“It’s a soy sauce base; that’s all I’m telling you,” the first-time entrant and winner of the eighth annual Brentwood Barbecue King Cook-off Contest said of his culinary crafting. “That, and there was a lot of (spice) rubbing by my son, Jack.”
Ray’s secret recipe carried him to the title, as well as earning him (and Jack) top honors in the Tri-tip category. A total of 16 cooks prepared more than a half ton of ribs, tri-tip and chicken, all of which was donated by Brentwood Fine Meats.
“This year the cooks really stepped it up a notch,” said Brentwood Fine Meats co-owner Bill Harris, who also helped with the judging. The Super Bowl Sunday event raised about $3,500, which will be split between the Brentwood Police Activities League and the East Contra Costa Historical Society.
As always, the event featured a variety of hardware pumping out smoke in the parking lot of the Harvest Park Bowling Center. The rigs ranged from the one built for the Brentwood Rotary Club by retired a Marine, Gunner Ford (who traveled all the way from Kansas to participate), to the standard Weber Kettles, to the “Car-beque” brought in by Michael Berry. The latter, a “customized” 1992 Ford Festiva converted into a smoker, was offered for sale to benefit PAL, but it’s unclear if there were any takers.
“It’s the best thing I could think of to do with a Ford,” explained Berry, who tied for Best Ribs last year, but missed the cut this year.
One of a dozen judges making those cuts was Merrill Grant, superintendent of the Brentwood Union School District. Grant said his expertise might come from the fact that his parents raised Angus cattle, but at any rate, he knows what he likes: cooks who “don’t rely so much on spices, but let the meat do the talking.” The first-time judge also knows what to do if asked to serve again in 2010: “I’ll pace myself a little better next year,” he said as he and the other over-stuffed judges waddled from the room.
Picking up honors in the other categories were Tom Sharp (Best Chicken) and Kyle Schults (Best Ribs). Schults’ father, Jeff, a previous Cook-off winner, said cooking has “brought us closer together; given us something to do together.” It’s also given his 18-year-old progeny some verbal one-upmanship: “Now I’ve got a lifetime of hearing about this,” said Dad.
Snagging the top slot in the contest’s Dessert category was Jeannine Freitas and her Cranapple Carmel Nut Crumb Pie. There were a handful of other winners, too, who carried off prizes provided by perennial guest celebrity Gorilla Rilla. The smallest winner, 9-year-old Elle Ray, won the biggest prize, a brand-new bike.
The beneficiaries of the event also consider themselves winners. “We’re thrilled to be able to do this with PAL,” said Kathy Leighton of the ECCHS. “This is a lot of fun, a great fundraiser, and we get members out of it every year.”