The Scene

Keep up with the Columbia Missourian's Arts & Entertainment beat writers

Getting into the meat of the Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival

leave a comment »

The judging for the Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival doesn’t start until Saturday, but the 55 competing teams were already busy preparing their meats Friday afternoon. While some relied on special rubs and sauces, others experimented with new smokers. But despite the looming competition and the $15,000 prize purse at stake, most team members relaxed, cracked open a beer and shared their award-winning barbecue with family and friends. For profiles on five of the competitors, keep reading.

“This is a time for us to get together and cook, share our lives and libations,” said Gary Walkup, a member of Belly Brothers. “And then there’s orchestrated chaos to get in all turned in on time tomorrow.”

Here’s an inside look at five of the teams who are competing this year:

Belly Brothers:

Like many competitors this year, Belly Brothers did not participate in the Roots ‘N Blues ‘N Barbecue Festival last year because they were invited to The American Royal, which was held on the same day.

“The American Royal is like the Superbowl of barbecue competitions,” said John Berkbuegler, 44.

The team, which has been competing for five years, typically enters five or six contests a year. Although they were hesitant to share any tricks of the trade, they did share their special spray, composed of apple juice and grape juice. The mixture, which they spray on the meat while it cooks, helps give the meat a nice aesthetic color. Because one of the judging categories is appearance, Belly Brothers makes their presentation a priority.

“You eat with your eyes,” said Teresa Walkup, a member of Belly Brothers. “It’s the first thing you look at.”

Gary Walkup prepares barbecue for his friends, family and team sponsors.

Gary Walkup prepares barbecue for his friends, family and team sponsors.

Team Q:

This is Team Q’s first time competing in the festival, but they’re no strangers to barbecue competitions. The team’s rub, Heffer Dust, won first place at the American Royal in 2007.

In addition to competing, three members of Team Q founded Spicewine Ironworks, a company that sells smokers, rubs and sauces. Last year, they donated one of their smokers to a raffle sponsored by Beta Beta Q, a barbecue society in central Missouri. The smoker, valued at $1500, helped raised $13,000 for the Humane Society. This year, they plan to donate the proceeds to the Central Missouri Food Bank.

10 competing teams are using their cookers in the contest.

“We don’t mind being beat by our own cookers,” said co-owner Steve Curry, 48, of Columbia. “If our cookers win, we still win.”

Meat grilling on Team Qs smoker, which they sell through Spicewine Ironworks.

Meat grilling on Team Qs smoker, which they sell through Spicewine Ironworks.

Natural Born Grillers

Jamey Johnson, 49, and Phil Schaefer, 30, used to compete in the festival individually. This year, they joined forces to form Natural Born Grillers. The friends are looking forward to the added dessert category of the competition.

“We’re excited about the dessert,” said Schaefer, who is preparing a chocolate tart cake. “Chocolate is the universal unifier.”

The pair even special-ordered white chocolate guitars to add to the cake.

“They’re symbolic of the blues festival,” Johnson said.

Natural Born Grillers special ordered white chocolate guitars for their chocolate tart cake.

Natural Born Grillers special ordered white chocolate guitars for their chocolate tart cake.

Smokin’ O’ BBQ

Allen James, 45, has competed in the festival since its beginning. An electrician for the University power plant, James built his own smoker this year.

“It’s individual to me,” James said. “It doesn’t pull any tricks.”

James, who is sacrificing vacation days and sleep for the competition, hopes that winning could open future doors for barbecue competitions.

“Winning this would mean a shot at the American Royal.”

Allen James built his own smoker for the competition.

Allen James built his own smoker for the competition.

Great Grills O’ Fire

While other Roots’ N’ Blues barbecue competitors prepared their meat with rubs and marinades on Friday, Mark Hyman, 42, had other concerns.

“I’m pretty superstitious,” said Hyman, a champion barbecue competitor. “I have to do everything in a certain sequence.”

First, Hyman puts on his lucky hat and sets to work leveling his smoker. After he’s hung his lucky beads and set out his lucky ceramic cow, he slips a red apron over his head and sets to work. His wife Becky signed the apron, which he uses at every competition. The two form Great Grills O’ Fire, a barbecue team that competed in 34 contests last year.

Mark Hymen displays his lucky beads, which he hangs at every competition.

Mark Hymen displays his lucky beads, which he hangs at every competition.

Stay tuned for more team profiles throughout the weekend.

Advertisements

Written by Catherine O'Neill

September 25, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: