By the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
On August 17, SBMM’s Curator and Director of Exhibits, Emily Falke, won first prize in the Heinz “Art of the Burger” competition with her Savory Spring Roll Bulgogi Burger. According to SBMM Executive Director Greg Gorga, “In addition to being a talented curator and artist, Emily is also a noted chef. She has entered, and won or come close to winning, numerous recipe contests over the years.”
Emily entered recipes in several categories of the contest, which combines professional and amateur chefs. She chose to enter the winning recipe in the Experimental Category because it was a lot about the art of the food and plays to her first love of art. Her 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:
Savory Spring Roll Bulgogi Burger
“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 kimchee Heinz Mayonnaise on an artisanal bun.”
Emily Falke, Curator and Prize-winning Chef
Emily Falke was born in Connecticut and grew up in Connecticut and Claremont, California, before earning her Bachelor of Arts 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 Saint 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, she 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.
From an early age, Emily’s mother introduced her to French cooking and gave Emily free rein in the kitchen by the time she was 8 years old. Emily, along with her brother and sister, experimented with recipes and by the time she was in junior high school, Emily was named an LA county star student and received home economics awards.
In 2008, Emily entered her first cooking contest in Bakersfield through Urner’s Appliance Store. Her halibut with coriander and lobster sauce, a family favorite with East meets West influences, was among the top 3 contestants. More than 200 people came to see the finalists prepare their recipes. She laid out her work station with an eye to beauty and won appliances and a rental.
After she moved to Santa Barbara, she entered the Santa Barbara Independent’s Sizzling BBQ contest for 3 years. She then entered the Gilroy Garlic contest twice and won the Pullman, Washington Lentil Festival twice before joining a group of people who follow contests, encouraged her, and helped her find appropriate contests.
Now, with a large following of supporters, Emily enters a variety of contests with many different kinds of recipes and foods, sweet and savory, fruits, vegetables, starters, and entrees.
Further, she continues to find ways every day to combine her love of art, curating exhibits, and cooking for friends and family. In September 2019, she organized a teen cook-off at the museum between two teenage TV chefs; and as anyone who has been to SBMM recently can attest, her work and enthusiasm are clear in the current Peaceful Sea: Paintings by Kevin A. Short, Whales Are Superheroes, and other museum exhibits.