OC BBQ Festival
Went to the OC BBQ Festival, yesterday in Costa Mesa.
The way the festival is organized, is stupid. The festival opens at 10am. But the turn ins for competitors went from 11am to about 1pm. Well the competitors are more concerned about turning in their meats, than serving up food to the public.
They really need to start the festival, AFTER all meats are turned in.
Now the catch-22. It was so crowded with people that if you got there after 1pm, many competitors were out of meat!!! So you just wasted $10 for nothing.
There are too many competitors who thought BBQ meant, your backyard grill and they could win.
I tasted some bad BBQ.
The TV star "Slap Yo Daddy BBQ" was serving BBQ spaghetti, using brisket or pulled pork. I didn't actually eat any of it, but saw what he was serving and passed.
I did find out about a new BBQ restaurant in San Pedro, The BBQ Shack and Grill. He got 1st place in chicken at the festival.
I did meet two CH lurkers, while waiting for Big Mista BBQ, and if they want to try The BBQ Shack and Grill, we should do a BBQ meetup and give it a try. Get in touch with me.
re: Professor Salt
I got there at about 10:30am; so my issue wasn't about competitors running out of BBQ. It was with how this festival is set up.
They really need to start this festival at a later time, say 1pm. So all turn ins are over and the people paying admission and food tickets can get their food and talk to the competitors without interrupting the competitors.
re: reality check
We got there shortly before 11:00am, later than we wanted due to an accident at Orange Ave on the 405.
We had some fair to not so good BBQ. The best was 4Q's Kogi Tacos, went back for more, they were great. We met Professor Salt and Big Mista. AS RC said, we couldn't talk with them much becuase they were busy getting ready for the competition. Before we left, we went back to Big Mista for some brisquet, and man the lines were so long!! Slap yo Daddy and 4Q lines were huge. We waited for the Big Mista's briquet to get ready (it was about 1:00pm now) and it was good, different spices, I liked it my SO didn't. As we walked out the lines for tickets were very long. It was already packed inside so I imagine it got much much worse as the day wore on.
As far as the competition, I found some meats with no flavor at all and many with too much salt. Some of the meats were ice cold (chicken mostly) but overall it was just okay but it was great to be there and no regrets for the long drive. A few of the baby backs were good. I didn't take notes so I don't remember whose I liked. I was disappointed in the serving of soft drinks, there weren't any. You could find beer everywhere, and a couple of places had lemonade, but no cokes or 7-up's.
I would consider going again next year as we did have a good time, but I agree with RC that many of the places did not have any meats to buy before the competition deadline.
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA
re: reality check
I'm not a promoter of the event - just one of the competing teams, and this is only my perspective. Before I forget, thanks to all of you that came out and stopped by Four Q - you know who you are. I wish I could have lingered longer with you.
RC, if you wait to open this to the public until after the official judging, then some of that meat has sat around for two hours, drying out and getting ice cold as Les said. It's better for all involved to taste meat that's as fresh as possible. Some newb teams had zero experience with the People's Choice format, and clearly had no idea on how to time their cooking, or how much food they'd need to cook for PC, or how to keep the foods hot.
It's a sanctioned contest for the competitors first and foremost, not a rib burn for the public. What does this mean? Most of the competitors there are small teams using backyard equipment, and lack the capacity to feed hundreds of people. If you convert this KCBS sanctioned competition to an unsanctioned "rib burn" format like the Reno event, then the only participants will be big concession vendors with massive cookers pulled on tractor trailers. Think of the BBQ at the County Fair - not bad, but not good enough to win a real contest, AND it's expensive as hell. You'd lose alot by limiting participation only to professional teams that can pump out lots of food to thousands of people.
I can see where the attendees have legitimate complaints, and I agree some of them can be fixed pretty easily. Some of the structural revisions you're suggesting will alter the entire nature of the event, though, and they're not better, food-wise, for a discerning, BBQ savvy public.
re: Professor Salt
If the festival is a BBQ competition, don't advertise it, as a some BBQ tasting. The public is coming to try BBQ, not to see Mrs. BBQ or other stupid contests.
I'm on the fence about the "rib burn." I want to try BBQ. I hate those big vendors, like they had at the LA BBQ Festival in 08. I didn't bother going back in 09, after that disaster. I would like to see the smaller competitors, compete because some of them have very good BBQ, though others leave a lot to be desired.
I enjoyed last year's OC Festival much better. Better BBQ and less people. This year, more people, more competitors, but too much bad BBQ.
