What a great time - everyone really enjoyed themselves. Gosh darn it, I had a great time even though I didn't win. It was one of those wonderful events where old friends and new just gather for a fun afternoon (hey, what is the likelihood of going to an event at a new friend's house and meeting a young man who was in Pre-K with your daughter three years ago!)
So let's get to it:
The Ugly: Round One: Burger only - the meat-centric class that focuses on what happens to the patty, and cooking technique. Served on standardized buns. My naturally raised Niagara County Beef Chuck vs. Andrew's locally raised Waygu vs. Mike's dry aged Delmonico, with cheese and a condiment..
I put this round right in the tank. Big Time. And it turned out to be my best chance to score a win! You know you are in trouble when the burger you hold back to share with your co-competitors is light years better than the one you sent to the Judges. I just couldn't get in the zone. Yes there were several external distractions (and I'd tell you about some, but one would make my wife not speak to me for a while), but this round was my fault. I screwed the pooch.
Having said that, given the choice of enjoying the convivial atmosphere of the event, or trying to recreate the intensity of the line, I'd pick the former.
The Bad: The Weather. It could have been a heck of a lot worse, but after a relatively rain free April, with above-average temperatures, Sunday was lower than normal with frequent rain. The competitors huddled under tents, and the onlookers stayed inside. As I said, it was a hoot, but the idea that people would be milling about sipping cocktails in the sunshine was dashed.
The Good: Round Two: Burger dressed as the chef desires - where special buns, toppings, etc can come into play. This burger sang. I knew I was in good shape after Lydia, Andrew's daughter and our designated server, came up and whispered "they love it". My co-competitors and onlookers agreed. Dave Cloy and his troops did a SUPURB job with the beef - it got raves! Alas, I lost to Mike - which is as it should be. As I have said before, he's the best cook in town.
One postscript though. I was at the competition less than 5 minutes when I realized that I was was working out of a different playbook than Andrew and Mike. Nobody's fault, just "failure to communicate" as Strother Martin once said. The bottom line is that I never thought this was about anything but beef. Andrew made an absolutely delicious Lamburger with Israeli Feta, and Mike used Ahi for his burger, flown in from Hawaii. It was amazing. There may be no one in WNY who handles seafood better than Mike - even Kuni Sato.
And a final note - if invited to a grilling cookoff, don't bring a side dish that needs to be grilled!