By Dru Chai
Since 2010, I've attended the OC BBQ Festival at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Even though I was just a BBQ newbie back then, I always had an interest in the art of low and slow BBQ. I wondered, what does it take to participate in a BBQ competition? What kind of skill and experience is required?
Of course in the last year, I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about BBQ. Now as a judge in this year's OC BBQ Festival, I'll definitely have a brand new perspective in the world of competitive BBQ. As a cook, it's no easy task -- a lot of it is knowing what flavors the judges like. The BBQ world is a relatively small community, so you see the same teams (and judges) over and over again.
Check out some pics from last year's OC BBQ Festival.
The 2012 OC BBQ Festival is by far the largest yet, spanning two days and featuring about 70 teams vying for a piece of the money pie. Organized by Kristie's Foundation, all proceeds go to the charity, so it's definitely a worthy cause and you're chowing down on some lip-smacking 'Q.
In past years, the event was relatively low-key and not really that crowded. To be fair, there wasn't all that much to do besides walk around, eat, and listen to teenage bands play (with Sugar Ray playing this year, it will remind me of my 'ol college days). This year, I anticipate a huge turnout with all the planned family-friendly activities. So if you plan on going -- go early and avoid the long lines. Although long lines is usually a good sign that the BBQ is good and worth waiting for. There's even been some TV coverage promoting the event. Check it out here.
As the OC Weekly mentioned, BBQ competitions have really taken off over the last several years because of TV shows like BBQ Pitmasters (season 3 is fantastic, I'll write more in a separate post).
But I have to say, if it wasn't for judging this event (and an extra few hundred dollars laying around), I would be out in New York City this weekend, where a huge BBQ block party is going to take place at Madison Square Park. It's called the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, where they've invited dozens of famous pitmasters from almost every BBQ region in the country.