Culture

The Annual Detroit Burger Brawl

The annual Detroit Burger Brawl may well be down for the count after its main financial backer unexpectedly pulled out Monday.

“We are exploring what we can get done as far as a new sponsor” to replace Fairway Packing Co., said Jeremy Adragna, co-owner of the Copyblot event-management firm, which launched Detroit Burger Brawl in 2011. “If we can’t find a new sponsor by Friday, then we’ll definitely have to call it off.”

Fairway, a major meat supplier in Eastern Market, bankrolled both of the two prior burger throwdowns, in which metro Detroit restaurants competed in a street-fair atmosphere near Eastern Market for best-burger-cooking honors. The public could attend and taste samples of the burgers.

Adragna said it cost $70,000-$80,000 to stage the event with tents, equipment, entertainment, and free custom-blended ground beef for the competing chefs.

“It was a wonderful event for two years,” said Fairway’s Gino Baratta, a third-generation Fairway family member. “The chefs loved it, and it was a great way for us to show appreciation for our clients.”

But this year, the company “wants to go in a little different direction,” he said, by holding a food festival later this year in partnership with high-end food and wine purveyor Carmela Foods of Fraser and owner Tony Tocco.

The show will be geared toward retailers, chefs, restaurateurs, and food lovers and is expected to attract about 4,000 people. “This makes more sense for us at this time,” Baratta said.

Burger Brawl’s proceeds benefited Gleaners Community Food Bank, which is “going through its Rolodex to help us look for a new sponsor,” Adragna said. The new backer doesn’t have to be a meat company — “just someone who’s dedicated to having a premiere family-friendly food event in the city of Detroit,” he said.

Last year’s throwdown attracted about 2,200 visitors and 19 chefs. This year, Adragna and his wife and business partner, Elizabeth Durham-Adragna, wanted to expand the competition to 30 chefs and were looking for more contestants.

“The idea has always been that we wanted to grow it into something similar to Tastefest,” a once-annual food festival in Midtown that is no longer held. Burger Brawl “was an avenue to slowly grow into a major food event,” Adragna said.

He said there’s still time to salvage this year’s Detroit Burger Brawl.

But if a new sponsor doesn’t materialize, “we will spend the next year trying to organize a major, large-scale food festival” similar to Tastefest, he said. “We want it to be a summer, family event … something that’s fun to do in the city of Detroit.”

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Growing up in Detroit, Amanda is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.