Chefs Feeling Competitive and Creative for the COOL Cuisine Burger Battle

Chef Prajwal Bajracharya of Yeti Restaurant and Chef Arturo Gonzalez, of Smokin’ Ewe BBQ (at G St. Wunderbar) sharpen their plant-based cooking skills at a workshop presented by the Davis Food Co-op.

By Linnea Patterson

Plant-based eating is growing faster than ever in 2019. For this we can thank the many creative chefs whose innovations allow more and more people to become comfortable with meat alternatives.

The COOL Cuisine Burger Battle is a month-long contest where chefs compete for diners’ taste buds. Diners get to taste and rate each burger they try among 17 different eateries. Many of the participating chefs are just as excited, if not more so, than the diners. You can find a list of contenders at

Bistro 33’s current Impossible Burger (shown) is a top seller at the restaurant and comes vegetarian style, but can be special ordered with vegan cheese and mayo. Their executive chef is designing an additional burger with a different set of flavorful toppings for the Burger Battle.

Jim Edlund, owner of Redrum Burger, is eager to let diners know that Redrum offers more than their famous ostrich and elk burgers, but many plant-based options as well. In addition to the restaurant’s four existing meatless options, Redrum aims to release two more meat-free creations. Mr. Edlund is sure that Redrum’s inventions will be successful: “I’ve converted meat eaters who used to eat third-pound burgers to veggie with my California avocado burger.”

In contrast, Yeti Restaurant has to find creative ways to pull off a classic burger riff. Inspired by the many flavors of the festivals in Nepal, owner Prajwal Bajracharya says that Yeti’s dish is not a typical American burger, in fact, it won’t even have a bun: “We are experimenting with serving the patty with rice or curry on the side.” Mr. Bajracharya hopes new and old plant-based Yeti diners will enjoy his unique burger: “We hope to get good reviews!”

Meanwhile, Chef Brandon Dinh from Chay Corner is reinventing an already popular item: the “Grilled Goodness” sandwich. “The goal is to reimagine this classic Vietnamese-French sandwich as a plant-based, American burger.” Chef Brandon is presenting his Battle creation as part of his aim to “promote healthy, vegetarian-vegan lifestyles without compromising good taste.”

Another Battle contender with a spin on the theme is Ivan Franks, owner of The Hotdogger, who will connect his restaurant with the Battle theme and offer a “wiener burger” using Beyond Sausage as the “meat.”

Chef Kue Her, Senior Executive Chef at the UC Davis campus is working with his team to craft six delicious burgers, one for each of the dining commons, as well as the University’s retail restaurants. Chef Kue plans to welcome non-UC Davis students onto campus at lunch through two weeks of the Burger Battle: “There is a perception that the dining commons are only for students, but our doors are always open.” In addition, he hopes to normalize plant-based eating across a larger audience: “We want to educate our students and the public that vegan food is just as delicious.” Chef Kue is sure that his team’s Burger Battle creations will live long after the contest, across the campus’ menus.

With just under two weeks until the contest, in addition to individual dining, now is the time to create a tasting team with a group of friends, club members, or colleagues. To be able to grant awards to your favorite burgers, create teams of five people and taste at least four participating burgers during the month of March. All voters will be entered into a raffle for prizes. Visit for burger descriptions, voting, complete event information and social media links.

Linnea Patterson is a recent graduate from UC Davis and a freelance journalist.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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