By the time the smoke settled yesterday at the Third Annual Queen Mary Western BBQ Classic, a new champ had been crowned, a lot of delicious barbeque had been consumed and a record-setting crowd had enjoyed a magnificent day. Gene Goycochea, the Kansas City Barbecue Society Representative at the Classic, told the Examiner, “Barbeque itself is growing in California. The public seems to love it!".
As the official representative for the national sanctioning organization, Gene knows good barbeque. The event was also sanctioned by the state's California BBQ Association. The CBBQA is responsible for the state championship, which sends the winner to the National Championship. He pointed out that "Any time you go to a barbeque competition, the food is always going to be better than any restaurant you go to".
Going into more detail, Gene continued, "Here, they are cooking food for six people and they want the best food they've ever prepared. At a restaurant, you've got to use everything you've got Here, teams make up eight racks of ribs and use two ribs out of three racks to produce the best they've got to turn in, so what you're getting here is something very special. They spend a lot more money than the restaurant does and a lot more time. They use all their skills and they just cook barbeque”.
The day started out with a large crowd waiting to get into the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach. There, at the entrance, the aroma of smoke tinged with barbequed meat drifted over the area. Inside, 60 competitive BBQ teams were busy prepping their first competition boxes to go to the judges. Prepping the boxes is the most intense part of the competition. Not only do the teams need to select what they feel is the best few ribs, tastiest pork butt, most delicious brisket or best chicken out of what they have cooked to fit in a styrofoam box to go to the judge's table, but they also have to make the box look appealing. Garnishes need to be spot on and the pieces of meat need to be arranged in a pleasing manner to highlight what they are.
In the meantime, many of the teams were busy with the 'People's Choice' category items. This also had to be perfect, because this was the barbeque that the hungry guests at the event were able to taste. Thw 'People's Choice' category could cover anything the teams wanted to make. Choices were many, from a basic taste of pulled pork or slow-smoked brisket, on through such unique items as 'pig candy' and 'moinkballs'.
Rodney Barnes, visiting from Maryland, talked about the reason he had traveled out to come to the Classic. Standing at Big Mista's Barbecue Team's booth, one of the most popular that day, with a line of 60 to 100 people that did not shorten the entire day, Rodney talked about Big Mista's 'pig candy'. “I've had 'pig candy' before. Pig candy is thick bacon that's smoked with brown sugar and spices. It is phenomenal!”.
Rodney continued, saying that “I live in Maryland and the first time I had pig candy I said, 'Oh my God, you've got to be kidding me!'. It's one of those things that's so unique. Of course, if you like bacon, that's the killer. Then you've got bacon with smoke and a lot of spices and sweet. It's savory, sweet and has got a nice bite to it. It's good stuff! You can eat a lot of pig candy. I have and I've actually taken some home to Maryland before. I've given it to my friends and they've said 'wow, can we get some?' and I've said 'no, you have to go out West to get it'. But pig candy is phenomenal, it's a different thing, it's a good treat.”.
At Jet Coating Monkey Style's booth, the team worked fast but with great precision to prepare their brisket for their judge's box entry. At Outta Gas BBQ Team's tent, the lines were long as Chris Ades and his team prepared delicious beef short rib tacos and pulled pork for the long line of people waiting to try some barbeque. Meanwhile, Maddawgs BBQ Team had people waiting in line to get their amazing pork ribs. Standing a few feet away eating a rib, several people thought they were so good that they got back in line to get a second order.
Kyle and Larry Adkins, of Maddawgs Competition BBQ Team, talked about the team and the ribs. Larry said, “In 2011, Maddawgs BBQ made it to the American Royal which is an invitation only. We did pretty good, middle of the road, 150 teams or so. That same year, we went on to the Jack Daniels, which is also invitation only. Our pork placed fourth in the world! We were a rookie team; we were very humbled. We were cooking against a lot of people that have been doing it a very long time. We were lucky enough to do it, to place and do the walk of the Jack Daniels”.
Kyle added, “It's funny, because I was deploying to Iraq and my dad wanted to make it a fun barbecue trip for me before I left. We went to the New Mexico competition, Rio Rancho, and it turns out it was a state championship. He won and that got us to the Jack Daniels and the American Royal. It was awesome, very humbling to say the least”. Larry picked up the conversation, saying, “You're among some of the best barbeque competition in the world. Not just the United State, Diva out of Canada, Dr. BBQ (Ray Lampe) was there, there were people out of Europe, Australia and to be there in that and to get a walk in fourth, the top five, I'll take it all day long!”.
Sawtooth started the day's music with some bluegrass music that got the crowd around the outdoor stage going. The music sounded good at The Other Guy BBQ, where Brian Thompson was serving his barbeque with a crew of current and ex-military team members, some just back from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brian's team is very active in their support of US troops and works at many charitable events to help support them.
