The prestigious James Beard Foundation kicked off its annual burger competition, The Blended Burger Project, on May 29. Of the more than 300 participating restaurants is local chef Tom Hughbanks. The Montgomery County native who has entered his Blue Ribbon Bison Burger on the behalf of Harvest Plates & Pints, which is located within the Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do and where I am from,” said Hughbanks. “I hope my participation [in this competition] illustrates the quality and care I have for food and shows how diverse areas like, Montgomery County, can contribute to the evolving culinary landscape without having to be located within a major city.”
The Blended Burger Project aims to change the way Americans eat by bringing awareness to healthier, more sustainable ways to prepare food without sacrificing quality and flavor. Winners are determined by the most popular online votes. The top 5 finalists are invited to the James Beard House in New York City to compete head-to-head for a panel of judges.
Originally from Poolesville, Hughbanks has shown off his culinary prowess at prestigious locations, such as, the historical Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland as Executive Chef of the Owl Bar, the 13th Floor and their in-house catering company, Truffles.
In 2010, he began working as Executive Sous Chef of the Holiday Inn Washington-Dulles, one of the bustling flagships of the B.F. Saul Company properties. Since then, Chef Tom has risen in the ranks and recently, in 2014, became Executive Chef of Holiday Inn Gaithersburg as well as the Holiday Inn Express located in Germantown. Hughbanks serves up his creative menus for a variety of events from bar mitzvahs and weddings to craft beer and wine pairings.
The only Montgomery County entry, Chef Tom’s Blue Ribbon Bison Burger features a blend of grass-fed bison with chanterelle and morel mushrooms, topped with crisp, fried baby kale, peppered bacon, saga bleu cheese and finished with a smoked tomato jam and a savory black truffle aioli on a freshly toasted ciabatta. Chef Tom’s burger will be featured on the Harvest Plates & Pints menu until online voting ends on July 31.
Photos courtesy Chef Tom Hughbanks