Carl's Jr. Memphis BBQ Burger

In JJ Johnson’s mind, everyone believes they make a better burger than the next guy or gal, and that idea is behind Esquire Network’s new competition series “The Next Great Burger.”

“The burger, we feel, kind of makes us who we are,” the New York-based chef and restaurateur tells Zap2it. “Anybody can make a burger but making a great burger is a different thing.”

Premiering Tuesday (July 21), the series pits three contestants in what amounts to a burger-cooking contest. In the first round, hosts Johnson and Owen Benjamin sample the cuisine and eliminate one chef. The remaining two then square off against each other with the crowd sampling the fare and determining the outcome. The winner gets $25,000 and the distinction of having created “The Next Great Burger.”

And these burgers are not limited to just beef. Some contestants used ground pork, others ground chorizo (Portuguese sausage) and one drizzled a lobster bearnaise sauce over the top of his creation. And then, of course, there was something called “the energy burger,” which was based on an energy shake.

“[The contestant] then created that and put it on the burger,” Johnson says, “so he did like blueberry, mayonnaise, spinach –- all these crazy ingredients that went in the blender that he would drink after he worked out, he then threw that on top of his burger.”

Factoring into the action is the beer-fired crowd, which not only judges the creations and determines the winners but also interacts with the chefs and hosts on stage. And that can prove distracting.

“You’ll see people forget to season their burger meat because this hot girl was standing in front of them and he’s trying to impress her,” Johnson says. “Or the crowds are chanting back and forth because the left side of the room really loves Marvin’s burger and the right side of the room is really loving this girl that’s killing it doing things that they never saw before. So you have this effect of the crowd that also plays a major role in how people cook.

“It’s like an arena,” he continues. “The funniest part about it, you would see this nerdy guy behind there just cooking a burger and this hot blonde chick with blue eyes talking to him and he would just lose track. And I would say to Owen, ‘You see? I told you the crowd’s a factor.’ “

Posted by:George Dickie