This past August, Juwan Rice beat out some of the biggest names in the St. Louis burger scene to be crowned the winner of the Show-Me series burger battle — an event that not only gave him bragging rights; it earned him a golden ticket to represent the city in the World Food Championships burger competition in Dallas. On Sunday, the up-and-coming chef will face off at this massive food competition against chefs from all over the world, and he has one thing to say: He is here for it.
“In August, we came in as the undergdogs and did it,” Rice says. “That was extremely fun. We’ll be doing the same one [at the championship], because we wanted to stand out by not going the traditional route.”
As Rice explains, the key to his success at the August competition — and what he hopes will translate when he brings it to Dallas this weekend — is a lighter version of the flavors people love in a classic burger that is still deeply satisfying. He notes that, when doing his preliminary research for the Show-Me series event, he kept coming across super greasy and heavy options; he felt that, if he could tick those same flavor boxes in a different way, he’d be successful. He’s hoping to repeat that success with his winning entry, which consists of chimichurri aioli, double cream gouda, micro-green slaw and a bacon fat-fried rice paper chip.
For this weekend’s competition, there will be one important change to his recipe, however: Each competitor is required to use the plant-based Impossible burger, a factor that he believes plays into his take on creating a healthier dish.
“It’s interesting that the World Burger Championship is using Impossible meat,” Rice says. “I think it’s underestimated when it comes to flavor and really has great texture, like a sausage-burger hybrid. It translated to our burger really well.”
Rice joins Heidi Hamamura, who is also competing World Food Championships this weekend in the seafood category. Like Hamamura, Rice is considered a rising star in the St. Louis food scene; he credits his success to and early passion for cooking, which he has pursued through his catering company, JRs Gourmet, and his well-received tenure at the seafood restaurant Bait.
Though Rice is excited at the chance to be named the world’s burger champion, his purpose of going to Dallas is much bigger. The young chef hopes to use the event as a way to get broader exposure for Feeding the Frontline, the nonprofit he started last year as a way to support frontline workers during the pandemic. Next year, he plans on focusing the nonprofits energy on feeding teachers, who he believes need extra support during these challenging times, and he is asking people to support the organization through a sponsorship link on his website. 100 percent of proceeds raised will go to Feeding the Frontline, as will the $100,000 prize, should he win.
“Our main goal down there is to promote Feeding the Frontline,” Rice says. “Teachers are really stressed during this time, and we want to alleviate some of that stress with food. That is our big push for 2022 — to target teachers to get some good food and relax a bit. It’s humbling to see how something so simple as food can impact someone’s life so tremendously.”
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