Jack Daniels Presents Burgerfest names its winners

Two new places took top honors and the BBQ Pit Boys showed how easy cooking can be

The fifth BurgerFest took place at Výstaviště in Prague's Holešovice district on the weekend of Sept 10–11, with sunny but unseasonably hot weather.

Some 50 vendors were selling burgers and related items at this year's edition, which was officially known as Jack Daniels Presents BurgerFest. The winner this year for best burger, as judged by BBQ Pit Boys, was Tommy's Food Truck, followed by a visiting catering company from Sweden, Hans Dalakorv, and TGI Fridays in third place.

The audience also voted for best restaurant, with Arts Cafe winning followed by Black Dog and Koza Róza.

Both the operators of Tommy's Food Truck and Arts Cafe were completely surprised by the success. Tommy's Food Truck is exactly that, a truck and not a restaurant. Tomáš Staněk said his food truck is a little more than one year old and goes to music festivals and food festivals on weekends. Like most of the successful burger sellers, he gets his beef from a small number of local suppliers. “People like our burgers and have been coming back,” he said, adding that the victory made him happy.

Štefan Filčák of Arts Cafe said that his restaurant in Kralupy nad Vltavou has only been open four months under his management and that he was “absolutely not expecting to win.” His stand at the festival also had the longest lines all weekend as it was offering a menu of four different sliders for less than what most places charged for a single burger. They brought 180 kilograms of meat to the festival and sold about 5,000 sliders, or miniburgers. His meat comes from two farms, one which is organic.

Filčák invites everyone to come to his eatery in Kralupy, just north of Prague, but not at the same time as it is a small place. “Make a reservation,” he said. They also do grilled meat and fish.

Hans Barksjö of Hans Dalakorv Catering came all the way from Sweden just for the festival. He saw it mentioned on a Youtube video by the BBQ Pit Boys and said, “We have to go there next year.” He was serving moose burgers in a tangy sauce and burgers with Jack Daniels mixed in the meat. He stressed that it was the real liquor and not just some flavoring. He said sales were better than expected, especially for the moose burgers. He had to guess how much meat to bring and didn't want to take any back. Luckily they sold most of the 2,000 burgers they brought with them. Barksjö admitted that coming all the way to Prague for the festival was a bit of a crazy thing to do but he seemed to be enjoying himself a lot.

TGI Fridays does not do that many food festivals, but made an exception for Jack Daniel's Presents Burgerfest. TGIF's Prague chef Miroslav Máša said the festival was good advertising for them, and it let people try their burgers and experience the quality first hand. They were offering two kinds of burgers for less than they normally cost at the two TGIF locations in Prague.

The stars of the festival were the BBQ Pit Boys. Bob Ahlgren, one of the founders of the group, was in Prague for the festival. It was his second time here, and he came because festival organizer Zdeněk Střížek invited him. Ahlgren does not actually go to many international events, and aside from Prague he has only gone to Tokyo and Taiwan.

The “mother pit” as Ahlgren calls it, is in Connecticut. Three people came from the mother pit and 30 to 40 from other affiliated chapters in Europe, Taiwan and Thailand.

The BBQ Pit Boys have become sensations over Youtube, where they post short videos showing cooking technique. They have so far declined offers from cooking networks, as that is not the direction they want to go in. “There was no business model to this. It has grown on it own,” he said, adding that it began on Youtube almost 10 years ago.

There are now 14,000 chapters in 100 countries. “There is an excitement and enthusiasm about being a BBQ Pit Boy, and backyard cooking, enjoying friends and good music,” he said. “It is a common bond around the world.”

Czech audiences were very interested in the demonstrations, he said. “They are very warm and friendly too. They have asked for hundreds and hundreds of pictures with me,” he said. “There is definitely BBQ fever.” The group doesn't try to teach recipes but technique that can be learned and adapted by anyone. “We demonstrate how easy it is to make things.”

One of the BBQ Pit Boys chapters that came to the festival was from Sweden. One member, Ville, said that for him the festival was like their Christmas, and the highlight of their year. His group cooked elk burgers with lingonberries and chanterelles.

The Rotary Club was also present. The English-speaking chapter in Prague was selling pork burgers with a choice of three toppings that were devised by Curry House. The money they raised went in part of fight cystic fibrosis and to other charities they support including the Salvation Army, Sananim, Život 90 and children's charities. The Rotary Club worldwide has led the way in the fight against polio, which has all but been wiped out.

Aside from burgers there were some other items on sale such as beef jerky. A local company called Rusticjerky.com had three types ranging from very spicy Smokin' Ghost to Honey BBQ. The company's Mark Daly said it was made from Czech cows raised outside with no antibiotics or chemicals. The jerky is handmade, also without preservatives or additives. Two more flavors will come soon he said.

People at the festival said they enjoyed a chance to be with friends outdoors. Petra, who was with a several people, said she liked the opportunity to try some different burgers and had three so far, but still preferred the one from Black Dog, a restaurant she already knew. Her friend Karolína had only tried one burger and a bite of another. She was more interested in meeting up with friends and listening to the music.

Jiří, who was also with them, said that for him it was also more about being able to spend a nice day outside with friends and it was better than going to a specific restaurant as there were lots of things to do and everyone could chose what they wanted.

Kaja, who was 6 years old, was not very interested in the burgers at all. For her the kids corner was the most fun. “I like that,” she said pointing to the bouncy castle. She also had a good time at a display for Barbie Dolls by toy maker Mattel.

Fotos Burgerfest 2016 (by Prague.TV, Living Like a Local!)

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