This won favorite just finished the Burger Bash. But he could lose his house of a lifetime

Burgers are made for guests during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Burger Bash.

Burgers are made for guests during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash.

Over the past three weeks, Rita Tennyson has experienced one unlikely moment after another, culminating in her appearing onstage at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash on Friday night with a trophy for Jury’s Favorite Burger.

Three weeks ago, festival founder and Coral Gables resident Lee Schrager sampled his cheddar cheeseburger with bacon sauce and caramelized onions at a neighborhood farmers market and invited it to enter the annual competition for best burger.

Normally, he prepares a version of that burger at Burger Bob’s, the longtime restaurant located on the Granada Golf Course in Coral Gables. But two weeks ago Burger Bob’s closed after the city refused to renew the restaurant’s lease.

“The city has really screwed them up,” Schrager said from the stage.

The city requested a new concept in the golf course. Tennyson, who has worked with owner Robert Maguire at Burger Bob’s for 28 years, has been fighting an influential lobbyist who wanted to set up a “chef-led restaurant” to get his renovation and permanence proposal considered. on the golf course. Last month, Rodney Barreto withdrew his offer after community members objected.

On Friday, those problems seemed further away for Tennyson, whose R Catering — which he runs with his two sons, two brothers and a cousin — won the jury prize for best burger and a $1,500 check.

South Beach Wine & Food Festival officials, including founder Lee Schrager, left, and host Chef José Andrés, right, present Rita Tennyson of R Catering & Events with the trophy and cash prize for the judges’ choice during the Burger Bash. Daniel A. Varela

“Tonight I’m going to focus on the positive,” he said. “We want to be positive because today is an amazing day.”

Celebrity chef José Andrés, who was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize for the work of his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen, presented him with the check, shortly after calling for a moment of silence in memory of the people of Ukraine. (“We have no room for war,” he told the crowd.)

“Seeing your tears, I think we feel what all small restaurant owners have suffered in the last two years,” Andres said, hugging Tennyson.

Emilie Sobel, 29, takes a bite out of her friend’s burger during the South Beach Wine & Burger Bash food festival. Daniel A. Varela

It was the second year of a new image for one of the most emblematic events of the festival. The festival cut turnout from more than 4,000 people who usually huddle under the beachside tent behind the Ritz-Carlton South Beach to two 1,100-person sessions, with an hour-long cleanup halfway through the event, to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. That meant two batches of judges and winners chosen by the public.

Andrés replaced celebrity chef Rachael Ray, who had to miss the event after testing positive for COVID-19 and not being able to catch the flight from New York.

“I am sick and not with COVID, but with the heart”, because she could not attend, as she sent a message to Schrager.

That left Andres alone to deliver the other awards of the night. La Birra Bar, the family-owned Argentine franchise that opened its first U.S. location in North Miami Beach in August, won the first-session crowd prize, as well as $5,000 for its 4-ounce beef burger with American cheese, red onions and house sauce. In the second session, Motek Café won second prize from the public, and $5,000 for its Lebanese pita-stuffed burger with harissa aioli. And Vice Burger, downtown, won the other Very Best Burger jury pick and the $1,500 prize with its wagyu beef burger.

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This won favorite just finished the Burger Bash. But he could lose his house of a lifetime