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April 08, 2014 | 04:20 PM
Everybody’s a critic.

And at the Lake Geneva Burger Throw Down, everybody’s opinion about food actually matters.

Admission to the burger competition included one vote for the people’s choice award.

Burger makers from all around the area were competing for the popular vote and the judge’s favor.

As I mingled around in the crowds on the lawn at the Geneva Ridge Resort, I heard people sampling burgers.

“Love this.” “I like the coleslaw on this burger. It’s interesting.” “Oh. This is too spicy for me.” “This burger’s cold already.”

“Did you try this?”

However at the judging booth, there’s a bit of science and procedure.

“It’s pretty subjective,” Chef Peter Gebauer, one of the five judges at the competition, said. “We’re judging on three categories: taste, appearance and originality.”

Taste is the most important factor in the judgment.

“It has to taste good, of course,” Gebauer said. “But it also has to look good. It has to look like you want to try it. And then, originality... is there a story behind the burger? Is it creative?”

The judges have 25 points, 10 for taste, 10 for appearance and five for originality, to give out for each burger they taste.

And they just taste, they don’t eat the whole burger.

Gebauer took a small bite before pushing his plate away.

“I just take a bite or two,” he said. “If we ate every burger sample we get, from each of the vendors, after three hours ... that’s a lot of protein to have sitting in your stomach.”

Gebauer invited me to sit at the judge’s table while we sampled two burgers.

Covenant Harbor Chef Deb Lampert brought out samples of her maple-laced burgers.

Gebauer pushed a plate in front of me.

“What do you think?” he asked me before I even took a bite.

The burger sample, a quarter of a larger burger, smells amazing on the plate in front of me.

I shrug at Gebauer, I have no thoughts about the burger yet.

“Think about the appearance first. How does it look?”

The burger looks like a burger should: beef patty between a bun.

This burger is seasoned with the Covenant Harbor’s own, freshly harvested maple syrup and topped with freshly-made buns.

“OK, now take a bite,” Gebauer instructs me. The other judges have already sampled their burgers and are writing on their scorecards. I take a bite. “What do you think?” he asks again.

The maple syrup is evident but not overpowering in the burger. Gebauer writes down his scores.


Gebauer said it’s tough on the chefs to prepare a burger at the throw down.

“They come here, outside, to a grill that they don’t know,” he said, gesturing at the Geneva Ridge Resort lawn. “They have to figure out the grill’s hot spots, have to figure out how long the burgers need to cook to be right.”

It’s tough on the chefs to supply burgers to the waiting crowds, too.

Hundreds of people stood in long lines to try burgers from area restaurants.

When I first arrived, Gooseberries Fresh Food Market in Burlington had the longest line.

The crowds shifted to the Badger High School’s stand when emcee Chef John Bogan, Lake Geneva School of Cooking, announced the school’s culinary group had recently won state awards.

Foley’s Bar and Grill, the Hunt Club and Chuck’s Lakefront Inn all held long lines during the event.

Winners were announced at the end of the afternoon.

For the first time, one burger won both the people’s choice award and the judge’s award: Abbey Springs Golf Course.

Lake Lawn Resort and the Waterfront won second and third place in the people’s choice award.

The Baker House and Lake Lawn won second and third place in the judge’s award.


Tags: Geneva Lake West

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