Last week, the Eden Roc Hotel was home to the nation's first plant-based burger battle — a new addition to the five-day lineup of Seed Food and Wine Festival — where hundreds of attendees sampled burgers from 11 competitors who hailed from as close by as Miami Beach and as far away as Los Angeles.
The winner, by judges' vote, was Todd Erickson of Miami Beach's Haven South Beach and Huahua's Taqueria. For most of the evening, his table boasted a lengthy line of attendees waiting to try the popular option. Erickson's burger was a beet, barley, and black bean patty with sweet soy and garlic, pickled English cucumber, scallion, lotus root chips, and spicy mayo, all stacked onto a potato roll.
Judges for the evening were Burger Beast's Sef Gonzalez, former NBA star John Salley, founder of the Vegan Beer and Food Festival Nic Adler, Nom Yourself's Mary Mattern, Bad Ass Vegan John Lewis, and chef Derek Sarno of Whole Foods Market in Austin.
"I didn't realize I'd be one of the only chefs that wasn't exclusively a vegan or vegetarian chef," Erickson said of his participation. "I actually said to my dad earlier in the day: 'I think I might be in over my head.' I thought maybe my burger would be passé; I thought I might not be up on what's the hottest in this genre. I just made sure the flavors were really good and the textures were fun and the presentation was nice."
Beginning December 10, the award-winning burger will be added to the menu at Haven, Erickson adds. Though his eatery isn't known for vegan or vegetarian items on the menu, he and his team are always willing to come up with creative options.
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"We love to cook off-menu. I get great produce from as local as Homestead and ingredients from as far away as Tokyo. We have a great variety in this kitchen."
Erickson also participated in Seed's Made in Miami Farm to Table dinner, along with fellow Miami culinarians Brad Kilgore and Jamie DeRosa, among others.
There was also another winner in the battle royal: The audience got to vote, and their favorite was a burger by Charlie Grippo of Fort Lauderdale's Green Bar & Kitchen. The restaurant will also have a table at Seed's festival day and grand tasting tomorrow.
Also in the running for the big wins were Ryan Echaus of Atlas Meat-Free Deli, Darren Laszlo of Jugofresh, Rose Flynn of Choices Cafe, Oliver Ponce of Good Seed Burger, Angelique Santana of Love Beets, Jay Astafa of Jay Astafa NYC, Daudi McLean of 2 Good Veggie, Nedal Ahmad of Pincho Factory, and Carla’s Nut Burgers.