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Katie Lee Joel on the Burger Backlash

Yesterday I had the lovely opportunity of speaking with cookbook author and burger queen Katie Lee Joel over the phone. She was calling from New York City to set the record straight about her Burger Bash win. According to her critics, the Logan County Burger, which won fair and square, is not a burger at all, but rather a popular sandwich known as a patty melt. To find out what the soft-spoken, charming chef had to say,


PartySugar: How did it feel to win the Burger Bash?
Katie Lee Joel:
I was so excited and so surprised! There were so many big New York City chefs who participated that I thought I didn't even have a shot.

But when I noticed that there was more and more buzz around my booth I thought it might happen.

PS: Why do you think your burger won?
I think because it's so simple, that was part of the appeal. It's nostalgic, it reminded people of getting a patty melt. It's easy to eat, easy to hold, and really, who doesn't love the combination of ground beef, melted cheese, and buttered bread?

PS: How did it feel to be the only female participating in the competition?
It was pretty exciting and even more so that I won. Women are really underrepresented in the culinary field, they are still second on the totem pole, so it feels great to change that. And I love some of the burgers that were competing! I eat a BLT burger at least once a week.
PS: Why did you decide to use bread instead of a bun?
My grandma came up with the recipe. She is from Logan County, WV, and didn't have much money. She would make these burgers with very thin patties to make the meat last longer. I grew up eating them and calling them burgers. I love the buttered bread. But honestly, I love a burger any way!

PS: How many burgers did you make that night?
I made 400 burgers cut into quarters. That's 1,600 burgers total. There was five of us doing it. It's actually a really simple recipe for serving a large group. You make all the patties and then you put together the burgers in an assembly line. I always love to cook recipes that you can do ahead.

PS: Critics complain that your burger was not a burger, but a patty melt — what do you have to say to them?
I don't really understand the critics. The burger patty makes it a burger. There were no rules or guidelines that said the burger had to be a specific way or on a specific type of bread. I don't think it was that avant-garde. It's pretty funny because there were a lot more inventive and creative burgers being made, so I don't know why mine caused the controversy!

Actually a lot of the Internet controversy bugged me. People in the food world wanted to be so crappy about it, but that's not what food is about. To me food is about bringing people together, not criticizing each other. It's really getting almost as bad as the fashion industry! I mean at the end of the day, it's just a hamburger.

PS: What’s next for you?
Well now I'm planning for the Burger Bash in South Beach. I have to defend my title! I'm also writing my next cookbook; this one is dinner menu oriented. There will be menus for everyday dinners and menus that can be made on the weekend. But it's still going to be me and my style of cooking like the comfort table.


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