With OC BBQ & Music Festival my original intent was to cover the event in through the eyes of the children with terminal illnesses that Kristie’s Foundation is supporting. What I did not realize is that these kids suffer a great deal of discomfort from what ever illness they are suffering from and just making it through the day is very difficult. Not to mention how hard it is on the parents and how sensitive they are to each child’s condition. In an effort to not stress these wonderful children and parents I decided to focus on the BBQ teams and what it is like for a team to go through 3 days of a BBQ competition. Being newly single, I decided to take the opportunity to be there for all 3 days.
At the OC BBQ & Music Festival each team is competing for best chicken, pork, brisket, and ribs with the option of doing potato salad. All of this has to be done and submitted on Saturday. On Sunday each team had the opportunity to compete in a burger competition. The winner gets their hamburger featured at all 3 Slater’s 50/50 locations. How cool is that? The entire time the teams are competing they are also selling food to the crowd attending the event in an effort to win the People’s Choice award.
I arrived at the OC County Fairgrounds on Friday afternoon to find out how the whole process works. My good friends at MEAT Inc. were kind enough to let me stay with them the entire time and I couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality.
Once I unloaded all my gear on Friday afternoon, I met up with Krisite’s organizer to find out what I could do to help. A lot of it was finding spots for all 70 BBQ teams and then getting them all the food and ice they need. At most competitions each team is responsible for bringing their on food for the People’s Choice portion of the event. At this competition all of the People’s Choice food was donated by Farmer John’s , Reser’s Potato Salad and a few other vendors.
Once everyone was settled in it was time to start campaigning for the Mr. BBQ Competition which required me running around to all the teams with my Hot Dog suit on. On Friday evening I was invited to Reser’s VIP party to entertain all of the local venders that sell their products. Reser’s is one of MEAT Inc. BBQ Team’s sponsors so it was up to the team to provide, BBQ and serve the food for this special occasion. There was a shit ton of food Aaron Black of MEAT Inc. had to prepare for this event on top of all the competition and People’s Choice meat that was waiting for special treatment.
I did my best to entertain and once the guests were able to engage with me they realized I was more than just a hot dog. After tons of photos and hours of laugher it was time to get my drink on and get back to campaigning for Mr. BBQ.
I ran around to as many teams as possible but being my first year I really had no idea what I was in for. These teams are up almost all night smoking barbecue in order to have it ready for their turn in times of 11:00 am for Chicken, Ribs at 11:30 am, Pork at 12:00pm and Brisket at 12:30. That is a tight time schedule so they have to start cooking the night before. If any team misses the window of 5 minutes before to 5 minutes after the designated turn in time, they are disqualified from that category.
When I was done making my campaign rounds it was about 2 am and time for me to get to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day and with all those drinks I was gonna need all the sleep I could get. Some people slept in RV’s, the back if their trucks, and even in cots and sleeping bags so they can hear temperature alarms in case the BBQ Pit temps get too high or too low during the night.
I woke up the next day not feeling so good. It was rough for someone who only drinks about once a month so I was probably operating at 45%. Almost every team I visited with Friday night / Saturday early morning was kind enough to offer me a drink and I couldn’t say no to such wonderful hospitality. Lesson learned for next time - don’t fall in to the alcohol trap that the BBQ Teams often suck you into.
The gates opened to the public at 10am on Saturday morning and crowds of people started to pile in. I ran around to as many teams as I could to try and get shots of their competition food before it was submitted for judging. As chaos ensues, you can see people from various BBQ Teams running full speed across the fair grounds trying to get their entry in before they miss the turn in window.
At this point it’s about 1pm and its time to make one last go around for support as I take on the Mr. BBQ Pageant. My nerves are a little frayed at this point but I am pretty sure I got this. The Mr. BBQ crown will be mine! As we approach the 2 pm mark, Kelliegh, the event organizer, gathers all the Mr. BBQ Pageant competitors up and gives us a ride on her golf cart through the crowd and up to the main stage.
We are all back stage standing in line about ready to go on and I am informed that each contestant will be asked questions by a Lucy Ball look alike and more questions from the host for the Pageant. All I kept thinking is that all that XBOX Connect Dance training better pay off when the music starts.
Everyone takes their turn on stage and last but not least was last year’s winner… Big Country. Last year he took the stage in cut off overalls throwing out ribs to the crowd. This year he was dressed in a Raiders Apron and Black Gym Shorts hidden under a very fuzzy bathrobe. The second he took that robe off and revealed what he was wearing, I knew it was no contest. I figured if that’s what I had to do to win then that guy can have it. There’s no way I ‘m wearing black gym shorts. I did win the Best Chicken Legs category and since I was dressed in a hot dog suit - I’ll take it. Congratulations to Big Country - the winner of the 2012 Mr. BBQ Pageant. He earned it! I just felt bad that he would have to wear the Purple sash and fuzzy royal crown for the rest of the day.
