MIDDLETON, NS - Burger Wars is back and the fundraiser for Campaign for Kids is bigger and better than ever with almost 40 restaurants, pubs, and taprooms in three counties vying for bragging rights at the end of the month-long, mouth-watering competition.
Organizer Laura Churchill-Duke got an early indication of the scrumptiousness of this year’s entries when she helped judge at the Capitol Pub ‘prewar’ competition Feb. 26 when four chefs at the Middleton establishment served up their own special creations to see which one would enter the actual Burger Wars in April.
“This was an awesome opportunity tonight to come in here to the Capitol Pub and be part of the judging panel,” said Churchill-Duke. “It’s my first year being part of that and it’s just a really fun kick-start to the Burger Wars campaign. It’s so generous of John (Bartlett) and the staff to let us come in and do this. It’s such a fun thing.”
Four tables of customers judged the prewar event with Chef Michelle Friel’s ‘Capitol Double Down’ eventually winning, but not before judges had to break a tie with Chef Bartlett’s ingenious ‘Up in Smoke’ brisket burger. Nancy Landry offered her tasty ‘Cheese-Beer Burger’ and Cody Taylor was in the contest with his ‘Bacon Warrior.’
Few people would turn down the opportunity to help judge a burger competition, but faced with the melding of flavours, the piquancy of peppers, and seasoning nuances, it can be a tough job.
“It was a really hard choice to pick between the different burgers because they’re all completely unique, and creative,” Churchill-Duke said minutes after the judging was over. “And you know that the chef has put a lot of time and thought into creating that burger too. So it’s a really hard decision and it came down to two burgers at the end – between the ‘Double Down’ and ‘Up In Smoke’ brisket. All completely different flavours and both very good. If you asked us in another 10 minutes from now we may have chosen something completely different.”
Even though the actual Burger Wars competition was still a few weeks away, that Monday night at the Capitol was an opportunity to get the word out and get people hyped to take part once April rolls around.
“This year for Burger Wars we have 38 restaurants entered into it, so it goes from Windsor and Hantsport down to Bridgetown this year,” she said. “We had 29 restaurants last year, and the first year I think we had 23. So it’s just been growing every year and expanding throughout the Valley, just getting wider and wider. It’s just fantastic.”
How It Works
For every burger that is sold during Burger Wars, one dollar comes back to Campaign for Kids, a non-profit organization that raises money for financially disadvantaged children in Kings County.
Burger lovers can go online and vote for the Most Outstanding Burger starting April 1 with the winner being announced at the end of the competition.
“We used that money last year to buy winter coats and boots for seven children in every school in Kings County,” Churchill-Duke said. “We use it sometimes to send kids in financial need to special camps in the summer. We use it for scholarships and bursaries, emergency funding for medicine or helping people with their programming costs. It helps a wide array of students.”
She encourages people to get out and try the burgers and help kids at the same time -- 30 days to try 38 burgers. She doesn’t expect anyone to do it all, but you can keep track this year.
“This year what we’re going to be doing differently is we’re going to have a burger passport,” she said. “So you can download that and print it off and go to the restaurants with your passport and every different restaurant you go to you’ll get a stamp or signature and then for every five different restaurants you visit you’ll get a ballot that will put your name into a hat for a grand prize draw at the end of the month. We’re still waiting on details – conformation of what that grand prize is – but it’s going to be a really nice prize.”
The Capitol Pub’s owner John Bartlett has been doing Burger Wars from the start.
“We’re in it because we’re a community orient pub. We love to support the community and we love to support kids,” he said. “That’s really what it comes down to. We’re in it for that. We’re in it to help. We’re in it to do what we can.”
The burger judging night Feb. 26 is something that is becoming a tradition at the Capitol.
“Burger Wars pre-wars is just our way of having a little bit of fun,” he said. “It’s our way of getting maybe a bit of the message out. And quite honestly it’s our way of challenging other restaurants to do something a little different. Let’s not just do the same thing over and over again. Let’s make it a little fun. Let’s get some action going.”
Bartlett believes the little prewar at The Capitol makes for a better product.
“We could have chose a burger, we could have picked a burger, but the way we do it now is we get four people with their heads together and thinking about what they want to do for a burger,” he said. “I think we bring as good or better product to the table because collectively we’ve all put something out there. We put our best product out there and somebody else has picked it for us. The burger lovers win.”
While Bartlett and his staff were cooking up their eventual prewar winner, Sue Wamboldt a kilometre away at The Big Scoop Family Restaurant, had just made the entry deadline as well with their new burger dubbed ‘The Radish Ring’ that will defend the 2017 Burger Wars title they won last year.
“We’re honoured to defend our title this year and I’m so pleased to see the huge growth in this fundraising campaign,” Wamboldt said. “In the end it’s all about helping the kids and giving back to the community. We look forward to the friendly competition and are excited to see our competitors’ entries as much as everyone else.”
Heather Keddy at Wayfarers’ Ale Society in Port Williams has a unique ‘burger’ creation ready for the April 1 start date – a pulled pork slider. In fact three mini pulled pork sliders with their handcrafted mustard and hop sauce topped with a tangy coleslaw and served with local cheese from Fox Hill Cheese House -- fenugreek havarti, jalapeno gouda, Italian herb Havarti. “So there’s something for everyone. A bit of a kick or a mild cheese,” said Keddy, Wayfarers’ taproom and events manager.
“I’m so looking forward to this. I think it’s a great cause,” said Keddy. “Whatever we can do to help out is what we want to do. We’re really excited to be helping out on this.”
While the Port Williams brewery is not yet two years old, they’re already becoming known as a community-oriented business that in the past has helped out a local homeless shelter. They’re open every day but Sunday.
Burger Wars is designed so each restaurant, bistro, pub, or taproom entry is an affordable meal and will be included in that establishment’s menu.
Last year 8,141 burgers were sold during the competition, with a total of $8,661 raised for Campaign for Kids. Who actually sold the most burgers last year? The Port Pub in Port Williams.
Campaign for Kids, established by Family and Children’s Services of Kings County, was created to address the overwhelming number of requests for assistance from families in crisis. Its aim is to lend a hand to families in need and put an end to child abuse.
If you want to get a good sense of the breadth of the competition and the establishments entered in the third annual event, go to www.campaignforkids.com/burgerwars
To see what Campaign for Kids is all about, go to http://campaignforkids.com/