Six contestants fired up for first annual Juneteenth Cheeseburger Challenge Cook-Off

Published 7:14 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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NATCHEZ — “Everyone likes to brag on their burgers and say theirs is the best,” said Malcom Inniss, owner of WTYJ, 97.7 The Beat radio.

Six contenders in the inaugural Juneteenth Cheeseburger Challenge Cook-Off this Friday, June 14, will have the chance to prove it.

The radio station is both sponsoring and competing in the challenge, which lasts from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Broadway Street outside of the Natchez Grand Hotel, for a chance to win the grand prize. The public may purchase burgers from each of the vendors with prices starting at $5 and up, Inniss said.

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“The contestants will not be allowed to put any meat on the grill until 3 p.m.,” Inniss said. “It will send this massive aroma of all the meats and spices grilling throughout downtown.” Like a scene from a classic Tom and Jerry cartoon, where the aroma cloud dances underneath Tom’s nose and lifts him into the air, people would “float to where the food is,” Inniss said.

Around the same time, the Jackson-based WJTV Channel 12 News will be filming a live segment at the Natchez Bluff bandstand nearby starting at 4 p.m., so the challengers will have “a chance to shine and let Jackson know we got the best burgers down here,” he said.

“We’re inviting the entire community to come out and enjoy music and some amazing cheeseburgers. This is the beginning of something very special and I’m appreciative of the city for the opportunity for us to put this together.”

Meet the challengers

WTYJ is bringing its “world-famous Beat Burgers,” made with a special blend of spices and marinade, Inniss said.

Other contenders include Rod’s Grill and Chill, which is “all about the spices and all about the meat. If you spice the meat correctly, that’s all you need,” he said.

Natchez Chevrolet’s Mark Robinette is “coming with the sauce.”

Bryan The Barkeep, known locally as the bartender at the Natchez Grand, is bringing his “Bloody Mary” burger.

Cheeseburger lovers can also bank on Delta Bank to bring a million-dollar taste while the final team, known as “The Providence Crew,” is coming for “the cheeseburger cup and the bragging rights,” Inniss said.

“I want to give thanks to all the participants,” he said. “I believe food is an extension of one’s personality. I’m looking forward to enjoying the personalities each of our contenders bring to our first year and to doing more in the future. The hope is next year to have more organizations involved. We’re not collecting any of the proceeds from this event so each has the opportunity to fundraise for the causes that they deem important, whether it’s a nonprofit cause or supporting their own business. In the spirit of Juneteenth, this event is also about economic empowerment and gives small businesses a chance to get out here and provide concession.”

Inniss said each contestant will be scored based on the opinion of five to 10 anonymous judges — anonymous so that judges won’t be pressured — and also by people’s vote. QR codes will be set up around the venue that the public can scan to vote on their favorite, Inniss said.

“We want everyone’s opinion to count.”