If there was contest this year that demonstrated how competitive fields have become, Vista would be an excellent example. 44 teams dotted downtown Vista in the pattern of an H, lining three intersecting streets. Although the team count was high, we were so spread apart that it had a small contest feel. If you didn’t make the effort to wander a few blocks, there were teams you may have never seen. Still, the luxuries of being downtown had its advantages. There was a taqueria next us and just in case we needed an emergency drink, Hennessey’s Tavern was down the street which had its share of intoxicated customers spilling out at 2am. Curbside Café on Main Street cooked satisfying breakfasts served to you… that’s right, whilst dining on the curbside. The weather was absolutely perfect so breakfast outside was exactly what one would imagine it to be on a lazy Saturday morning in Southern California.
We were placed near Dave Malone of All Sauced Up who always shares a pot of fresh coffee with us in the morning. If he timed it right, he could shut down critical electric power to five teams by plugging in that one coffee maker. We received a second breakfast from rookie team, Woodhouse BBQ from St. Helena, CA. John and Tracy Anderson are winemakers turned chocolatiers turned BBQ pitmaster/head cook. Tracy has a degree in culinary arts so anything that comes out of her kitchen is a tasty culmination of years of experience. This morning’s delight included round beignets, extra thick and crispy bacon and a berry jam, all sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Vista, like Costa Mesa, has plentiful support from the community. The streets flooded with hungry crowds. And though we were not serving food to the public, we had a constant stream of visitors who either recognized our team from the Pitmasters show, which was recently re-televised, or just wanted to taste our BBQ. Fortunately, Gary Tackett from West’s Best BBQ was our neighbor and former student. So we felt good about recommending Gary’s BBQ to the visiting public. He did not disappoint.
Still stinging from the previous week’s DQ over a tiny piece of foil, we cooked and scrutinized our entries. With a sigh of relief, we turned in four good meats without a visit from Kelly McIntosh, our KCBS rep. At the awards ceremony, were surprised how many different teams took a walk to the podium. Mac from Smokaholics took three of the most energetic walks we have ever seen, complete with fist pumping and chant, “We Smoke Meat!” The crowd loved his unbridled enthusiasm. Ardith Richardson of All Hogs Go to Heaven, took her usual first place in desserts for her now famous lemon squares. This time she was also awarded a 180 pin, which is given to any contestant who can achieve a perfect score from all judges. Way to go Ardith. Though our chocolate cake with raspberry sauce looked delicious we were unable to challenge her in any way, coming in fourth place.
If you talk to anyone who attended this awards ceremony, you will undoubtedly hear them recall how happy they were for the Grand Champion, that being, Andrew Soto of Master of Disaster. Andrew has cooked for several years now with a humble heart and an infectious smile. He is clearly one of the nicest guys you will ever meet on the circuit. And though he usually takes a walk at most contests, he slammed most of the competition this time by taking first in chicken and ribs and second in brisket. Left Coast Q took second in chicken and ribs, 6th in pork and 9th in brisket. Since none of us knew how Andrew had done in pork but knew it was between the two teams. The rest of us could barely squeak out a trophy here or there from these guys. We were all surprised when Andrew edged out Matt Dalton’s tough as nails crew. A big congratulations to both Matt and Andrew for doing so well in a big contest. We did so-so coming in 6th of 44 with 8th brisket, 9th pork, 14 ribs, and 21 chicken.