Taste buds sizzled in Santa Clara at the 6th Annual Silicon Valley Barbeque Championships in Central Park June 23 and 24. The barbeque pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken thighs were delicious enough turn a vegetarian into an omnivore–at least for the weekend.
“The barbeque is awesome. The people are pleasant and friendly,” said Santa Clara resident Joe Reynaga, enjoying the ambiance and the music of Long Train Runnin’ with a friend Friday night. “I love barbeque. We’ve had three samples and may try one or two more.”
The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned the Santa Clara Rotary Foundation fundraiser as the 2nd largest barbeque championship on the West Coast. And behind closed doors Saturday afternoon in the park Community Center, 65 certified KCBS judges put their taste buds to the test, judging the best barbeque prepared by 62 professional teams, vying for cash prizes totaling $25,000. Twenty-seven backyard barbeque teams competed for trophies.
“Parks on Fire with the City Parks and Recreation Department won the big and very flashy Mayors Cup Trophy, which is passed around to the [City department] winner every year, along with bragging rights, of course!” said Rotarian Lou Ann Alexander.
“People become judges for a hobby and for the love of barbecue,” said Lincoln resident Karen Anderson, volunteering as a judge for her seventh year. “You can hardly find a restaurant that meets the standard of KCBS.”
The judges, who sat six to a table, each tasted four kinds of meat from six different barbeque teams. They ate with their fingers from a paper placemat, taking just a couple bites of each barbeque sample. Anderson stashed her leftovers in a cooler to take home.
The judging is double blind. Each barbeque team is assigned a number. Then before their entries are presented to the judges, that number is changed. Entries are judged on their appearance in a Styrofoam box, taste, and tenderness and then scored from 2 to 9 (the best).
“I was surprised how much detail and precision there is. Judging barbeque is a serious business,” said invited VIP judge Brian Goldenberg, representing Marz Vodka, one of the BBQ championships sponsors.
“Judges came from as far as New Jersey. We have a waiting list,” said Alexander. “They have to sign up early to get a spot.”
The People’s Choice winner for the 4th time, taking home a trophy and cash, was Bad S BBQ, sponsored by Armadillo Willy’s. The Grand Champion Pro Team winner of $4,500 was Mar-B-Que’s BBQ and the Reserve Champion winner of $2,700 was Porterhouse BBQ. The Backyard Team first place winner was Jack9 BBQ, followed by KJ’s Big Boy BBQ.
The professional barbeque teams travel around the country in RVs, some modified to accommodate food preparation. The competing teams become friends as they camp out together at the competitions.
“It’s camping with a purpose,” said Curtis Trigueiro, pitmaster for Ridge Route Boys BBQ from Bakersfield, which came in 12th as Best Overall.
“It’s not a cheap hobby. Nobody gets rich doing this,” said his wife, Angie Trigueiro.
“It’s really a great privilege to partner with the City to put this on for the community and to help underprivileged kids in the community,” said Rotarian Gerry Kosko, BBQ championships co-chair. “We wanted to bring Santa Clara a good way to get people out and start the summer.”
The 2016 BBQ championships netted over $50,000 to fund the Santa Clara Rotary Foundation projects supporting local children in need: www.svbbq.com.