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Joining me at the Bloomingdale's/Charlie Palmer Burger Challenge was the store's PR Manager Jaime Strong, Costa Mesa Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Vasin and Chef Charlie Palmer

Joining me at the Bloomingdale’s/Charlie Palmer’s Burger Challenge was the store’s PR Manager Jaime Strong, Costa Mesa Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Vasin and Burger Challenge judge and Chef Charlie Palmer

Who knew firemen could cook such good burgers?! I was really impressed with the Costa Mesa Fire Department’s efforts to participate in Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza’s Burger Challenge to help needy children and their families. As it turned out, it was the third annual challenge held at Bloomingdale’s Culinary Kitchen and also the third year Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdale’s played co-host. Well known Chef Charlie Palmer himself attended, acting as a delightful emcee and one of the three judges. The other guest judges included Nancy Luna, Orange County Register food reporter, and Tim Vasin, CMFD’s Battalion Chief.

The participating firemen, divided into two teams called Team Todd and Team Steve, had great fun chiding one another as they cooked up their burgers, and Palmer never missed a beat to ramp up the challenge. I spotted Bloomingdale’s Vice President/General Manager Jim Murphy and Charlie Palmer’s Executive Chef Seakyeong Kim enjoying the festivities. Costa Mesa policeman Bill Adams told me he heard about the burger challenge on television and thought it would good fun. Friends and families of the firemen were a great deal of the audience, cheering on their favorite team. Guests who donated money for the charity effort and to watch the challenge got to sample the burgers. Charlie Palmer waiters served pink lemonade and iced tea while everyone was enjoying the challenge.

When it came time to announce the winner, Palmer said it was like “splitting hairs” or “picking your favorite child.” The judges picked Team Todd and their “Italian Stallion Burger,” while the other burger, Team Steve’s “Mac & Cheese Crater Burger” was selected as the audience favorite. So, I guess they both won! The Italian Stallion Burger was featured at Charlie Palmer’s restaurant’s DG Burger, the restaurant’s 40-seat adjunct burger joint, the following month, and one dollar was donated for every Costa Mesa Fire Department burger eaten to Santa Letters, a division of the Costa Mesa Firefighters’ Association Charity Fund.

Immediately following the challenge at Bloomingdale’s, five couples, who each gave $1,000 to raise money for Santa Letters, were invited to a four-course dinner at Charlie Palmer’s hosted by the charming Palmer. The combined food events raised $11,500, with the South Coast Plaza restaurant generously donating the $3,500 in food costs. The money provided 20 needy Costa Mesa families with gifts, clothes, food, and household items for the Christmas holidays, with the firefighters delivering the gifts to the families on December 23rd. What a nice ending to a fun burger challenge!

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