Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ & Espresso, in Hatch, won a first-place trophy and bragging rights in the State Fair’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge on Monday.
Owner Teako Nunn said he entered the competition five times in previous years, taking home one second-place win and two People’s Choice Awards. “I’m pretty damn excited,” he said, hoisting the first-place trophy above his head.
“The chile we used today was in the field on Saturday. I know the guy who grows it, and I know the guy who processes it. It’s like farm to table. Doesn’t get any fresher than that,” he said.
Nunn also said he uses a secret blend of seasonings following a recipe that has been in his family since 1972. “I’ll tell you the secret,” he said. “Just not today.”
The second-place trophy went to Fuddrucker’s and third place to Oak Tree Cafe, both in Albuquerque. The People’s Choice Award went to the Oso Grill in Capitan. The restaurants were among 12 from throughout New Mexico that participated in this year’s competition.
According to contest coordinator Craig Vencill, the competition used blind judging. Competitors presented two identical burgers for judging. The finished burgers were given to officials who presented them on plain white paper plates to a panel of five judges who could identify each submission only by a number.
Using a scale of 1 to 10, the judges scored each burger on presentation before it was cut into quarters for the judges to taste and score on such things as balance of the meat, bun, chile and other toppings, the flavor and heat of the green chile, which must come from New Mexico, and the skill used in cooking the patty.
Only four of the five judges’ scores were totaled. The score of the fifth judge, Glen Megehee, the territory manager for Komatsu, was to be counted only in the event of a tie. “A technicality,” he joked. “As long as I get to eat them, I’m in.”
The other judges were KRQE morning weather forecaster Kristen Currie; KKOB radio producer Jeniffer Davis; Moriarty cattle rancher and pumpkin patch owner Howard McCall, and New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, who after eating the equivalent of three burgers, said, “If anybody was ever going to get in a foot pursuit with me, this would be the day you’d get away.”
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