May 31 2013 12:00 AM

MSU food truck wins national award for locally made cheeseburger

Kari Magee, chef manager of MSU\'s On-the-Go food truck, with the winning cheeseburger. Photo by Allan Ross

Friday, May 31 — If you had to pick a food item that best represented the Lansing area, what would you pick? Something green, like pesto chicken, to play off the Michigan State University colors? An elegant filet mignon, perhaps, like all the lobbyists eat down by the Capitol? Or maybe pho, a falafel sandwich or a torta, to show off mid-Michigan’s diverse culture?

Consider the cheeseburger.

Last week, the MSU Eat at State On-the-Go food truck was awarded the top prize in the 2013 Nutrition Awards’ Best Local Foods Recipe category for its Smoked Cheddar Cheeseburger. The awards are given every year by the National Association of College & University Food Services.

Considering the runners up consisted of more complex dishes such as Dirty Farro (a traditional Cajun dish, created by University of Minnesota) and Pork Stew with Fennel and Butternut Squash (by University of Connecticut), what made the classic Americana standby stand out? Chalk it up to good ol’ Michigan quality.

“Every ingredient comes from within a couple miles of where you’re standing,” said Kari Magee, chef manager for On-the-Go. “When you’re eating one of these burgers, you’re tasting MSU.”

DSC00003.JPGSpecifically, the ground beef in the burger patty is from MSU cows, and processed at the MSU meat laboratory. Those tomatoes, onions and mixed greens come from the MSU Organic Farm. And the cheese — a blend of smoked cheddar and sharp cheddar — was made at the MSU Dairy Store from, you got it, MSU milk cows. Alas, the bun comes from off-campus, but still practically next door — Breadsmith of Okemos, 4901 Okemos Road.

The On-the-Go food truck is a division of Residential and Hospitality Services program at MSU. The program’s students seek a variety of food industry-related careers.

“This is just such a cool job,” Magee said. “It’s an unconventional kitchen in very close quarters that relies a lot on teamwork. You have to have a real passion for food to enjoy this.”

To see the full menu, go to, and to find out where the On-the-Go Food Truck is each day, follow it on Twitter (@eatatstate).