Contest Nitty Gritty

| Posted by juliana for Sutter Home

You guys are probably wondering why we haven’t posted the 2009 Build a Better Burger® finalists yet…I mean, it’s almost Labor Day! But here’s the thing. It takes time to verify all the Affidavits of Eligibility. The trick is that, in trying to verify that everyone is eligible, we find that people don’t even realize that they are ineligible! It’s totally not their fault but then we have to start the process over again with the next semi-finalist in line.

We thought it would be a good idea to give you a look into what happens in the selection process. This also gives us an opportunity to explain why we can’t possibly get back to every.single.person. who enters a recipe and let them know if they passed the review or not.

First off, let’s cover the ever-intriguing topic of government rules. We have to consider the state alcohol beverage laws that say something to the effect that a winery can’t give any “thing of value” to an entity/person working for an entity with a liquor license as it could be construed as incentive to sell our product. And believe me, a $50,000 cash prize is a thing of value!

That is just one example but that’s why we have to be careful when verifying our finalists. If your spouse works at a restaurant that has a liquor license, sadly, the contest rules make you ineligible because winning $50,000 might be construed as “giving something of value” to your spouse. It’s not awesome on our part to have to tell someone who has worked so hard on a recipe that they can’t compete because of that rule. There’s lots of things we have to think about…that’s just one.

But that is also why we haven’t posted names yet, because in theory, they aren’t set in stone yet.

Finally, addressing the age-old (trust me, you guys aren’t the only ones who ask it) question as to why we can’t let everyone know if their recipe was disqualified in the review round: the answer is actually simple. It comes down to manpower. We get flooded with entries. I mean, I remember one year not-so-long ago in which we got well over 10,000 recipes. 10,000 very in-depth recipes. And our review team (which isn’t made up of a ton of bodies) looks at Twice. With their own eyes. There is no automated system. It’s good ol’ fashioned review. So after that happens, the stack of recipes is really just too darn big to contact the owners of the recipes who haven’t passed. The other side of the coin is that if we contact them telling them they are disqualified, then people will want to know what specifically DQ’ed them. The truth is that it’s various reasons—ingredients are out of order, you forgot to include buns as an ingredient (it happens!) or maybe the patty isn’t ground meat of some sort, just to name a few.

All these reasons contribute to being disqualified in the review round but imagine having to contact 5,000+ people, each with a different reason for not making it past the review. Sadly, we just don’t have manpower. We need all the help we can getting ready for the contest because once it closes for entries, it’s a whirlwind around the winery trying to get everything in order.

We’re very excited that everyone is passionate about Build a Better Burger®…we are too and love to share everything with you, hence this looooong blog post.

NOW…here is an official announcement. The finalists for the 2009 Build a Better Burger® Contest will be announced on Monday, August 31, 2009 by 12 p.m. (noon) PDT. Look for the results at

Learn more about Build a Better Burger


Submitted by Kat on sorry to any finalist throughout the years who ended up not qualifying AFTER being selected....what a heart break that would be!!!!

Submitted by Kara on

Is there any way that you can blog at some point about the types of things that DQ a recipe or a contestant? I mean - I know it's silly, but I know I didn't put buns in my ingredients lists for any of my submissions. Looking back on it ... duh! I need to include that because there are so many different kinds of bread that could be used. But in my mind I was thinking "hamburger buns are obvious". Again ... duh!

I also don't understand the "ingredients out of order" thing. I always list my ingredients in the order they're called for in the recipe, but maybe that's not what you're looking for?

I'm sure there are a ton of other little things that might have DQ'd me even if my burgers were outstanding. It would be nice to have a list of common errors and DQs to reference for next years submissions so I don't make the same mistakes again! :)

Submitted by judy speredowich on

It's hard to believe that 5 to 10,000 people enter the contest—that is an outstanding number.
The contest is so much fun and who couldn't use the grand prize. It is quite an undertaking to review each recipe, have you ever tried to recruit interns and or culinary school students? I would think it would be helpful to them and to you. It could be unpaid or even college credit. Perhaps then you could have a database and let people know if they qualified so they could prepare for next year. Every day at work I get asked whether I qualified and how do they test the recipes, It would be nice to give all the people that were involved in my process a heads up on the contest. :) and :( (sad I didn't get picked)

Submitted by rob mongeon on

It's all written in the rules. You get DQ'd if you or someone in your immediate family hold a liquor license. You can't live in CA.

You also need to list the ingredients in order of use. In the Ingredients section, if you list:


and then in the method section say, "Form 6 patties with the meat and season with salt and pepper" then that's a DQ because you listed the meat first b4 the salt and pepper.

You need to take the rules quite literally.

I'm hoping this year's chosen recipes are up to the challenge as I know there were many qualifying recipesthat are dead on awesome.

Submitted by Kara on


Not all the nitty gritty is listed in the rules - it would be impossible to. But for example, I get the rule that you and no one in your family can hold a liquor license. But if my spouse does occasional contract work for a friend of his who is a caterer and holds a liquor license ... it wouldn't have occurred to me that could be a problem. After all, my spouse isn't the one holding the license. But apparently it would.

I'm just saying, it would be nice to see a list of the more common mistakes or DQ errors at some point after the craziness of the contest is over. It would be a good reference to use for next year. :)

Submitted by Kara on

Updated ... I just went and reread the rules and found this:

"Each ingredient, including the bread product and all other elements, must be listed, preferably in order of use,"

PREFERABLY ... in order of use, not required. So if this is a DQ issue, it needs to be stated as such.

Submitted by suzanne on

Ok-I decided to print my recipes on nice paper and send them via the us mail system-not e-mail. I read, and reread the rules. The rules said that you had to include your name, address, category, ingredients and directions and follow the rules regaurding the eligibility factors and so on. It did NOT say to include wine pairing and the store you purchased your wine from. You would have to include that info if you filled out the form online. Since they said to follow the rules carefully, I did what they said. Was that a mistake? I hope that will be made clear in the future!!

Submitted by Kerstin Brown on

This is my first entry into a cooking contest. I understand the whole staffing thing. What I don't understand if you enter online, one would assume they are reviewed online. In which case it would be easy to respond and write you have been disqualified and why. The U.S. Mail entries I understand the email entries I don't. Also I had a couple of questions during the creation phase and there was no one to ask. I think they should have someone to ask specific questions to. Not that it matters now but one of my questions was do you get to select your own ingredients if you are a finalist, or are the ingredients provided for you?
Good luck to the finalists I will be looking later to see how they stack up.

Submitted by t-bird on

....And now I see why I didn't win!!!!!!.....Great line-up of recipes!!!....

Hey anyone know the venue info? I have watched this on tv for a few years and am very interested in attending the event. I haven't been able to find this out. Any help is appreciated. TX!

Submitted by colleen on

Hi Betty! The contest is held at the Sutter Home Victorian Inn in the Napa Valley. Unfortunately because of space constraints, we can't open the event to the public but thanks for tuning into Food Network!

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