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Seven New Mexico chefs to face off in Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown

Seven New Mexico chefs will battle it out to see who makes the best green chile cheeseburger.

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown, now in its sixth year, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Co. in Santa Fe. The event previously had been held the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

People’s Choice winner for 2017 Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown by David Sellers of Street Food Institute.

“They have an indoor space, but it’s all really going to happen outdoors,” said Stephanie Cameron, publisher of Edible Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos. “All seven chefs will come and set up their grills and be creating samples for 800 people. Anybody that buys a ticket comes in. They get a ballot to vote for the People’s Choice, and then there is also a Judges’ Award and we have six judges that will also be judging the burgers. … The winners get a $500 check and bragging rights and a trophy.”

One of the judges is Cheryl Alters Jamison, a four-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author. She has judged the competition every year. The five other judges are involved in the culinary industry.

Last year’s People’s Choice Award winner David Sellers of Street Food Institute is returning to this year’s competition. Also coming back are Marc Quiñones of MÃS Tapas y Vino at Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque. This is his fifth year competing. Milton Villarrubia III, of Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, is once again competing in the smackdown. He skipped last year’s contest but competed in 2016 and 2015. The other chef contenders are new to the competition. They are Marie Yniguez of Slow Roasted Bocadillos, Albuquerque; David Ruiz of Toltec Brewing, Albuquerque; Jen and Evan Doughty of the Palace Restaurant & Saloon, Santa Fe; and Shane Alexander of El Farol, Santa Fe. The winner of the 2017 Judges’ Award, Rocky Durham of Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, decided not to compete this year.

Judges will weigh a number of criteria when tasting the green chile cheeseburger entries. Some factors are burger ability, which means you can actually pick up the burger and eat it, Cameron said. Presentation also is important, as well as how the flavors combine together.

“Melding of flavor, so how does the cheese and the meat and the bun and all of that come together? And then, is the chile coming through?” Cameron said of the criteria. “Some chefs get a little carried away and too creative, and they wind up covering up their burger with a bunch of different ingredients, and the chile doesn’t really shine, and that’s the No. 1 factor: Does the chile shine and come through in the burger? And then quality ingredients, and since it’s Edible magazine that puts it on, we always put a focus on local ingredients, so that’s another factor judges look for.”