Wild West BBQ Championship, Knotts Berry Farm, CA
Although the West has fewer professional BBQ contests than the rest of the country, we have the weather advantage of being able to have a yearlong BBQ season. After a much needed 3 week break after our double-header and GC in Mesa, AZ, I was at it again in Southern California at our second double-header KCBS contest. When people should be resting comfortably inside from the cold weather and bringing the New Year in with fine champagne, I find myself with 120lbs of raw meat to cook in two days.
Our contest promoter, Henry Silvestre, held the last contest for the CBBQA calendar year and the first for the 2012 year at Knott’s Berry Farm. Originally selling berries, preserves and pies from a roadside stand, Knott’s gradually became a western themed destination complete with a ghost town, rides and restaurants. Roller coasters could be heard soaring in the distance as we cooked our meats to perfection.
Four teams from out of state joined in on the fun, Brew ‘N’ Bar-B-Que from Kansas, Route 66 Catering Crew and Loot N Booty from Arizona, and TippyCanoe BBQ Crew from Iowa. It was great to be situated next to my former team mate s and good friends Benny & Shari Adauto of Funtime BBQ as neighbors, as well as The Q BBQ team next door. Thanks also go out to Ardith, Ted and Steve Madule of All Hogs Go to Heaven who invited us to breakfast not once but twice at their camp. Ardith cooks the best biscuits and gravy, with scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage and cantaloupe. We ate like kings and cooked like servants all weekend long.
At this contest, Tim McDonald from Rusty Barrel BBQ announced that this would be his last contest on the circuit due to health reasons. Tim and his wife Diane started off cooking in 2008, the same year as I did and were part of the frenzied ROY race of 2008. Rusty Barrel is a terrific family team and over the years we’ve become good friends. I’ve made it a point to give medals I win from contests to their son whenever we cook against each other. Their friendliness and competitive spirit will be dearly missed by all.
Donna, from Butchers Daughter BBQ, was kind enough to share her assistant, Esther, with me who turned out to be the best dishwasher and helper in the West and made our work much easier. Esther also happens to be a professional massage therapist and I was the lucky recipient of a shoulder neck massage. On Saturday, I came in 1st in chicken, 13th in ribs, 1st in pork shoulder, and 2nd in brisket, placing me as Grand Champion for contest 1. This was sweet as it was our 7th GC for 2011. On Sunday, I came in 2nd in chicken, 13th in ribs, 20th in pork shoulder, and 13th in brisket with an overall of 8th in contest 2. Congratulations to Tippy Canoe for their RGC on day 1 and GC on day 2. I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to cook on someone else’s equipment, in another state with an entirely different set of judges and taste profiles. It only goes to prove that TippyCanoe is a top-notch team with great adaptability and skill. It was a real honor for SYD to be the only team from the West able to hold Joe from Tippy Canoe on day 1 else he would have swept both days in a row.
Thanks to Donna for hosting the New Year Eve toast as the 30+ pitmasters and crew counted down the new year with some champagne amid thick fog in the Knotts parking lot.
Congratulations to all of the teams out there that received calls and best of luck to my 101 students as you go out this year and cook, be it in your backyard or at a contest. I’m very proud of my Oct 1, 2011 student Jerry Agiluar of Burnin and Lootin BBQ who came in 1st in Chicken and 2nd in Ribs on Sunday the first contest of 2012 at Knotts. Thanks to Henry for organizing this event, Knotts for being the hosts, Kelly and Kathleen for being the KCBS officials, judges, and volunteers.