COLUMBIA — It wasn't just music but the barbecue competition that drew a sizable crowd to the second day of the Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ Festival in downtown Columbia on Saturday.
Fifty teams competed, 16 of them from Columbia. Judges, in blind taste tests, measured the food's presentation, taste and tenderness.
- Ribs should stay on the bone, said Jim Viviano, a judge from the Smoke on the River competition in Quincy, Ill. You should be able to see bite marks clearly. The meat shouldn't fall off the bone, but come off with bit of a pull.
- With chicken, you should be able to bite through the skin, Viviano said. It shouldn't be overcooked or undercooked, and if you barbecue, there should be no pink around the bone.
- Brisket is judged by how it pulls apart and by texture. It should be fibrous, but not too tough, Viviano said.
“You never really know; you don’t judge based on what you like,” said Floyd Durk, a competition judge. “Maybe you get sweet and you don’t like sweet. You judge based on what went into it.”
Champions add personal touches
Four Smokin’ Butts was crowned the grand champion. This was the team’s 22nd competition this year.
“Some people play golf; we barbecue,” team member Greg Thomas said.
The winning team attributed its success to its reinvented sauce, a commercial barbecue sauce with a secret ingredient. Since adding the ingredient a month ago, they’ve won four consecutive competitions, team member Cindy Keck said.
The team’s 22-foot barbecue trailer was hand-built by a friend. It took him 45 days to add three grills, a smoker and a special chicken grill to a flatbed trailer.
Keck had advice for novice competitors: “Go with what you feel is right. People help people. Just ask questions.”
Plowboys BBQ, a father-and-son team from Concordia, won second place in pork, third in brisket, 17th in ribs and 20th in chicken, earning it the title of reserve champion, or second place. Randy Hinck, 53, and son Brandon, 18, have barbecued for 10 years with their own brand of seasoning.
Feeding the crowd
Jim “Hoss” Koetting of Hoss’s Market & Rotisserie in Columbia has been a vendor at the festival since it began four years ago.
Vendors can compete in the competition, but Hoss’s never has.
“It would fun as a hobby, but it’s my business,” Koetting said.
Rex Scott, owner of Jamaican Jerk Hut, who also chose not to enter the competition, said he wanted to showcase his food to the public.
“In my opinion, competition is more exclusive,” Scott said. “We appeal to a wider audience.”
“The music is why I’m here, but the food is a bonus,” said Kelly Mitchell of Columbia.
Mitchell said she enjoyed Shemekia Copeland on Friday night and Record Collector on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday's Blues in the Schools performance, in which students from Grant and West Boulevard elementary schools sang with musician T.J. Wheeler, was also a crowd favorite.