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‘Burger Genius’ back for second round

An experiment in viral marketing has turned out to be a boon for business at Kapahulu burger joint Burgers on the Edge.

Last year, the restaurant introduced “Burger Genius,” a contest and reality show that searched for the best new burger recipe to add to the menu at Burgers on the Edge. According to co-owner Jason Kim, the response was so impressive a second — and expanded — competition is currently underway.

“Last year, our show was ranked third among all digital cable boxes from Time Warner that (were tuned in when the show) aired on KHON,” said Kim. “I had no idea (the finalists) would be so competitive. That kind of blew my mind.”

Approximately 300 people entered last year’s contest, with the number almost doubling to 500 entries in 2010. The first phase, which ended May 31, solicited both written recipes and video entries, which Kim said were surprisingly successful despite being a new addition to the competition.

On Tuesday, Kim and the six finalists traveled to Hawaii Pacific University’s Kaneohe campus to film the reality show aspect of the contest, with some of the finalists even dressing up for the filming.

Finalist Shay Fukayama donned a traditional martial arts gi to transform herself into a weapon-wielding burger master:

“I think this crowd this year, they’re a little more vocal,” said Kim. “And we threw in Eric Young from last year as a surprise, so he was the contender nobody knew about. We also wanted variety this year, so we threw the turkey and veggie burger into the mix.”

While the finalists spent time earlier this week cooking up their burgers for TV cameras, the winner won’t be announced until July 7 on KHON, in order to coincide with the restaurant’s anniversary. Starting Monday, however, all six recipes will be on the menu at Burgers on the Edge, with the top-sellers in three categories winning $200 cash and burgers for a year.

“The top three will be on our menu for the forseeable future,” Kim confirmed. “And their picture, name and everything will be up on the wall in the restaurant. I don’t know where else you can do that.”

Along with the sales contest, Burgers on the Edge will also collect donations for the Hawaii Foodbank; canned goods (meats, tuna, spaghetti, soups, chili, vegetables and fruits) and cash donations will be accepted.

Here are the finalists, by category:

» Beef Patty: “The Southern Belle” with fried green tomatoes (Gena Hunt) versus “Da Local Kine Burger” with li hing mui mayo (Mike Smith)

» Turkey Patty: “Mr. Smarty Pants” with basil pesto (Vincent Kimura) versus “Save the Chickens” with cream of mushroom soup (Ryan Kanno)

» Veggie Patty: “Plan B” with panko-crusted patty and tonkatsu sauce (Shay Fukayama) versus “Garden Isle Burger” with Thai basil pesto (Angela Botelho)

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