KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Memorial Day marked the unofficial start of summer and the official start of the James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project, which challenges chefs to create flavorful burgers using a blend of finely chopped mushrooms with meat.

Three chefs working in the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area came to the critically acclaimed Bluestem restaurant in the city’s Westport neighborhood to demonstrate how mushrooms make burgers better for people and the environment.

“The goal of the Blended Burger Project is to challenge chefs nationwide to consider participating, because we consider the challenge to be simple but with a potentially huge impact on changing the way Americans enjoy the quintessential burger,” said Kris Moon, vice president at the James Beard Foundation. “We’re asking chefs in every US city; restaurants of all types to create their own blended burger. And the only stipulation is that they blend at least 25 percent mushrooms into the burger and then run it on their menu from Memorial Day through July 31.”

The idea for “the blend” emerged from a study published in the Journal of Food Science by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the Univ. of California, Davis. The institutions found that blending finely chopped mushrooms and ground meat together enhanced the flavor of the meat while reducing sodium and adding nutrients such as vitamin D, potassium, B-vitamins and antioxidants.

Preparing — and discussing — their renditions of blended burgers were Bluestem Chef Andrew Longres and guest chefs Joe West of Stock Hill and Josh Eanes of Happy Gillis café & hangout.