On Saturday evening it was time for the awards ceremony and for all the BBQ teams to find out how they did. The Grand Champion went to Left Coast Q and the Reserve went to Big Poppa Smokers. You can find out the full results at KCBS.us website. This time I wanted to interview the teams after the results just to find out how everyone felt about their scores.
I got a chance to meet with the 3rd place team Ridge Route Boys BBQ:
MEAT ME: So where are you guys from?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: Bakersfield
MEAT ME: So what is your history with BBQ?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: We started last year. We probably did 5 events last year and we are hitting it pretty hard this year. This is our 5th competition this year.
MEAT ME: How many are you guys planning on doing this year?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: At least 15.
MEAT ME: How did you guys do at this event?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: We did really good. 2nd in chicken, 3rd in pork and 3rd overall.
MEAT ME: Wow that’s great. Cause it is really tough out here. A lot of people did not do as well as they thought they were going to.
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: Yeah, it really is great. We did not expect to do as well as we thought we did. Got Lucky!
MEAT ME: What would you guys consider to be your specialty?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ:: It appears to be chicken right now. At Brentwood we got 1st Place in chicken two weeks ago. So it seems to be chicken right now. You would think because of our pit the big meats would be better, but we seem to be doing really well with chicken.
MEAT ME: So how did you get into BBQ?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: Well we saw it, liked it and wanted to do it. I have never had any cooking lessons or schooling or anything. We just jumped right into it. A lot of reading and talking to a lot of people.
MEAT ME: Do you have a lot of family history with BBQ?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: Yeah been doing it all my life.
MEAT ME: So what is your favorite MEAT?
Ridge Route Boys BBQ: Brisket. I really worked hard on perfecting brisket, if you can perfect brisket. We seem to do really well with it most of the time.
You can check out their website at: http://ridgerouteboysbarbecue.webs.com/
The Pit Crew BBQ was holding up a stop sign so that’s exactly what I did:
MEAT ME: So where are you guys from?
The Pit Crew BBQ: Anaheim Hills
MEAT ME: So How long have you guys been doing BBQ Competitions?
The Pit Crew BBQ: 1 year and 1 contest.
MEAT ME: So this is contest number? How many are you guys doing this year?
The Pit Crew BBQ: Overall this is contest #16. I believe this is #8 so far this year.
MEAT ME: How did you guys get into competition BBQ?
The Pit Crew BBQ: I was watching BBQ Pit Masters and I called up my buddy and I said, “Hey we can do that, it doesn’t look very hard.” (Voice in the back ground) Yea we leaned the hard way, we are not better than they are. (We laugh)
MEAT ME: So how have you guys been doing?
The Pit Crew BBQ: Pretty good. Probably after this contest we will be first in the chicken for this state. We are in the middle of the pack with everything else, but we are having a blast. The camaraderie of the people is why we come out here. The competition is fun but the people are great.
MEAT ME: How did you guys do in the competition?
The Pit Crew BBQ: We got 7th in chicken and we did 6th in the Reser’s Potato Salad. We over cooked our ribs and under cook our butts, but we’re good.
MEAT ME: What would your advice be to someone that is thinking about getting into BBQ Competitions?
The Pit Crew BBQ: Come on out. It is a blast! The people are very willing to help the rookies to get better. I have become good enough to where the other more experienced teams have stopped giving me advice. Yea literally!
Matt over at Left Coast Q posted on Facebook; give me 2 tokens and I’ll give you one minute of advice and let you sprits the ribs. 5 tokens I’ll let you sprits the ribs, pull the pork and 5 minutes of advice and for 10 tokens you get to work with us for an hour. (Laughing our asses off!)
He said “Everybody but you Steve Wilson - I can’t give you advice because you’re getting too good”. He’s a blast.
That’s the thing the camaraderie of the people is just so much fun.
MEAT ME: If you are not entirely sick of seeing all of this food what is your favorite?
The Pit Crew BBQ: I always thought that beef tri-tip was the best thing barbecue could ever create until I started doing this. But now it is by far brisket. It is so good. We are doing pretty well in brisket we are 4th overall in California. It’s unbelievably tender and because it cooks so long it absorbs so much flavor and smoke. We use Wagyu and it melts in your mouth it is unbelievable how good it is. Everybody loves our ribs but brisket is my favorite.
You can find on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/thepitcrewbbq.oc?ref=ts
I sat down with Left Coast Q to get a feel for what it’s like to be a Grand Champion:
MEAT ME: So where are you guys from?
Left Coast Q: Banning, California.
MEAT ME: How many of you are there?
Left Coast Q: There are 4 of us. There is my main team member Moe Lyons, my son Matthew Dalton, and James Miranda.
MEAT ME: How long have you guys been doing barbecue?
Left Coast Q: We started May 2010.
MEAT ME: How did you guys get into Barbecue?
