Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cooking Competitions

Imagine eating 16 plates of beef. In a row. A few years ago I judged my first cooking competition and it was the National Beef Cookoff. While I'd like to tell you everything about it, some cooking competitions are serious business and in that particular case, I was sworn to secrecy.

This month alone I am judging three cooking contests–the Bacon Takedown was last weekend and this weekend is the Bay Area BBQ Championship and the Lamb Jam. Last month I judged one of the Bravo Top Chef Tour "quickfire" competitions that was part of their road tour.

(Sorry to say it, but Fabio lost, using Red Bull in a salmon dish was probably not such a good idea)

If you're guessing I rarely pass up a chance to be a judge, you're right. I like trying different dishes, evaluating and conferring with the other judges. While it might seem like work, the truth is, it's actually a lot of fun.

At Matt Timms wild and wonderful Takedown competitions it's a combination of amateurs and professionals so you never know what you're going to find. The judge's choice for first place this time around was Ivy Something who made Bacon Fried Chicken with Sweet Potato Biscuits and Tipsy Maple Gravy. Ivy has Southern roots and a gravy blog. Yup. A gravy blog. I do hope she blogs the recipe.


The Bay Area BBQ Championship is a big deal competition compared to the others. It's being held at the Oakland Coliseum creekside lot and when you buy a ticket, you also get to see a double header A's game. Nice. This competition is particularly important to me because it benefits Alternative Family Services one of the most well-respected foster care agencies in the country and the founder and Executive Director is a very close family friend. There are 32 teams competing, including Food Network champions the Bad Boyz of BBQ, the Q Masters, Bad S BBQ (featuring Iron Chef Contestant Ric Gilbert), and the Oakland Fire Department. Tickets are still available! Buy one for yourself or just donate a ticket so a kid can see a ball game. Tickets must be purchased in advance, no sales the day of the event.

Finally the Lamb Jam will have restaurant chefs competing against one another. This sold out event is being sponsored by the American Lamb Board, who are responsible for getting the message out about lamb. Did you know American Lamb is hormone free and is available as all-natural products that are antibiotic free? You probably do know that sheep are grazing animals and help to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

I'll be curious to see what the chefs will be cooking up, all weekend long. What cooking competition would you most like to judge?