Well, it’s been 2 weeks since competing in our first kosher bbq competition of the season, and life is finally back to normal (and I’m pretty sure we got all of the bbq stink out of everything). Our team “5 Dudes and a Vegetarian” (Daniel Peikes, Elliott Fliegelman, Debbie Burg, Robert Feiger and me), competed in the second annual St. Louis Kosher BBQ competition on June 26th! Maybe you caught our Facebook live, as Daniel Peikes, our fearless pitmaster, slathered the base rub (made by yours truly) all over the giant hunk of brisket! Well, if you missed it, be sure to check out our “Meat Your Vegetables” Facebook page! And in case it wasn’t that obvious, yes I’M the vegetarian on the team. It definitely gets a lot of laughs and no, I don’t make “vegetarian” food for the judges. Because that’s not allowed. 🙂 More on that later…
But first, let’s talk Indian food! That’s right…kosher Indian in St. Louis! Stopped there for lunch with (most) of our team to enjoy a relaxing, supper yummy meal at Gokul restaurant on Friday, after the prep. A cute place with funky colors yet a calming atmosphere, the menu seemed a little overwhelming to me, so I opted for the buffet instead. Everything was delicious – from the herbed rice, to the vegetable korma (mixed veggies with cashews and raisins in a creamy tomato sauce) to the super spicy spinach and mushroom sauce and beans and lentils cooked with mild Indian spices. No naan or paneer for me…but it was tasty and full of flavor and spice.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
For those of you who haven’t experienced the joy of kosher BBQ competitions, here’s a little rundown.
The competition has an entrance fee – anywhere between $350 – $400. That amount includes all of the protein (typically brisket, ribs, chicken and turkey), the spices and ingredients provided by the competition (like salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, apple juice, olive oil, ketchup, etc…), equipment like knives, cutting boards, tongs, heat-proof gloves, thermometers, AND of course, the smoker and the grill. So, yes, you are able to bring in other ingredients, as long as they are brand new, sealed and of course they have to be labeled kosher. Typically, the prep happens either Thursday night or Friday (as the cooking gets underway Saturday night, for a Sunday event). The prep for our team? Well, for St. Louis specifically, I made all of the rubs – the base rub, which then was used to make the rub for the brisket, ribs, and turkey (our teammate Debbie, had her own special recipe for the chicken). I also made the injections (I know, sounds so dirty, right? Or maybe it sounds medicinal, but whatever the case, yes, I make sauces to then have injected into the meat. Oh baby). Meanwhile, Daniel is trimming the fat off the brisket and prepping the ribs. Debbie is making her sauces, while my husband was the gopher (he’s not allowed in the kitchen, especially with knives). 🙂 Okay, just kidding Ellie! My aunt who lives in St. Louis also came by to check out our prep and she volunteered to be our dishwasher – such a big help, thank you aunt Sue!
Okay, so by Friday late morning, all of the prep is done. Saturday night, right after Shabbat, we head over to the shul where the event was happening, get our tent (thanks to our teammate Rob for getting us set up), grab our tables and start rolling. Rubbing the brisket and getting that baby on the smoker at some point during the night. 🙂 That’s the key here – we stay up ALL NIGHT and essentially babysit the brisket on the smoker. You really need to keep an eye on that temperature – that can really make or break it!
Fast forward to Noon on Sunday – the competition BEGINS! Chicken turn-in to the judges is first, followed by ribs, turkey and brisket. And because this competition is a KCBS sanctioned competition (Kansas City Barbecue Society – yes it’s a real thing, and it’s 2 legit 2 quit, HA), there are MANY rules that are specified through KCBS, rules like no garnish, and sauces with no chunks bigger than a fine dice – are the real deal. That’s right. No sprigs of parsley in our turn-in boxes! Just the meat, in all its smoky glory.
Judging underway, and winners announced at 2:30. We’re tired, exhausted, sweaty (and reeking of smoke) and most definitely dehydrated – let’s get this thing started. So, we came in 4th place in ribs, 5th place in brisket, and 5th place overall. And out of only 10 teams, I was hoping we’d inch out by a wee bit more, but hey, it’s good practice, good experience and it just keeps us fired up for the next one. What I really love about competing in these events is the camaraderie and the great sportsmanship from everyone! We compete against novices and professionals, but at the end of the day, no one is here to sabotage one another – everyone helps each other out when needed, like borrowing ingredients, equipment, keeping an eye on other teams smokers and alerting them if they get too hot – we’re all here to win of course, but we’re all here to have fun and enjoy ourselves.
Next on our BBQ competition road trip? Kansas City in September…here we come!
Check out some highlights from the big event!
Check out Daniel’s take on the trip: Recap of the 2nd Annual St. Louis Kosher BBQ Competition