Bay Days barbecue contest a succulent success

By Allison T. Williams , atwilliams@dailypress.com /247-4535
Sun Sep 11 2011 12:03 AM
HAMPTON – Victory is smoky and succulent at Hampton Bay Days.

As thousands were heading home Friday after the festival’s opening night, 13 teams of barbecue pitmasters set up smokers, stoked wood fires and started the 12-14 hour process of cooking beef, pork, chicken and ribs.

Although Bay Days has been around for decades, it was the inaugural year for the barbecue cook-off, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

“Low and slow,” said first-time competitive barbecuer Anthony Hester of Hampton, head of the team, Cooking with Uncle Tony. “The secret to good barbecue is slow cooking over low heat.

“A whole lot of guys brag about cooking tender food on the grill but when you bring it on the circuit, it’s cooking on a whole different level,” added Hester, who started smoking his butts around 11 p.m. Friday. “This is the best of the pitmasters.”

Although the Bay Days contest drew barbecue teams from as far away as North Carolina and Florida, most were from Hampton Roads. The locally-based team Serial Griller – made up of County Grill owner Mark Breen, son Colby Breen and employee Moses Reynolds – won the grand champ title, including a $1,250 prize and 4-foot trophy.

Judges certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society looked at entries in four categories: beef brisket; ribs; pork, usually a Boston butt; and poultry. Judges evaluate the entries on appearance, tenderness and most importantly, taste, said Kansas City Barbecue spokesman Alfred Bowen.

First-place winners in the four categories include Florida Skin & Bones, for both chicken and pork; Q-Daddy’s BBQ, for chicken; and Serial Griller, for beef brisket.

Don’t bother asking the cook-off champs for their winning recipes or secret ingredients in their meat rubs and sauces, said Bowen. Barbecuing is highly competitive and a test of the cooks’ endurance and attention to detail, he said.

“Anyone that tells you their ingredients is probably lying,” Bowen said. “But anybody can compete and win. I’ve seen people with $500,000 cooking rigs get beat by someone who drives up in beat-up pickup with a grill made out of three barrels.”

Organizer Mike Carruthers said he expects the barbecue cookoff will become an annual event at Bay Days. He said he hoped to double the number of competing teams next year.