Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
84° F Dallas, TX


By Robert Murphy |

It probably never occurred to you that somebody, somewhere, invented the hamburger. The Earl of Salisbury was the first man to grind a steak into an amorphous mass, and your great-grandmother may have stumbled upon the first meat loaf.

But it was the late Frank X. Tolbertwho discovered that the hamburger was created in nearby Athens, Texas, and who helped organize the first hamburger cookoff.

It seems that in the late 1800s, Fletcher Davisbecame the first man to grill ground beef and put it between two pieces of bread with lettuce and mayonnaise. He entered this new combination in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and the rest is history.

Without Davis, there would have been no McDonald’s, no burgers and fries, no Whoppers, no Whataburgers, no drive-ins-and indeed, some say, no America. And without Tolbert, there wouldn’t have been a world championship cookoff.

In March, 23 entrants gathered in Athens for The First Annual Fletcher Davis Memorial Hamburger Cookoff. In a few years, the event promises to be as big as the Terlingua Chili Cookoff, says cookoff director Harold Arnold, because “all of us cook hamburgers and think that ours is a world-class burger.”

Judges at the March event included Alex Burton, Randy White, John Dutton and Buffalo George Toomer. Hamburgers were graded on appearance, taste, aroma, texture and aftertaste, and Athens resident David Treadaway won the competition.

Most competitors say they started with good, fresh meat. Others say it takes nothing less than avocados . . . or eggs and bread crumbs . . . or lemon butter . . . and a fresh bun.