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Queen of the veggie burger

Osmunson's Oregon Harvest Burger is having big impact on chowhounds
by:  Marie Osmunson

Marie Osmunson's road to being the veggie burger queen of Oregon started with one person who did NOT like vegetarian burgers.

'Thanks but no thanks,' was basically her friend's reaction when Osmunson offered her a veggie burger at a party four years ago.

Osmunson parried with something like, 'Try it, you'll like it.'

Bullseye. 'Wow!' was the reaction of Barbara Durrett upon biting into Osmunson's delicious and different veggie burger, and the rest is veggie burger history.

Now as the proud mogul of Chez Gourmet, the Lake Oswego woman's Oregon Harvest Burger is pleasing thousands and thousands of veggie burger lovers and converting people who previously hated veggie burgers, like Durrett, who now is merely Osmunson's business partner.

As Barb Randall, food columnist for the Lake Oswego Review, said, 'Marie's burger wasn't dry like a lot of other veggie burgers and it had a much better flavor.'

In April, Osmunson received a tremendous push of momentum from her performance in the Make Mine A Million $ Business contest in Denver, where she proved she not only could make a great veggie burger but she could sell it. She was among 50 American woman entrepreneurs who received some great prizes.

'This will help me reach the next level faster than I could have done on my own,' she said.

For her 'pitch' Osmunson got a $1,000 gift certificate from American Express, professional coaching, connection with a national public relations firm, and access to financing.

Osmunson smiles at the thought of running a multi-million dollar business, but she says, 'I really want to provide healthy food for people.'

Her healthy way of eating began in her native Canada and later in Idaho. Ten years ago she developed her wonderful veggie burger, serving it up at parties for her vegetarian friends and family members.

Soon after moving to Lake Oswego four years ago, Osmunson was on the road to becoming a healthy food magnate. Due to Durrett's inspiration and offer of service, Osmunson decided to try making veggie burgers a business in 2007. She got off to a good start.

'Zupan's sold 46 boxes of my burgers,' she said.

Osmunson's biggest break came in 2008 when Burgerville decided to discontinue its old veggie burger and try something different. Enter Marie Osmunson. Only a week after first making contact with Burgerville she earned a contract to make what was they called Oregon Harvest Burgers.

'If people are willing to try these burgers I know they will like them,' Osmunson said. 'It's all about taste and texture. It has good flavor, a good aftertaste and it's nutritional.'

Now, the Chez Gourmet food factory in Wilsonville is rapidly turning out several varieties and veggie burgers and Veggie Tots for an ever-growing list of restaurants and grocery markets in Oregon and California. She soon will be expanding into Northern California. Southern California will certainly follow. She is even beginning to make her mark in school districts. Students in the Beaverton SD are now discovering the joy of veggie burgers.

Will Osmunson become the Colonel Sanders or Ronald McDonald of veggie burgers? She is certainly on the right track.

Meanwhile, she will simply enjoy her remarkable venture.

'I love doing this,' Osmunson said. 'It's my passion.'

For more about Marie Osmunson and Chez Gourmet, go to the website www.chezgourmet.biz .