Tennessee Cook Hopes to Win National Burger Contest With Help of Nonna's Chianti Jelly



Nancy Richers Ellis Island Burger
  • Nancy Richer's Ellis Island Burger
Nancy Richer, an enthusiastic home cook in Knoxville, is a plucky contender in the Los Angeles Times' annual Battle of the Burgers. Her Ellis Island Burger is like a melting pot of flavors, and she hopes that one of her special ingredients, Caffe Nonna's Chianti Jelly, will get a promotional bump if her burger wins or at least makes it into the elite group of 20 finalists.

Caffe Nonna, the venerable Italian spot in Sylvan Park, is owned by Daniel Maggipinto. He sells the jelly and some other gourmet prepared foods to raise funds for the fight against childhood brain cancer. (Maggipinto lost his daughter, Zoë, to a rare form of brain cancer before she turned 2.)

Richer says she hopes to win the Battle of the Burgers not so much for her own glory, but to introduce a national audience to Caffe Nonna's Chianti Jelly and thus raise money for a cancer cure.

As of this writing, Richer has 70 votes on the L.A. Times' Battle of the Burgers page on Facebook. She says she needs a lot more votes to make it into the next round, where LAT staffers will check out 20 of the recipes in their test kitchen. Five winners will then be chosen to be featured in a June 30 section of the paper, which will include the recipe and the entrants' accompanying essays.

Explaining her Ellis Island Burger, Richer's essay talks about July Fourth, liberty, her immigrant ancestors and how her burger, which includes a home-baked bun, is an adaptation of a family recipe from Caserta, Italy.

As befits the tale, her burger is a mosaic of influences: "a combination of beef and ground Italian sausage, garlic and onions, a Florentine egg mixture combined with an herbed Mediterranean olive spread, Parmesan panko, and is stuffed with Italian dry salame and provolone. The topping is baby bella mushrooms and carmelized red onions. A drizzling of a fine Chianti demiglace sauces the hamburger."

Winners will also be invited to demonstrate their recipes at the Los Angeles Times’ The Taste event September 2-5, which Richer figures will be another great platform to talk about Nonna's jelly and Maggipinto's cancer-fighting cause.

Voting ends at 3 p.m. Central time on Monday, June 11. If you'd like to vote, go here or head directly to the Battle of the Burgers page on Facebook.

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