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Is it art...or lunch? Santa Barbara artist and museum curator creates national award-winning burger

Emily Falke of Santa Barbara created what she calls the Savory Spring Roll Bulgogi burger, which won the 2022 Heinz "Art of the Burger" competition

Savory Spring Roll Bulgogi Burger challenges all of us who think a Labor Day barbeque feast is a burger on a bun with cheese, mustard, and lettuce.

Labor Day weekend is here, and for many, it means it’s time to toss some burgers on a barbeque. It’s the sizzling sounds of the end of summer.

Maybe you think you’re good at the grill. Well, a Santa Barbara woman definitely is a master. She just won a contest, and thousands of dollars in prize money for creating the what's being called the best burger in the country.

"The Savory Spring Roll Bulgogi Burger...what's in it is Heinz sauces....I used their barbeque sauce, and spiced it all up into a bulgogi sauce, and I took their mayonnaise, and I added kimchi...and made it sort of pink...and I made a grilled sirloin burger, and glazed it...and deconstructed a spring roll on top," said Emily Falke. But, that's not all there is to her award winning burger.

"All the's like a firecracker on top," said Falke. "A super textural, sweet, spicy, savory concoction."

But Falke is not a professional chef. She’s an art expert. In fact, her day job is with the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’, where she is the Curator, and Director of Collections and Exhibits. So, how did she become an award-winning cook?

"I've been cooking since I was about eight years old, but contesting for about 14," said Falke. When she was living in Bakersfield, she entered a contest sponsored by an appliance store, and won a refrigerator. She was a single mother with two kids, so the prize was useful. But, she also got the food contest bug.

She heard about the Heinz “Art Of The Burger” contest, and thought it would be a great challenge. "I thought it was really cool, because they were looking at how we eat with our eyes, and presentation is important," said Falke. She won first prize, which is $25,000 after taxes. And, the company will feature her burger in its Midwest restaurant chain.

But, she's not a strictly burger person. Will she be making burgers for the Labor Day holiday weekend? "I think I'm going to be grilling fish, actually," said Falke.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.