Toltec Brewing chef to receive blended burger project award

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Toltec Brewing executive chef David Ruiz is one of five winners of the James Beard Blended Burger Project. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The Toltec Royale is definitely regal.

Its creator, Toltec Brewing executive chef David Ruiz, is one of five winners of the James Beard Blended Burger Project. Ruiz’s Toltec Royale beat out several hundred other entries from around the country. Ruiz and the other winners will travel to the historic James Beard House in New York City in October to make their winning burgers and attend an award ceremony.

“It’s been a dream of mine forever to go to the James Beard House and cook,” Ruiz said. “I believe the equivalent is like an actor getting an Academy Award nomination or Oscar nomination. It’s one of the highest forms of honor that you can receive in America. It’s just one of those things I never thought we’d win, and it’s been incredible. Obviously, it’s been a dream of mine since I was kid, so you know it’s still kind of sinking in.”

Winning was no small feat.

The Blended Burger Project strives to make burgers better by blending ground meat or other selected proteins with chopped mushrooms. The idea is to create a menu item that is delicious, healthy and more sustainable for the planet. A panel of food experts selected by the James Beard Foundation determined five winners from the top 20 entries with the most online votes. The judges, who included James Beard Award-winning TV personality Andrew Zimmern, determined the five winners based on the most creative use of mushrooms, best flavor and presentation, according to the James Beard Blended Burger Project website.

“It had to be an original idea,” Ruiz said. “Obviously something that was just your own. A lot of it was stuff I had done before. So we used local New Mexico beef. We blend that with cremini (mushrooms) we had roasted in butter and herbs. That part was supporting local farms and local New Mexico beef. I love cremini mushrooms also. They have a good bite, and they hold up well, so that was where the patty came from.”

The patty is topped with aged white cheddar cheese, Young Guns green chile from Hatch, bacon and a local fried egg. It all sits above an heirloom tomato slice and topped with ancho and herb mayonnaise and fresh oregano.

The Toltec Royale was already the best-selling item on the Toltec Brewing menu. Ruiz said about 30 Toltec Royale burgers are sold daily at the brewery, at 10250 Cottonwood Park NW. Now sales of the specialty burger will most likely increase with its James Beard recognition.

“This is a huge honor for me,” Ruiz said. “It’s what I dreamed of as a young chef. It’s not just for myself; it’s for the brewery, and I hope it just opens the door for other great chefs in New Mexico.”

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The Toltec Royale, created by executive chef David Ruiz, has been named a winner in the James Beard Blended Burger Project. (SOURCE: David Ruiz)

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