I see no reason to go back next year.
re: reality check
I knew nothing of the event itself until I talked with BigMista about it. His teaming with Kevin Bludso, plus the presence of the Four Q team made it a BBQ event worth noting. I did not attend as I am 1 1/2 hours from OC and go to BigMista's quite regularly anyway. I might have tried other venues, but would have gone primarily to check out the aforementioned.
I went to both LA BBQ fests at the Santa Monica Pier. The first was a disaster because the KC and Texas booths were the only ones worth visiting. The lines were long. The second one was much better and had more worthwhile BBQ teams from all over the country. Both times I skipped the ones not worth trying. There will be mediocre BBQ anywhere you go, just don't eat them.
I hoped you enjoyed BigMista/Bludso and Four Q. Also glad you found a new BBQ place. Please report.
Due to logistical issues, we did not get there until 3:00, so did not expect to find much to sample by that time. We did score some Kogi style pulled pork tacos from 4Q, and by the time the Mrs. got through an adjacent line there was only chicken.
In talking to Professor Salt, he told me that the majority of the California contests are structured as both contests, and public tasting events, but it seems to me an awful lot of pressure on any given BBQ team to produce their best contest quality product, and serve the public at the same time. Many sanctioned events outside of California do not involve any public tasting of the competitors' products.
So reality check's point has some validity. It seems to me these events would benefit if there were no sales permitted during pre-judging and judging hours, which means that sales hours would have to start late in the day. That presents two problems, the pitmasters have probably been up all night, tending their smokers, so an already long day would get longer, and secondly, the BBQ teams who want to sell samples might need to recruit more friends/volunteers to dish up the 'Q (a lighted venue would help if the hours are extended beyond dusk). In essence a team that elects to compete and to sell, needs to run two separate operations at the event.
Although we did not get a chance to sample Big Mista's 'Q, I am confident that we will track him down at one of his market stand's one of these days. One other observation, we did not visit all of the teams' bivouacs, but many of the competitors really are not equipped for mass product distribution and truly are amateurs doing this because they love it. We did notice one humongous commercial rig trucked in by a team (which in theory might have been prepared to put out a hell of a lot of samples), and we also noticed the (empty at the time) tent for Simple Green, what the hell was that all about?
When we were leaving about 5:00 and turned in our ballots for the People's Choice, some woman, who apparently had also arrived late was berating the lady selling meal tickets, (a volunteer at this charity event) and demanding that she notify "management" about the crime of vendors running out of food. Fer crying out loud, lady, this is bar-b-que, it takes a long time to do it right, its not like slapping a piece of meat on a grill. Anyone who understands and appreciates bar-b-que knows that when the day's production is out, it is out. Never arrive at any 'Q venue late if you are a serious aficionado of the art.
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA
Hi Wayne! It was great seeing you and Leann (amongst the others) again and catching up.
A little note on my experience: I got there a few minutes after 12 and went directly to the FourQ stall. They were already out of ribs. HOWEVER, they kept on feeding the masses until 5 when they ran out of everything. They had a great, streamlined process in place with volunteers serving and the line moved quickly. Their line was past Big Mista's stall the whole time I was there (I stayed for the judging which started after 5). Everything they offered was fantastic - hats off to you Professor and the other three. Great people - great BBQ!!
I did find the event to be pretty cost prohibitive. I spent $25 and had not even walked through the gates. $5 parking; $10 for EVERYONE OVER 3 YEARS OLD!! WTF??!! That $10 gives you ONE taste (kids get a ticket into the Kids' Zone - no taste ticket). I understand that it is for charity, but honestly. Thank God I was not the woman standing in line behind me who got up to the booth and said "Two adults, Four children." That came to $60 JEE-SUS! I think I would have turned around and left. Then, once inside, you can purchase each taste (2-3 oz in all honesty) for $2.50 or get 5 for $10 which is what I opted for.
Some of the booths had no lines, others had very long ones. Since I am a rib girl, I tried a few ribs and was pretty proud of myself when I called the winner as Smokin' Yankees and they did indeed take first place.
I could not find bottled water being sold anywhere. All I saw were 2 or 3 beer vendors, two lemonade vendors (the second one closed when I walked up to purchase one - the first one had a line of 50+ people at any given time) and a soda place.
The People's Choice was done very poorly. I hope they fix it for next year's event. They had a table that had a sign stating "Vote Here". If you did not walk by that table, you would not know this is where you had to go to get a ballot. Then you fill it out and put it into a barrel. Apparently, something with that brilliant scheme went wrong since they decided to forego the People's Choice alltogether and draw two contestant names and gave them back their registration fee. I think 4Q got jacked because of this. There were many, many votes in that barrel - they should have just gone with it the way it was. People's Choice carries along with it a boat-load of bragging rites!
