Saturday, November 3, 2007

Interview: Karen Bernards

Introducing Karen Bernards and her "Sweet Hot Thai Burger".

This September our new local hero (McMinnville) Karen Bernards won the Sutter Home Build A Better Burger Contest and collected an oversized check for $50,000 (thats about 8300 hamburgers! ). She got to feed her champion burger to Al Roker on televisions Today show, flown around a bit, and I'm sure got her fair share of free Sutter Home wine.

The burger used many Thai influences, crushed Kettle chips, and some delicious sweet & spicy thai sauce in the mince.

You can watch her on the Today Show here: LINK

We have now dubbed her with the honary Portland Hamburger alias the BurgerQueen. Who else would be more deserving?

Here follows some of our interview slowballs and her winning recipe:

Do you normally enter food contests? I heard there are folks out there making a living doing it.

The extent of my cooking contest experience is the Oregon State Fair. I like to enter their daily contest. I have met a lot of great people there. Build-A-Better Burger is my first national contest. I would love to enter more. It was a lot of fun.

How did you come up with the winning burger?
At the time that I created the burger we were eating a
lot of Thai food and there is a sweet thai sauce that I really like. So I decided to create a burger using the sweet thai sauce. I was trying to come up with something that tasted good, but was a little different. Not your moms hamburger. The sauce, salad, and the burger are a good combination.

Do you have any other burgers that you considered for the contest...or are you saving them for next year?
I came up with four recipes for the contest. I can not enter the beef burger part [ next year ], but I hope I can still enter alternative burger ( turkey, chicken, pork, elk, etc.) I will have to wait to read the rules next year.

Was it scary making your burgers on the Today show for Al Roker?
The Today Show was a lot of fun. Everyone that has asked me about it has said I really bossed Al around and told him what to do. They were surprised he did what I told him to do. I just did what I have seen other people do when they are on TV.

I was very nervous, I did not even look at the camera or the crowd. I just pretended they were not there. I just wanted to get through it. I did have two people ask for my autograph, and a few more wanted to talk about how to cook their burgers. That was fun.

Have you gotten any weird solicitations or offers from anyone since you won (well beside a website in Portland that posts pictures of hamburgers)?
Nothing too weird. I did a radio spot in Kansas last weekend over the phone. That was fun.

My family and I went on a tour of Kettle Chips. That was great! I believe I will be doing some promotional things for Sutter Home later. I have been asked to make burgers for a lot of people. Last week I had to make burgers for my sisters work at 9am. Who wants burgers at 9am? That was the deal she made with her boss so she could go to NY with me. I will be doing some fundraisers in the Spring.

Sweet-Hot Thai Burgers Recipe


Cilantro Mayonnaise

- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Thai Salad

- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons bottled Thai sweet chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- 1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts


- 2 pounds freashly ground chuck
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup bottled Thai sweet chili sauce
- 4 green onions, sliced
- 1 cup Spicy Thai Kettle Chips, placed in a bag and smashed slightly
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for grill rack
- 6 hamburger buns


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. To make the mayonnaise, whisk the mayonnaise, lime juice, and cilantro in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the salad, whisk the lime juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, sweet chili sauce, ginger, cilantro, and basil in a small bowl. Combine the cucumber, red pepper, and bean sprouts in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the patties, combine the chuck, salt, sweet chili sauce, green onions, and chip pieces in a large bowl, handling as little as possible. Shape into 6 patties to fit the buns. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. Place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill rack to toast lightly during the last 2 minutes of grilling.

To assemble the burgers, spread a generous amount of the cilantro mayonnaise over the cut sides of the buns. On each bun bottom, place a grilled patty, followed by equal portions of the Thai salad, add the top bun and serve.

Makes 6 burgers

Photo by chefdiaz

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