Left Coast Q: I had been cooking for about 15 years doing back yard BBQ. I saw the Pit Masters Show and thought - hey that looks like something cool. So we went to Myron Mixon’s BBQ class and 3 weeks later we picked up a pit out there in Georgia and brought it back to California. It was kind of a spur of the moment kind of thing, but it all comes back to the passion for me. Of course it was a collaborative effort. Once we came back we practiced 8 weeks in a row before we ever went to our first competition. Taking that class took our backyard level to the competition level. Lots of people will have their friends tell them, “Hey this is the best BBQ I have ever had!” That might just be average to a seasoned judge. That’s how we got into it. We walked reserve grand our first competition. We took rookie team of the year in 2010 at Bakersfield. At the time that competition was a state record with 54 teams. All of the heavy hitters were there except for Slay Yo’ Daddy. From that point on we were hooked. You see the big trophy. We just kept going forward from there.
MEAT ME: So how many Grand Champions do you guys have?
Left Coast Q: We have 2 now, Wildomar and here, but before that we actually had 7 reserve champions and we were really close. Santa Anita as a matter of fact was less than 1 point separating Grand and Reserve Champion. Yesterday we won by 15 points which is huge.
MEAT ME: Wow that is pretty big. So what did you guys do best in?
Left Coast Q: We walked 2nd pork, 2nd ribs, 5th brisket, and 10th chicken. So we took 4 walks. There were a few teams that took 2 walks. No one took 3 and we were the only team that had 4. (walks meaning, walked up to the podium to collect a trophy)
When we got 2nd in pork I pretty much know we had it at that point.
MEAT ME: Do you think you guys are doing things very different than you were in 2010?
Left Coast Q: Oh yeah! Absolutely! Our game has come full circle just from changing rubs from here to there. Techniques we have changed adding things, taking things away: you know always-forward thinking. Not being closed minded. You know, a lot of teams stick to one game plan and never deviate from it. I’m not changing everything every competition. Take for instance I changed one thing with my injection on my pork. I switched to another rub for my chicken. It’s those little things that make a difference. You also have to make sure that every piece of meat that you put in that box is tender and excellent. You know the judges are going to taste it. You may put a piece of meat in there just to look good and if it doesn’t taste great, that good looking piece is going to kill ya. It’s the little tiny details that are gonna kill ya, or set you over the top.
It’s the attention to detail and working like a well oiled machine. These guys, they get up in the morning, they build a fire. Our cook is the same every time. Even though it was an hour earlier turn in for this comp, we just adjusted back an hour.
MEAT ME: What advise would you have for someone that is trying to get into barbecue competitions?
Left Coast Q: I would say as far as cooking… Not so much smoke, limit your smoke. Foil when your color and bark is right. Make sure your flavors pop. It is one bite barbecue; it has to wow them with one bite. As far as getting into it; it’s an expensive game. You have to have passion if you don’t have that your gonna get tired of this really quickly, especially if you don’t do well. It is fun, the camaraderie is great and we have met tons of people across the country. There is so much information out there and there are lots of people willing to help new teams jump in feet first.
MEAT ME: How many competitions do you guys do a year?
Left Coast Q: Last year we did about 13 or 14. This year we are gonna push the 20 mark.
MEAT ME: Are you guys going to do the Royal in Kansas City?
Left Coast Q: Well we don’t know if we are going to do the Royal yet. We’re also shooting for the Jack. We now have 2 Jack draws or chances to be invited. You get one draw for each GC. That comes down to the end of the year in September when they draw one winner from each state unless you win 7 GC’s – then you are automatically in.
We are trying to make a push into the KCBS top 20 in points with Who’s Smokin’ Now. They’re next to us and they just won the last 2 Sam’s events. We are trying to elevate Barbecue to that National level in California to say, “Hey we’ve earned respect here, we are not a joke, we are serious!” When you have more California teams in the Top 20 then maybe we’ll get the respect we deserve. It really is that way.
I was looking at points last night and we should be in the top 10 in the nation. This event may end up being our only shot at bonus points. So we made an even bigger gain on 2nd place in California right now we have 2 Grand’s, 2 Reserves, and a 4th for our top 5 over all and that’s all they take. If we win a couple more we’ll have it for sure. It is still early in the year with about 10 more events here in California.
It’s that passion man, I tell ya!
MEAT ME: Well good luck and congratulations on winning Grand Champion here at the OC BBQ & Music Festival.
You can check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leftcoast-Q/125103440847709
Next week you can look for:
El Fuego Fiasco
Mr. BBQ Pageant Winner "Big Country"
The results of the Slaters 50/50 Burger Challenge
To be continued…
The newly single,
Aka Sean Rice
Photography and Writing by Sean Rice; Edited by: Aaron Black (MEAT Inc.)
On a side note I would like to congratulate the Los Angeles Kings on winning the Stanley Cup. I have been a huge fan since I was 5 years old and it has been a very long road but well worth the wait. I am looking forward to going to the Parade this Thursday at the Staples Center to see Lord Stanley’s Cup.