Creating burgers – gateway to a passion for cooking

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My mothers’ day was like no other. I was up at the crack of dawn, having had committed to the all-important role of judging burgers – a dream come true for many.

I had the privilege to be involved with the 12th annual New Zealand Chefs Hawke’s Bay Salon that attracted nearly 100 students from year 8 upwards, from around the region who had honed their culinary skills to compete in one of 145 classes across 17 events.  On arriving, the tension and excitement in the air was electric.

I spoke with Glenn Fulcher, Head of School at Eastern Institute of Technology’s School of Tourism and Hospitality who was behind the event, which was originally inspired by a chef Roger Dennis who saw what events around the globe could bring to the enhancement of both a life skill and career choice.  Funnily enough Glenn’s chef career ‘sparked’ when he realised he needed to learn to cook having discovered his mum had buried what was left from a burnt dinner, in the garden.  His passion since starting as a chef in the New Zealand Army, is driven by a love of sharing his knowledge and seeing the lightbulb moments when others understand exactly what’s he’s teaching.

He was impressed with what he saw in this year’s competition, as was I in the burger cooking kitchen, with a standard that saw numerous medals awarded recognising not just cooking, but all that surrounds meal preparation, including self-presentation, organisation, hygiene practices, creativity, attention to detail and multi-tasking – all against the clock.  The high standard reflects the connection between teachers and students, as well as capturing culinary trends in flavours.

When I asked Glenn about why burgers make a good choice for young people to practice cooking with, his answer was simple – who doesn’t love a good burger!?  He highlights over the last 3 years there has been a huge increase in burger cafes and restaurants with places like Burger Fuel and Fergburgers leading the charge. So as far as following trends across the country, burgers are well on trend.  He says “It’s a great competition for school aged kids, as it can be a healthy and very tasty meal. The option to use mince for the junior competitors allows them to introduce additional flavours into the beef or lamb, and keeps the cost down. Beef and lamb burgers are an amazing way to pack in so much flavour.”

I also asked Napier Girls’ High School’s Head of Department – Food Technology, Rachel Pollett, the teacher behind the winning burger, created by year 10 student, Phoebe Howson about what she enjoys when teaching cooking to young people.  She too has a passion for food and has the desire to impart her passion and expertise to the next generation, despite today’s lifestyles that challenges our time short schedules.

She thinks burgers make a good choice to bring culinary skills to life, allowing students to think outside the square for flavour and texture combinations, with the competition criteria testing a wide range of skills and aligning with healthy eating guidelines.

As for the star of the show, Phoebe’s inspiration to enter the competition was an opportunity to be creative and showcase different techniques and skills when compiling a burger.  She thought blue cheese and beetroot would go well with lamb mince with lots of experimentation along the way – that’s what cooking is all about.  There was lots of practice to get the beetroot relish just right, with the acidity balance to complement the creaminess of the blue cheese sauce.  She also realised you can pack a lot of flavour into a burger, highlighting the versatility of working with mince.  Her idea and perseverance served her well to get her a gold medal, and title of winning the burger category. 

So,  how do we get more young people in the kitchen?

Glenn saysI think it’s about family and friends. So at a young age it’s about grandparents and parents showing the kids their favourite things, tips and tricks, and just getting them involved. It’s got to be fun and understand the attention span can be short.  It’s a bit of a Kiwi thing to be competitive, so competitions are great. In the Salon, although it might feel like you’re competing against others, you are actually just competing against yourself and the criteria”.

Rachel says “Get kids cooking young, get them to help cook tea or grow vegetables then cook them. Everyone loves to eat and it’s a great way to spend time with family”. 

We were lucky enough to get a hold of Phoebe’s winning recipe that will get your mouth watering on reading: Blue Cheese Sauce and Beetroot Chutney Lamb Burger.  Congratulations Phoebe.


Lamb Burger with blue cheese sauce and beetroot chutney


  • 200g lamb mince

  • 2 red onions

  • 1/2 brown onion

  • 2/6 of garlic

  • 1/2 beetroot

  • 150ml milk

  • 2 Tbsp flour

  • 40g butter

  • 3g green lettuce

  • 1/2 tomatoes

  • 100ml balsamic vinegar

  • 40g soft brown sugar

  • 1/2 egg

  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs

  • 2 burger buns

  • 2 Tbsp salt

  • 2 Tbsp pepper

  • 2 Tbsp allspice

  • 1 small tomato


1) Heat a non-stick frying pan over a stove with 1 Tbsp of olive oil.

2) Dice the brown onion and leave on a prep plate.

3) In a medium sized bowl combine the mince, egg, brown onion, garlic, all spice, salt and pepper. Split the mince in to two even sized portions and mold each portion into round patty’s.

4) Place each burger patty on to the hot pan and leave to sear, flipping and searing until dark brown. Using a spatula place the burger patties on an oven tray and place in preheated oven.

5) Slice red onions into thick rings and place in a pan over medium heat with 10g butter. Once the onions are slightly brown add balsamic vinegar and soft brown sugar and flip onions in the pan using a spatula until onions are caramelized. place on a prep plate.

6) Place a small saucepan on a low heat and add the grated beetroot with the balsamic vinegar and mix in using a wooden spoon.

7) Melt 20g of butter in a small saucepan add the flour and mix then stir in the milk and eventually blue cheese mixing while on a low heat.

8) Remove the patty’s from the oven.

9) Dice garlic and place in a small saucepan with butter. Brush over burger buns and place i the oven

10) slice tomatoes and set on a prep plate. Along with lettuce. and blue cheese.

11) Remove burger buns and place on a plate and then place the blue cheese sauce on the bottom off each of the buns then the lettuce, onions, patty, tomatoes, beetroot chutney and slices of blue cheese. place the top bun on each burger and stick a skewer through the top of the burger.

12) Place each burger on a different serving board and place sliced beetroot around one of the corners and a baby tomato on the top of the skewer along with blue cheese.