OK, I will get off my soapbox now. All in all, I had a great time meeting new people and reconnecting with people I had not seen in a while - all while eating BBQ! What could be better than that??!! It was great - including the sunburn I am currently tending to. Cannot wait til next year!!
All good points, WS. I think first and foremost this was a BBQ contest and a fund raiser, organized and operated by amateurs, so that is how I set my expectations. I think in terms of how the organizers might do this next time, I would separate the BBQ contestants from the vendors, in to two separate areas. Let the contestants deal with the pressures of the contest only, and let vendors deal with mass feeding and customer service.
I did not mind the parking and gate fee, as long as most of that went to the charity. I wouldn't mind paying extra to sample food, but would expect, from real vendors, portion sizes a bit larger, and distribution to flow smoother, and food to be available for the duration. (If I were potential vendor though, I would worry about having too much or too little inventory on hand, and would be concerned about the size of the potential gate and how much vendor competition there was.
As far as a Peoples Choice award, maybe the way to do this is require those who want to participate in the voting to register in advance or at the gate, and pay a set fee which entitles them to go to an assigned distribution point during a given time window, and receive a sample box from N number of the contestants. Then you would have an opportunity to sample a wider array of teams' products and also be able to compare them, side by side.
All in all, any day that I can get out of the house and out among them, is a good day, and it was great seeing old friends and connecting with Chowhounds.
California doesn't have an invitational contest at this time. We're still growing the sport out here and it's a good sign that so many first time teams participated in Costa Mesa. The big national events in Kansas City, Memphis, Houston, and Lynchburg TN are invitationals, and you have to win grand champion at feeder contests to get there.
These are the overall results. If you want to see results for each category you can jump to the Kansas City Barbeque Society site
Grand Champion: Rib Ticklers BBQ
Reserve Champion: Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ
1 Rib Ticklers BBQ
2 Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ
3 All Sauced Up
4 Brazen BBQ
5 All Hogs go to Heaven
6 Smokin' Yankees BBQ
7 Smitty's Smoke Patrol
8 Smokey Bones BBQ
9 Rhythm 'n Que
10 Big Daddy's Q'N Crew
11 T&J's Backyard BBQ
12 When Pigs Fly BBQ
13 Bigmista's Barbecue
14 R&R BBQ
15 The Rub Company
16 The BBQ Shack and Grill
17 BLQUE Cuttin Edge QN
18 Bird's Pit Crew
19 Left Coast Q
21 Baby Roos BBQ
22 Rusty Barrel BBQ
23 Four Q
24 3 Little Pigs
25 Revolution Barbecue
26 Goin Que Que
27 Big Poppa Smokers
28 Schlemdawgs BBQ
29 The Rib Doctor
30 Meat Inc.
31 Smokin' Hogs
32 Soaked In Smoke
33 7 Kinds of Smoke
34 Smoke Em' if You Got Em'
35 El Fuego Fiasco
36 Get Your Rub On
37 Big Pig BBQ
38 Big Rick & the BBQ Chick
39 Backyard Brew N' Que
40 Smoke It All Night
41 Cooks N' Ladders
42 Tropical Heat BBQ
43 The Q
44 Big Bad BBQ
45 Wally's Smokin' Pit
46 Rancho Rocke BBQ
47 Master of Disaster
48 GB's BBQ
49 Daddy O's BBQ
50 Sizzlin Smoke Masters
51 Joey's Smokin' BBQ
52 Omaha Jack's Que'n Brew'
53 Kingpinz BBQ
54 Blowin' Smoke BBQ
55 Handsome Bob's
56 Three Men & a Smoker
57 BoneYard BBQ
Most compete as a hobby, but a few develop side businesses out of this passion. Of the 57 teams, I think 4 own brick and mortar restaurants (7 Kinds of Smoke in Commerce / The Q (aka Taps Fish House, Brea) / Joey's Smokin BBQ (chain based in San Diego) and Brazen BBQ (Vista). Another dozen or so cater / vend food / sell rubs & sauces / teach / etc. as an outgrowth of their hobby.
With very few exceptions, restaurants that try their hand at contests usually get whipped and don't come back. One local exception is Zeke's in Montrose - their brisket scored well in the Autry 2006 and 2007 contests, but I haven't seen them since. Contest people who go on to open restaurants usually have a better success ratio than vice versa.
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