Howells & Hood chef Scott Walton's kimchi burger took home the "Judge's Choice" award.
Photo: David Ditzler
CHICAGO The Hamburger Hop took place on the rooftop of the Harris Theater in Millennium Park on September 27. A kickoff party to Chicago Gourmet—the high-end food fest presented by Bon Appétit—the hop centers on a competition in which prominent chefs battle to create the best burger. Now in its forth year, the event drew more than 1,100 attendees on Friday, up from 800 in 2011 and 1,000 in 2012.
“The buzz has grown over the years due to the fun, high-energy atmosphere, the perfect backdrop of the Chicago skyline, and the event's friendly competition format,” said Liz Sorrentino, executive director of Chicago Gourmet. Then, of course, there's the lure of the menu. “The burger is one of the most iconic American foods, beloved by foodies, chefs, and the average American,” Sorrentino said. “The Hamburger Hop celebrates this icon and gives the chefs a chance to get creative with their toppings.”
As the evening wrapped up, judges including chefs Graham Elliot and Hubert Keller helped Howells & Hood's Scott Walton win the “Judge's Choice” award for his kimchi burger. Chef Jeff Mauro of Food Network's Sandwich King snagged the People's Choice award for his cherry-pepper, jalapeno, and Havarti-topped creation. This year, 15 chefs competed in the meaty competition, and Sorrentino said that there's typically a lengthy wait list for chefs wanting in on the action.
A new after-party called Late Night Gourmet drew 600 guests to the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel from 9 p.m. to midnight. The event offered late-night bites, beer, and cocktails, as well as a live DJ set. “Not only is there a real trend of holding late-night parties [at events such as] Lollapalooza and the James Beard Foundation, but we have always felt that our guests wanted something more after the Hamburger Hop,” Sorrentino said. “This was a perfect addition to continue the celebration and fun.”
The hop draws comparison to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Burger Bash, and there is some correlation. “Our title sponsor, Southern Wine and Spirits, participates in South Beach and the New York City Wine & Food Festival, so it was a great concept they brought to the table,” Sorrentino said. But “as meat capital of the United States, it only made sense that Chicago got its own burger competition.”