Over at Patio Pitmasters, music was blaring out of two speakers, occasionally broken into by the team's hawker, who invited people to come up and try their specialties. It obviously worked, since there was a good sized line at their booth all day. Patio Pitmaster's specialties included hot link sausages and moinkballs.
Chris of the Patio Pitmasters talked about moinkballs. “Moinkballs are meatballs wrapped in bacon and. We smoke them, we rub them, we sauce them and then we serve them on a skewer. The crowd loves them! My partner Lance first found them and we started using them in the PC about a year and a half ago and people love them. There are a lot of people selling moinkballs now on the West Coast but we were one of the first to do it”
When he was told he had an excellent moinkball, Chris said, “It all depends on the ingredients that you use. We use a lot of our own rubs and a lot of our own sauces. We have a lot of people coming back over and over so it tells us what we are doing must be right”. It is easy to figure out the name of course, Chris said, said “Moo plus oink. Cow and pig. And there it began!”. He added with a smile, we've had long lines all day and our feet are sore. We're ready for quitting time. But that means we did well!”.
Even though many teams had doubled the amount of meats that they brought for 'People's Choice' as opposed to last year, with the larger crowd, many were sold out of a lot of items by early afternoon. At OC Double Barrel Smokers, they were replenishing things as fast as the could. By then end of the day though, many of the teams were still selling their 'People's Choice' items, even though some had sold out of highly popular things such as pork ribs. At Big Mista's, the line was just as long at at the end of the day as it was at the beginning of the day.
After the judging was over, Gene talked about the event, highlighting the charitable aspect of the barbeque competitions. “There are a lot of different groups from the public that will go and put together an organized barbeque competition and they'll have a beneficiary of maybe Boys and Girls Club. We do a lot of hospitals, things like Christy's Foundation which does end of life programs, foundations that are all about children; maybe they have health or mental problems, are homeless, orphans or troubled teens”.
Gene emphasized the food aspect of KCBS' charity movement. “We have charity events that are all about people who don't have enough food to eat. We actually have a big program going right now to help 100,000 people that don't have enough food to eat. It's through KCBS and it is one of our new programs. Most of our programs are either about seniors or children. Next week we're doing one for a children's hospital in the Bakersfield area”.
Over at Bad Boy Barrel BBQ Team, Dave Cardona and son Jed were decompressing a little after a long two days. Even though the competition began at 11:00 a.m., some teams had arrived as early as Thursday night to set up. By Friday night, many items such as brisket and pork butt were already on the smokers, set for up to 20 hours of cooking. Many team members on all teams had been up most of the night keeping an eye on the smokers. The usual comment was, “I feel OK. I got at least an hour or two of sleep last night!”.
At 5:00 p.m., a crowd gathered around the stage which now was filled with trophies and medals. Gene Goycochea, as the KCBS Representative, announced the winners in all the categories. In Brisket, Matt and his Left Coast Q Team took the First Place Trophy. This was a good start for Matt, who walked away with the Best Overall Trophy at last year's Queen Mary Western BBQ Classic.
Next up was the team from Porterhouse BBQ, who accepted the trophy for the best pork butt. After that, Dave Malone of All Hogs Sauced Up came up to accept the trophy for best pork ribs. Dave is no stranger to 'the walk', having won the Grand Championship at the Queen Mary's First Annual West Coast BBQ Championship. The next set of winners, in the chicken category was capped by the trophy being given to the team of Toot and Stinky.
Finally, as the teams and guests clustered closer to the stage, the Reserve Champion, rating second overall was brought up to the front for their trophy. Jason Miranda, of ZZYZX BBQ, came from Claremont to win and he did. Jason gave a big smile as he accepted the trophy. The crowd waited anxiously now for the Grand Champion to be announced. All the teams crowded around too, hoping that they would be the ones to take the prestigious trophy and along with it prize money and an invitation to the National Championship.
The Jet Coatings Monkey Style Team's name was announced, and the happy team members and some of their family came up to accept their trophy and the honor that comes with it. Michael Wheeler, Warren Lee, Bob Taylor and Julia Taylor were all smiles as everyone hugged each other. After doing 'the walk', the teams dispersed for a little R&R before cleaning up and heading home to await the next barbeque competition that they will be going to.
As the guests left, some with barbecue sauce on their shirts, everyone seemed happy and full of good barbeque. With more than 5,000 people attending this year, it seems like that figure will be even higher when the Fourth annual Queen Mary BBQ Classic will be held. With great barbeque, a wonderful view of the Queen Mary and the Long Beach skyline and plenty of good music, everyone who attended seemed to have a great time.