Three glorious days of smoking, grilling, and partying at the biggest BBQ bash in the world have given me a whole new perspective on BBQ… The Midwest BBQ Institute here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City competed in the American Royal BBQ Contest for the very first time on October 1st – 3rd and I was lucky to be able to spend all weekend with the team!!! It’s true one of the perks to this job is that I get to hang out with the very best BBQ’rs learn, cook, throw parties, and of course… I get to eat the BBQ!!! We had a killer weekend, but here are the highlights!
On Friday we went to the contest first thing to pitch our tent, put up our pig chef poles (did you see that picture in the Kansas City Star folks???), and get dinner on the fire. We also welcomed our BBQ Inner Sanctum … four awesome new friends who took the whole weekend as a class! (Jealous? There’s always next year!) We all got right to work for our Smokin’ Schoolhouse party… and a smokin’ party it was. We had fantastic live music provided by none other than the Manager of Merriment herself Maria Dickson and her swingin’ jazz quartet, amazing Sister Mary’s Bloody Knuckle Cracker cocktails at the bar, and dancing and reveling shortly ensued. The food, have I mentioned the food yet at the party? Well… let’s just say none of the other tents were sporting smoked brie en croute and chocolate chip cookies with bacon!
Now let’s talk about the contest, I’m not sure what I expected… but Saturday and Sunday were amazing! Saturday morning when I came in, the team was already up, full of breakfast, and working on the competition sides and dessert. Let me tell you Matt’s squash side dish was INCREDIBLE, and the beans? Well let’s just say I’d take Bruce’s classes just for that recipe alone! The most exciting bit is the turn in though, a rush to the judges in the tiny time window allowed for turn in, hoping you don’t drop the box, hoping no one knocks you over, hoping the klutz gene stays dormant just for this one day… whew, all turned in without a hitch… that was a rush!
Saturday night was my favorite moment of the entire weekend… we all took an evening to relax. We lit candles, The Main Dish set a beautiful table and made her famous spinach salad, Chef Matt grilled up steaks the Flintstones could have been proud of, and we drained several bottles of very nice wine. That moment where we all came together, looked around at all of our hard work, our new friends, our old friends, and just enjoyed the evening was the highlight for me. Those moments are the reason I love cooking.
Sunday was the main event, the meats! Well let me tell you how much I did NOT know about competition BBQ. The brisket the team turned out was unlike any brisket I’ve ever eaten… seriously, I almost didn’t believe it could possibly be the same cut of beef. The ribs? Well, the taste of that rib lingered in my mouth for at least an hour… I avoided gum, I avoided getting a glass of water, it was THAT good. I also watched the MBQI team work like a well oiled BBQ machine. Chef Richard is so very delicate in the kitchen, when he’s there in his element he’s something like a very fine pianist, the kind that makes you want to stare at his fingers in amazement while he plays.
Are you drooling yet? Don’t worry, we’ve got tons of MBQI classes coming up soon you can get in on and I know one thing is for sure… get ready because we’re going back to the American Royal next year!
“Dean of Deliciousness”
Manager of Culinary Curriculum