Step off cheesy regular burgers, Pechanga Resort Casino can tell Jose Mendoza is going for the glory as the only local chef dishing it out in the prestigious participating in the James Beard Foundation’s 2019 Blended Burger Project.
The competition, which has drawn burger entries from 266 chefs nationwide, asks restaurants to create a menu burger that is made with at least 25 percent chopped mushrooms. The New York-based foundation is the nation’s most respected culinary arts organization.
With ingredients including locally raised beef, Cotswold pub cheese, homemade aioli, pickles and Brussels sprout sauerkraut, beef belly pastrami, San Diego-grown microgreens, fresh brioche bun and Escondido-grown king trumpet and shitake mushrooms, diners at Pechanga Resort Casino can tell Chef Jose Mendoza likes community in his food. These components make up Mendoza’s new Psycho-Deli Burger which can be found on the Lobby Bar & Grill’s menu for $16.
Mendoza, the head chef of the Lobby Bar & Grill at Pechanga Resort Casino, is one of 266 United States chefs with specialty mushroom-blended burgers entered into the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project. The competition asked chefs to create a burger with at least 25 percent mushrooms, put it on their menus, invite guests to try it and vote for it in the competition.
The top 25 burgers with the most online votes go on to the finals in which a panel of food experts selected by the James Beard Foundation will determine five winners.
Mendoza said he ultimately hopes his Psycho-Deli Burger catches the public’s and the experts’ attention. But through participating in the contest, he said he also hopes to bring more awareness to the importance of food sustainability.
“We are so incredibly lucky in southern California to have an abundance of fresh produce, meats, seafood, fresh herbs and so much more at our fingertips,” Mendoza said. “Through my burger entry, I hope our guests love it and vote for it. And I want them to leave with the knowledge that cooking with more mushrooms and less meat does amazing things for the planet. We use less water, people get more healthful benefits.”
Mendoza sources his burger’s mushrooms from Mountain Meadow Mushrooms, a farm in Escondido.
“When I went to visit the mushroom farm, it was truly an education for me,” the chef said. “They recycle everything. They get 350 truckloads a year of used straw and its contents from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. They let that material sit, and then because of its high amounts of nitrogen, it’s used to help grow the mushrooms. There are dozens of kinds of mushrooms grown there.”
Born and raised in Valley Center, California, Mendoza said he likes that he can draw from the region’s bounty, and he appreciates mushrooms’ benefits both for health and for the planet. According to http://www.Foodrevolution.com, mushrooms are low in calories, offer fiber and protein and provide important nutrients including B vitamins, selenium, potassium and more. They also emit cancer-fighting elements according to biologists. Scientists said fungi feed off the sickness of other plants, cleanse pollutants from the ground and much more that aid the health of the planet.
“Guests look to chefs as the authority on food, and so we can help set the model for sustainability,” Mendoza said. “Programs like the Blended Burger Project inspire us to create healthier, more sustainable foods without sacrificing taste. For anyone who is a meat eater, try swapping out just an eighth to a quarter of the next burger patty you make at home with finely chopped mushrooms. You will not miss anything. In fact, you will get an amazing umami flavor along with it.”
Since adding the burger to the menu on May 27, Mendoza said the Psycho-Deli has been selling so well that he might keep it on the menu after the contest ends. Every diner who orders one of the burgers is told about the contest and, if they love it, they’re invited to vote for the burger on an iPad that is brought to their table.
“So far, every person who ate it liked it and they’ve all been happy to vote for it,” he said.
The public is invited to vote by clicking the heart icon for their favorite blended burgers in an online poll that runs through July 31. The 25 chefs whose burgers get the most votes will be asked to submit their recipes to the Beard Foundation judges. From that round, five chef finalists will be flown to New York to make the burgers in person for the panel. The final winner will receive a $5,000 prize.
This is the third year the Beard Foundation has hosted a blended burger challenge. Winning chefs from the previous two rounds, as well as some semifinalists, have reported huge sales of their blended burgers. Mendoza’s not sure if he’ll win but he’s happy to do his part to boost the profile of the region’s sustainable farms.
Lobby Bar & Grill at Pechanga Resort Casino
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays. 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Where: Pechanga Resort Casino, 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula
Phone: (951) 770-8440