Chef Michelle Milbury’s Nacho Burger took the coveted People’s Choice Award in the fourth annual Campaign for Kids Burger Wars. And what a war it was!
Milbury has been serving up the popular meal with a side of fries since Burger Wars started April 1, and those who tried it had little trouble going online to vote for the new offering at Myrtle and Rosie’s Café.
Organizer Laura Churchill Duke said that the April fundraiser saw 20,000 burgers sold with $1 from each sale going to help children in need.
“This figure is above and beyond what we ever imagined,” she said, noting that last year 12,300 burgers were sold across the Valley.
This year 47 restaurants from Digby to Windsor were involved. When the event started four years ago, only 23 restaurants participated, and 5,500 burgers were sold.
The runner up in the online voting was the Big Scoop Family Restaurant in Middleton for their hickory mushroom swiss burger. And a special award will be given to Jonny’s Cookhouse and Ice Cream Shop in Berwick for selling the most burgers at a whopping 3,100 -- almost double the next highest number.
The award for the most creative burger goes to Maritime Express for their spiced pig burger, served in a smoky glass dome.
Many people took advantage of the Burger Wars passport where for every five restaurants visited, the eater got a ballot towards a grand prize draw of $400 to the Quarter Deck on the south shore.
“We will be drawing for that shortly,” she said.
“This year, the fourth episode was bigger than ever for Burger Wars, and it seemed everywhere people went, they were talking about which burgers they had eaten,” said Churchill Duke. “This is definitely reflected in the numbers, where most, if not all, restaurants had an increase in their sales. Some restaurants sold more within the first two weeks than they had all month last year.”
Her favourite story is one her mom told her.
“She was in her yard and could overhear men roofing in a neighbouring property,” she said. “As they were roofing, they were talking about which burgers they had all eaten, their favourite, and where they would go for a burger that day for lunch! Everyone was talking about it!”
And Churchill Duke was in awe of the magic coming out of kitchens.
“Burger Wars is a great chance for chefs to be creative and to make something they might not be otherwise able to make in the restaurant,” she said. “They get to experiment with flavours, like the Port Pub and their umami burger, or Jonny's breaded mozzarella for their garlic finger burger.”
“I just wanted to come up with something different and figured everybody, myself included, loves a good plate of nachos so we just worked that into a burger,” said Milbury of the winning entry.
It’s just about half a pound of beef with everything on it from Tex-Mex cheese, to sour cream, salsa, corn chips, guacamole, spicy mayo, lettuce, and tomato. And even though she likes black olives, she left them out because a lot of people don’t care for them.
People are used to chomping right in at Myrtle and Rosie’s because they do a lot of burgers.
“I probably have 10 or 12 different hamburgers on my menu,” she said. “They’re all a little bit different and it’s not unusual to have a different burger from time to time. So usually my people are pretty good to jump on board.”
And once they know it’s for a good cause they don’t hesitate.
This year Churchill Duke had five people on Team Burger Wars.
“We offered to do Facebook Live videos at each of the restaurants, and this was a huge hit, with thousands of viewers watching us eat burgers on line,” she said. “The goal was to have all the restaurant videos done in two weeks, so it was a heavy too weeks of eating burgers, literally!”
Churchill Duke, and Burger Wars co-captain Jill Forse, also ate three burgers every week on a radio promotion. So in the end, they both had approximately 35 burger each.
“I do think that knowing that you are helping children by eating burgers, and sometimes a lot of them, helps to take away the guilt of trying so many,” Churchill Duke said. “It does become the grounding reason, but I also think Burger Wars is so much more than that. It is about getting out there and enjoying a meal with someone you might not go for lunch with that often, it's about trying new restaurants.”
She said many people just go to the restaurants they had never heard of before.
“It is such great publicity for the restaurants, too,” she said. “Michelle at Myrtle’s and Rosie's in Bear River said that people were driving to Bear River just for the burger, and what that does for a small community, is huge. We are not only supporting our local restaurants, but they in turn are supporting our local producers and meat markets.”
She said she noticed a huge emphasis this year on the restaurants sourcing local ingredients.
“This is a priority for people in the Valley,” she said. “So, we are helping not only the kids, but restaurants, producers, meat markets, bakeries, suppliers, and creating a sense of community with the common goal of helping the kids.”
The money raised will be used for bursaries for students and funnelled into the schools to purchase things such as sneakers, lice kits, and to pay for program fees and emergency food,” said Churchill Duke. “This winter we will be providing winter coats and boots to students in every school in Kings County.”
She said some smaller restaurants fear their numbers are smaller than some of the bigger operations, but it’s what each dollar accomplishes that’s important.
“In many schools, 100 kids eat daily at the breakfast program and need a lunch. It cost less that $5 to feed a child a meal,” she said. “Selling 50 burgers can mean a snowsuit for a child in need.”
And next year?
“You bet. Every year we take copious amounts of notes to make improvements and make things better,” she said. “We hope our numbers will continue to grow, and it will still be a whirlwind month that is just as much fun.”
As for this year?
“That’s a wrap,” said Churchill Duke, “or maybe a bun.”
To learn more about Campaign for Kids, visit www.CampaignforKids.com.