The birth of a burger

The Axe and Palm’s (TAP) “Design Your Own Burger Competition,” which gave students the opportunity to submit their burger ideas for cash prizes and a feature on the TAP menu, came to a head in its Grand Finale Thursday. Students made their way to TAP’s outdoor courtyard to taste-test the top three burgers chosen as finalists.

Contestants went through a month-long process to have their designs selected as one of the coveted top three burgers. The restaurant began advertising the contest at the end of April, with submissions of a name and recipe due May 3. 

During the next stage, an “esteemed panel of judges” composed of R&DE and TAP staff selected the top ten designs, according to an email sent to the selected semifinalists. Liv Sun ’25 said she received an email on May 7 notifying her that her burger would move on to the next round.

The next day, the Stanford Dining Instagram account posted the top ten semifinalist burgers. The account also linked a form that allowed students to vote on their favorite burger.

Taralyn Nguyen ’26, who was a semifinalist and ultimately one of three finalists, said she thought “there could have been an easier method of advertising than just Instagram.” To counteract this, Nguyen said that she “went around her groups,” including friends and classmates, to encourage them to vote for her proposal.

On May 17, the same Instagram account announced the top three finalists.

According to the Instagram post, all three finalists will receive a cash prize, with first place getting $250, second getting $150 and third getting $100. The winner’s burger will also be added to the TAP menu in late May.

The entire campus was invited to the in-person tasting and voting at the Grand Finale event. During the event, the TAP outdoor patio was decorated with burgers everywhere, including burger balloons, burger hats for all of the TAP staff and chefs and burger fairy lights.

As one entered the event, a TAP employee would give students a blue chip that they could put in a voting box, labeled with the name of the final burgers.

For the next two hours, TAP chefs freshly prepared the three burgers continuously, cutting each into quarters and laying them out on a table for students to grab and taste.

Adrianna Torres Ceja ’25, who attended the event, complimented the atmosphere of the Grand Finale: “The vibes are good and the food is free.” 

Each of the final competitors were present at the event wearing R&DE chef coats. Although they were not involved in making the burgers, they talked to attendees about their design and answered questions.

One of the finalists, Nora Swidey ’24, said it “was great to hear so much good feedback” on her burger proposal, the Midnight Breakfast Burger. She said that she enjoyed being able to “see the burger come to life” as the chefs prepared it for the event.

Swidey also shared that she “stumbled” into the competition by chance after she “randomly saw a sign for the competition at Wilbur Dining” and decided to enter.

Eli Browne ’27, another attendee, expressed some concern for how often he would be able to purchase the winning burger once it is added to TAP’s menu. 

“Burgers at TAP are already really expensive, and a lot of these have premium ingredients like avocado or two patties,” Browne said. “For the sake of my dining dollars, I probably won’t buy it, but I love having them for free right now.”

The day after the Grand Finale, Nguyen’s “Primal Scream” burger won the contest, as announced on Instagram. The burger is available for purchase at TAP starting Wednesday.

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