Binz Refectory

Binz Refectory's Andy Casale victorious in national burger challenge

Andy Casale, food service manager at the Binz Refectory on the University of St. Thomas' St. Paul campus, proved that there is more to a great burger than ketchup, mustard and deft spatula skills. Casale competed in the Cargill Corp.-sponsored TNT Top Burger Challenge April 23 at the company’s research and development center in Wichita, Kan., winning the top award, a $10,000 cash prize.

His recipe, "The Black and Green," beat out 66 entrants from across the United States and earned him a place among six finalists, who were judged in a cook-off by renowned chef and restaurateur Marcus Sameulsson and members of the Cargill Culinary Team.

The "Black and Green" burger.

Casale's winning burger features green and black olive tapenades (which give the burger its name), each spread on one half of a sliced ciabatta bun, oven-roasted tomatoes, hearts of romaine, pancetta, chive oil and a slice of dolce provolone cheese.

Casale says that "every little, tiny ingredient was changed and revised" before he submitted his Black and Green recipe, one of four he entered in the contest.

The cook-off

Contestants were required to create an original burger recipe using one of three of Cargill's TNT patty varieties: beef, turkey or Angus beef — Casale chose beef. The recipes also had to be practical for serving in a food-service environment and exhibit creativity, originality and "the mark of true culinary craftsmanship."

Andy Casale
at work.

At the cook-off, contestants were given just over an hour and a half to prepare their ingredients, then 20 minutes to cook and assemble their burgers before the judges’ watchful eyes.

The finalists were judged based on flavor, appetite appeal and presentation.

At 18 and a half minutes, Casale took the longest of the bunch, but the extra time appears to have paid off. The other contestants, Casales says, finished between 12 and 13 minutes.

A passionate and lifelong chef

Casale says that his motivation for entering the contest was not the prize money but the opportunity to cook for world-class judges. In addition to Samuelsson, Stephen Giunta, a former White House chef for Ronald and Nancy Reagan and one of 60 Certified Master Chefs in the United States, was among those on judging team.

Casale has been cooking professionally since he was 14, when he began working at Italian restaurants in New York. Since then, all of his chef training has come from on-the-job experience. His previous jobs include head chef at the Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

He has worked in the Binz at St. Thomas since 1985.

When will UST students be able to order the award-winning burger?

Casale notes that it would be difficult to make the Black and Green on a large enough scale to accommodate the St. Paul campus, but speculates that it could be served on the smaller Minneapolis campus soon.

If students can't find it on campus, Casale has a tip to make their homemade burgers more palatable: spread unsalted butter on the sliced sides of the bun then grill on a flat griddle.

Casale’s and the 11 other semifinalists' and finalists' recipes will appear in the 2009 TNT Burger Calendar and on the Web site