First he won it. Now he’ll judge it.
Burger Dive chef and owner Brad Halsten is returning this month to the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival as a judge for the Amstel Light Burger Bash, an event Halsten won in 2014 with a burger called the Blackened Sabbath.
“It’s always cool to go to Miami in the middle of February when you live in Billings,” Halsten said. “I think it was zero in Billings and 82 there the last time we went a few years ago. Kind of a shock, but pretty pleasant.”
Halsten said he got the invitation about a month ago but decided to make an announcement on social media Monday because the Feb. 26 event was drawing closer. Accompanying Halsten will be his wife, Andi Halsten, the general manager at the Burger Dive.
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“This will actually be the first time I’ve ever judged anything like this,” Halsten said.
At the judges' table Halsten will be sharing space with a variety of celebrities and world-class chefs including Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, Natalie Morales, George Motz and Marcus Samuelsson.
Though he doesn’t know all the details yet, Halsten said he thinks they'll be judging 30 burgers overall, served in quarter portions.
Rachael Ray is set to host the event, which will take place along the beach behind the Ritz-Carlton South Beach hotel.
“Hell yeah,” Halsten said of his initial reaction to the email invitation from Red Robin, the sponsor of the contest's Best of the Bash award. “I was just stoked to go back, I’ve been wanting to go back ever since the last time.”
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Halsten said he thinks the invitation is a direct result of winning the competition in February 2014 with his Blackened Sabbath burger. Halsten’s burger was made with blackened seasoning and topped with a crispy onion ring, bacon, garlic basil mayo, Sriracha, goat cheese and arugula.
At the Burger Dive, the burger is known as the Best of the Bash Burger, and comes with all of the above. There is a burger called Blackened Sabbath burger at the Burger Dive that predated the competition and can sometimes confuse patrons Halsten said.
Halsten used the Blackened Sabbath name for the competition because of the similar ingredients and the cleverness of the name, which is a play on Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne's rock band.
Acclaim for the burger was so high that Red Robbin added a burger inspired by Halsten's to its menu and called it the Big Sky Burger.
Halsten said that while some value burger presentation, his bottom line for a Bash-winning burger is much simpler. “To me, it comes down to how it tastes, whichever tastes best is gonna win.”
On what makes a good burger standout, Halsten said “It needs to look nice but once again the flavor needs to be there. The seasoning’s crucial, I think that’s where people miss the mark sometimes when they’re cooking any kind of meat.”
“Everything on the burger needs to complement each other. If you look at the burger and something doesn’t seem to belong, then it shouldn’t be on there.”
Halsten’s father Gary was the first to pick up the Burger Dive phone Monday morning.
“It’s a big honor for us, we’re pretty proud of him,” Gary Halsten said. “There are big names that are judges there. Neil Patrick Harris is one of my favorite actors in the whole world.
“He’s gonna be rubbing elbows with some pretty interesting people.”