Tumbleweed Burger, Isotopes Park, Albuquerque, N.M.
Ryan Curry, former assistant general manager/executive chef, Spectra Food Services & Hospitality at Isotopes Park
Photo: Courtesy Spectra

Red chile cotton candy ignites a ballpark hit

Jay Satenspiel, senior vice president of Spectra Food Services & Hospitality’s central region, admits that when he heard about the Tumbleweed Burger, he was skeptical.

At the start of the baseball season at Isotopes Park, home to the Triple-A Albuquerque (N.M.) Isotopes, Spectra rolled out the $10 burger — a hatch green chile bun holding a grilled Angus burger, melted ghost pepper cheese and red chile cotton candy.

“When I think ‘hamburger,’ I think ketchup, lettuce and tomato,” Satenspiel said with a laugh.

“The cool thing about it is when you put cotton candy on a hot burger, it melts. The sugars from the cotton candy penetrated the beef. The flavors just explode in your mouth. It was unbelievable. I thought I would take one bite. I polished the whole thing off.”

Satenspiel wasn’t the only one. The Isotopes posted a picture of the burger on social media April 2, and overnight it racked up 875 shares on Facebook, more than 700 likes on Instagram, and 53 retweets on Twitter. He said fans had to arrive to the ballpark early to get their hands on one before the item sold out.

For the season, Spectra sold 2,873 Tumbleweed Burgers, far surpassing projections of 750 to 1,000, according to Satenspiel.

Spectra’s head chef at the ballpark at the time, Ryan Curry, who recently left for another job, said, “It’s got some buzz on it this year, that’s for sure.”

“I met this lady who does gourmet cotton candy — cheesecake, champagne and a bunch of other flavors,” Curry said. “She had this red chile cotton candy that was spicy and smoky.

“As soon as I tried it, it clicked in my head that this would be really good on a burger. We did some tastings and nobody was excited to try it, but once they did try it, everybody loved it.”

The victory in the Best New Menu Item hits Satenspiel’s sweet spot.

“The award is special for me,” said Scottsdale-based Satenspiel. “I opened that building in 2003. I’ve been associated with that building for the past 17 years. It’s like my baby.

“But we let our chef create dishes, and crazy things like that come out through conversations with our culinary team.”

At the ballpark, Satenspiel observed fans’ faces. There were some audible “ewwwws” — until they, too, tasted it.

“Two years ago, I had the same reaction when we did a green chile cheeseburger on a glazed donut,” he said with a laugh. “It was crazy. You’ve got to be open to try and experience these things with our company. Not everything is going to be a hit and roll like this, but as long as we’re pushing the limits of where we can go from culinary experience, let’s do it.”

Now that the Isotopes’ season is over, the staff is gearing up for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. During the holiday season, they will reassemble.

“We’ll sit down after Thanksgiving and start to throw some crazy ideas around again,” Satenspiel said. “I give my staff a break after baseball because it’s such a grind. At the end of the season, it’s like, ‘Where’s my bed?’ If they get rest, the creative juices start flowing. I love the sessions. I just sit and partake. It’s amazing what comes out of it.”

ON THE MENU:

Food for thought
New Concept: Connecting the fans with the right brands
New/Refurbished Space: Aiming high, all the way to the rooftop
New Technology: Breaking the bar code with artificial intelligence
Sustainability Initiative: Partnerships enhance greening of SunTrust Park