Word Burger Champ: 2013, 2014… and Counting
Note: Wade Fortin, won the 2013 and 2014 World Burger Championship, in conjunction with the World Food Championships.
Fortin has more than 15 years in the kitchen, including serving as an executive chef for the food service company, Aramark, and executive chef at Galway Arms, (featuring Celtic Fusion cuisine) in Chicago. According to his bio, as well as burgers, he also has “a love for competition BBQ.”
Second City Smoke is Fortin’s competition BBQ Team, started in August 2011 by Fortin and his co-pitmaster, Andrew Wiegand. Unfortunately, this means there is no burger joint or fancy grill where one can sit down and order Fortin’s supreme burgers.
Fortin first qualified to compete in the World Burger Championship in 2013 when he won the Bull Burger Battle – Chicago. Since he won the 2013 world title, he was invited to compete again.
After his first win, Fortin created the website World Burger Champ. On the site, he says planning and timing are key at the event. For example, the grills are often different from the ones competitors use in their everyday life (thus the need to be mindful of heat and cooking times). Other than that, it is all about a superlative burger. Creativity does not count. The burger has to look awesome, and every bit has to be perfect.
“The burger blend is only one element of a winning combination” — Wade Fortin
Among Fortin’s recipes on the site are tips, like Top Five Mistakes When Making Burgers. The meat is important, (Fortin uses a mix of brisket, chuck, and short rib), and a thumbprint in the patty keeps it from bulging in the middle.
The World Burger Championship was one cook-off event at the World Food Championships. Nearly 50 cooks qualified for the event earlier in the year by winning burger battles around the country.
World Food Championship:
What was your signature burger for this 2014?
The El Jefe, a Chipotle stuffed ribeye steak burger with agave-glazed bacon, roasted corn pico de gallo, an avocado aioli, Chihuahua cheese and a picante ketchup on a brioche bun with a fried tortilla garnish.
Who else was on the Second City Smoke team? What were their roles?
My teammate is Andrew Wiegand. We work together and split the tasks for the competition, and also develop and create the burger concepts we enter.
Are you tweaking anything for next year’s competition?
We will take our notes on how this years competition went and try to improve on areas that we thought we could have done better. The WFC won’t release the information until next fall as far as what the structure or infused rounds will be so we will have to wait to come up with our plan of attack.
You are a competition BBQ guy. What prompted you to compete in burger cook offs?
We never really intended to do burger cook offs, and it was totally random that we got a call from an organizer of one of the Bull Burger Battles trying to fill their competition. We got the call on a Tuesday for the a competition on the following Saturday. We came up with a concept, practiced it on that Friday and then went to the Burger Battle the next day, won and then the rest is history.
The 2nd and 3rd place winners were also BBQ people. Do you feel that being a pitmaster gives one an advantage in burger making? What’s the connection?
I feel that a BBQ team has real time competition experience and is used to time constraints. This gives them a huge advantage over say a restaurant cook or a home cook.
You said you recommend 75-80% meat/ 25-20% fat, but which cuts do you prefer?
We use a blend of Ribeye and chuck for the competition, but I have had success with brisket point and short rib.
Do you always use the same meat blend, if possible?
When I’m at home I’ll use a bunch of blends trying to see if there is on better than the ribeye, but usually I’ll always go with the ribeye for competitions. The burger blend is only one element of a winning combination. A great burger has to be well-balanced and not have one element over power the other. I want my blend to have great texture and moisture.
Are you still executive chef at Galway Arms, or just at Aramark?
Currently I am the Food Service Director for Aramark at Nuveen Investments.
Just for Fun:
What is your best hamburger memory?
Winning my first world title.
What is your favorite burger?
What is on your burger bucket list?
To eat at Richard Blaze’s Flip Burger, to open a Burger Boutique of my own and to keep winning world championships.
What burger do you love but are embarrassed to admit?
Once in a blue moon I’ll crave a Big Mac.
Anything you’d like to say or add about burgers?
I’d just like to say that I look forward to competing at the WFC again and trying to become the three-time world champ. I guess you could call it a “three meat”. I’m also in the process of developing a brand new food blog. It will be all about my passion for cooking and eating, and should be out by the first of February.