Terra Catering San Diego | Build Your Own Burger

The first place People's Choice winner in the 2017 running of the Reader's Burgers & Beer competition is this catering company that also represents sister restaurants Terra American Bistro, in La Mesa, and gourmet burger specialist Bunz, in west Mission Valley.

Owner and chef Jeff Rossman wrote the book on making a great burger (Seriously — it's a cookbook titled Build Your Own Burger!). He's also written about cooking with local and seasonal produce, and applies the farm to table practice at his restaurants, whether it's building a perfect salad, cooking up local-catch seafood, or merely topping his burgers with fresh, flavorful produce. Rossman's classic burger features black peppercorn aioli and caramelized onions, though at Bunz you'll find a dozen different burger styles with toppings ranging from the usual smoked bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and crushed avocado; to fried chicken, pulled pork, or tortilla chips.

However, for Burgers & Beer Rossman's sous chef Ken Helm cooked up something special to take the top prize. It started with Jensen Meats beef chuck, grilled extra flavorful and juicy with a 25-percent fat blend. Then, on a toasted Bread & Cie sesame bun, he topped the patty with a hunk of braised and peachwood smoked short rib and dressed the decadent combination of meats with tart aioli, Serrano-onion jam, and creamy Appenzeller cheese from Switzerland.

Little wonder it's a winner!