Burger Battle has a lot of moving parts, and by that, we mean judges, moving from burger joint to burger joint, sometimes individually, sometimes in meat-eating packs.
Even without counting guest judge Nick Nickelson and celebrity guest judge Jody Dean, Burger Battle 2017 had more judges than past battles. Not all of them made it to the finale but collectively the judges ate well more than 100 burgers. Maybe 150. After a while, our eyes glaze over and we lose count.
Here are the judges:
Anna “Fries With That” Caplan
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Fort Worth-based food and features writer and frequent contributor to the Star-Telegram, Eater Dallas and others. Describes herself on Twitter as “french-fry devotee and condiment freeloader.” A Burger Battle rookie who showed her mettle by being a tough and sometimes contrarian judge.
Ideal burger: Since it wasn’t a factor in the battle (which focuses on burger joints), we’ll tell you she once considered leaving her husband for the L.U.S.T. Burger at Bearded Lady in Fort Worth.
Burger motto: “Of course I want cheese on it.”
Denise “Clean Plate” Harris
A self-proclaimed “eatty” — not to be confused with “foodie” since she’d rather eat than cook — Denise was a guest judge in 2013 and has been stalking burgers ever since. This is her third Burger Battle. Because of her strong convictions and lack of resistance to extra cheese, she’s always fat-pants ready. She routinely orders dessert first and will go out of her way for a friend or a chili dog. Not necessarily in that order.
Ideal burger: A chili cheeseburger with cheese, grilled jalapeños, avocado, cheese, a fried egg, thin sweet onion rings and did she mention cheese?
Burger motto: “No, I didn’t order for the table — that was just my order.”
Jason “I’m Eating Tums for Dinner” Hoskins
A first-time judge on the burger battle, Jason has been plowing through burgers for as long as he can remember. A former Star-Telegram sports designer and current copy editor for the McClatchy Production team, he has never been scared to face the biggest, baddest burger any joint has on the menu — and even those that aren’t.
Ideal burger: Nothing beats a juicy patty that’s not too thick but not too thin with American cheese and bacon.
Burger motto: “It’s not a good burger if you’ve used less than three napkins.”
Bud “Eats Beat” Kennedy
Since 1985, Bud Kennedy’s “Eats Beat” has focused on Texas’ three major food groups: barbecued, Tex-Mex-ed and fried. He has judged burger, barbecue, chili and goat cookoffs (not in the same day), and once chose a winner from among 88 bowls of beans.
Ideal burger: With mustard, without cheese and with plenty of black pepper.
Burger motto: “Never trust a burger judge with a clean shirt.”
Malcolm “Medium Rare” Mayhew
A former Star-Telegram music and features writer who started writing so young that he once covered shows at places where he couldn’t legally drink , Malcolm is now one of our top food-writing contributors and writes for CultureMap and Eater as well. He’s a four-time Burger Battle judge and forever Fort Worthian who grew up on burgers from Kip’s, Dairy Queen, Fred’s and a rustic-looking place called T.J.’s Hamburgers that served chargrilled burgers and vanilla Coke.
Ideal burger: Thin and charred, or thick and still grazing.
Burger motto: “I like a little blood on my hands.”
Robert “My Wife’s a Vegetarian” Philpot
A four-time Burger Battle veteran always on the lookout for new burger spots, although for the next month or so he’ll probably be looking more for salad places.
Ideal burger: A green-chile cheeseburger with a good mix of heat and cheese. Lips still burning from a post-battle Fred’s verde burger, which came pretty close to filling the bill, although never count out the signature burger at Fuego Burger.
Burger motto: “Are you finished with that?”
Roger “I Can Grill One Better” Pinckney
Roger is a first-time judge and really had to be dragged into this competition ... not. An Audience Growth editor for the Star-Telegram, Roger is more familiar with traditional burgers and was somewhat intimidated by all the exotic, colossal and often messy offerings. But he survived.
Ideal burger: Thick and slightly charred, medium with melted cheese, tomatoes, onions and, of course, jalapeños.
Burger motto: “Don’t even think about ketchup or mayo ... it’s mustard and all the way, baby.”
Steve “Weekend Chef” Wilson
A veteran of multiple Burger Battles and the closest thing the Battle has to an official photographer, Steve is also a certified Kansas City Barbeque Society judge. Besides eating and judging food, Steve’s hobbies include photography and cooking.
Ideal burger: Big patty, cooked medium, with cheese, bacon, mustard and diced onions.
Burger motto: “Don’t eat that yet! I have to take a picture!”
Eric “I’ll Have Another to Take Home” Zarate
Eric is familiar with competition because he’s the Star-Telegram’s assistant sports editor/high schools. A longtime Star-Telegram employee, he has contributed to our food coverage through the years but this is his first Burger Battle.
Ideal burger: Lots of bacon, lots of cheese.
Burger motto: “No onions! Who are you?”
Matthew “The Wind” Martinez
Star-Telegram/McClatchy writer whose busy schedule made his Burger Battle appearances somewhat sporadic, although he did have a memorable Fuego Burger vs. Pantego’s Chop House Burgers matchup that he said Fuego won in the equivalent of a buzzer-beater. This is his first Burger Battle.
Ideal burger: Tried-and-true beef-and-cheese, with bacon.
Burger motto: “Keep it simple.”