Local woman takes top prize with Korean twist on a hamburger
With her savory Spring Roll Bulgogi Burger, Emily Falke won first prize in the national Heinz “Art of the Burger” competition on Aug. 17.
In addition to a $25,000 check, she will have her winning burger featured in a limited time offer menu item at national burger restaurant locations determined by the sponsor.
Entrants were encouraged to use their imagination to create a burger in one of five categories — Maximalist, Minimalist, Sculptural, Classical, Experimental — or one of their own design.
“I entered recipes in several categories of the contest, which combined professional and amateur chefs. I chose to enter the winning recipe in the Experimental Category because it was a lot about the art of the food and plays to my first love of art,” Ms. Falke told the News-Press.
“My cooking often features East and West Coast influences, combines Asian and Mexican elements, incorporates elements of French cooking and is based on local farm fresh produce.”
Her Spring Roll Bulgogi Burger entry also required that she describe her dish in a maximum of 50 words and give a name for the burger, not to exceed 10 words:
“This experimental masterpiece combines a sirloin burger glazed and slathered with Heinz BBQ Sauce with ginger, garlic and Korean pepper paste on a bed of radicchio and topped with cucumber, jalapeño, a vegetable spring roll, sprinkled with sesame seeds and drizzled with kimchi Heinz Mayonnaise on an artisanal bun.”
Bulgogi is a Korean dish that literally means fire meat.
The contest, which began May 23 and ended July 12, included the following restrictions:
— The burger must include at least one sauce.
— The burger must have buns or bun-like enclosures.
— The burger must include a patty.
— The burger must be eaten with your hands.
— The burger must stand on its own.
— The burger must be edible.
— The burger must be your original work.
“Presentation was key. I had to capture the burger’s essence up close and in focus, and the sauce had to be central to the burger’s theme,” said Ms. Falke, who was introduced to French cooking by her mother who gave her free reign in the kitchen by the time she was 8.
“Along with my brother and sister, I experimented with recipes, and by the time I was in junior high school, I was named a Los Angeles County star student and received home economics awards,” she said.
“I got into contesting in 2008 when I entered a cooking contest at Urners Appliances in Bakersfield where I lived at that time. There was an ad in the Bakersfield Californian for a call for recipes for a planned cook off.
“I entered on a whim and won a refrigerator, and since my refrigerator at the time was old and leaking, I felt like ‘Queen For A Day,’ a TV show my mother watched when I was a child, when I won. The rest is history … I got the competitive cooking bug.”
Her halibut with coriander and lobster sauce, a family favorite with East-meets-West influences, was among the top three contestants.
“More than 200 people came to see the finalists prepare our recipes. I laid out my work station with an eye to beauty and won appliances and a rental,” said Ms. Falke, who was born in Connecticut and grew up there and in Claremont before earning her bachelor’s degree in art at UCLA and her secondary teaching credential in art at California State University Bakersfield.
She was the art teacher at Friends School and St. John’s Lutheran School, both in Bakersfield, before becoming the director of education and operations, as well as curator and director of development at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
In 2010, Ms. Falke moved to Santa Barbara and became the director of education, then curator and deputy director, and now director of collections and exhibits at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
In September 2019, she organized a teen cook-off at the Maritime Museum between two teenage TV chefs.
“After I came to Santa Barbara, I entered the Santa Barbara Independent’s Sizzling BBQ contest for three years. I entered the Gilroy Garlic contest twice and won the Pullman, Wash., Lentil Festival twice before joining a group of people who follow contests, encouraged me and helped me find appropriate contests,” she said.
“Now, with a large following of supporters, I enter a variety of contests with many different kinds of recipes and foods, sweet and savory, fruits, vegetables, starters and entrees,” said Ms. Falke, “and I continue to find ways every day to combine my love of art, curating exhibits and cooking for friends and family.”
When asked what she will do with the prize money, Ms. Falke said, “I have a lot of ideas, but I’m still deciding.”