airport restaurant menus (details to be determined).

“The Burger Throwdown made for an extraordinary and exciting evening, and is definitely one for the history books here at HMSHost. The contest was a great success for the Conference and I am really looking forward to seeing Chef Fabio’s victorious LaBlue Burger on tables in HMSHost locations,” says HMSHost chief operating officer Pat Banducci.

Winners were determined based on two judging categories with specific criteria and a points system:

The Tasting category, accounting for two-thirds of the competitors’ scores, allowed judges to assess: Taste; Presentation; Execution; Ability to Discuss Menu.

The Kitchen Floor category, accounting for the other third of the competitors’ scores, allowed judges to assess: Mise en Place and Organization; Sanitation Procedure and Cleanliness; Proper Utilization of Ingredients and Leftovers; Timing of Service, Cooking Techniques; Skills and Fundamentals.

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