Hungry crowds eating up Burger Wellington

Fork & Brewer assistant manager Matt Weaver serving up the pub's Burger Wellington entry, The Brisk-Taker.
Monique Ford/Stuff
Fork & Brewer assistant manager Matt Weaver serving up the pub's Burger Wellington entry, The Brisk-Taker.

The smokers are running day and night at Fork & Brewer, preparing mountains of Wagyu brisket for the pub’s The Brisk-Taker burger.

It’s one of 242 restaurants putting their burger ability to the test, competing in region-wide Burger Wellington.

Burger Wellington has been running since October 12, and will take final orders on Saturday, October 30.

Fork & Brewer has been selling about 200 burgers a day over the last fortnight. Their offering has proven so popular that the pub had to buy every single piece of Wagyu brisket their supplier First Light Farms could produce.

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“It’s great seeing so much support for local businesses. We’ve been getting people down here we’ve never seen before,” Fork & Brewer assistant manager Matt Weaver said.

The boost in business was much-needed after a tough year for the hospitality industry, he said.

Fork & Brewer pub's Burger Wellington entry, The Brisk-Taker, features a Wagyu beef brisket smoked for 12 hours.
Monique Ford/Stuff
Fork & Brewer pub's Burger Wellington entry, The Brisk-Taker, features a Wagyu beef brisket smoked for 12 hours.

JoAnne Carr of the Wellington Culinary Events Trust said people seemed to be trying a wider range of burgers this year.

“What we’ve noticed is normally one burger becomes the talking point that everyone focuses on. This year that’s not so much the case, there’s a lot of different burgers making noise,” she said.

This is the 11th year of Burger Wellington, which began in the second year of the Wellington On a Plate food festival with 34 entries.

Unlike other years, the 2020 edition does not ask burger aficionados to rate their favourites out of 10, and there will not be a formal winner.

”We didn’t feel it was appropriate to be pitting the industry against each other after the year we’ve had,” programme manager Beth Brash said.

She felt the lack of competition had made the process less egalitarian, and encouraged people to try out more options to find their personal favourite.

”There hasn’t been this frenzied discussion about who the winner is going to be, so there hasn’t been a clear ‘you might try this’ burger,” she said.

This year’s festival theme is Common Ground: celebrating togetherness, diversity and community.

Around 200,000 burgers are expected to be sold at this year’s festival, which will not have an official winner.
Monique Ford/Stuff
Around 200,000 burgers are expected to be sold at this year’s festival, which will not have an official winner.

Brash said the effects of lockdown had made the theme all the more poignant.

”Everyone is just so grateful, both industry and customers. Every single time you’re out somewhere, there’s a conversation where someone is saying ’oh my god, I can’t believe we can do this’.”

The 2019 Burger Wellington festival saw more than 200,000 burgers sold region-wide. Figures for 2020 are not yet available but seem likely to match or surpass previous years.

Stuff