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KCBS Pro Cooking Competition

Kentucky husband-wife team
has been dominating the grill

Haydens return to Madison
in hopes of notching third victory

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(August 2011) – Chad Hayden knows what it takes to win a barbecue competition. After participating in the Madison Ribberfest for eight consecutive years, he’s gotten the hang of things and is right where he wants to be.
“There are only a few good teams out there,” said Hayden, 40. “Most of the good teams are husband and wife.” Hayden refers to his wife, Christine, 40, as “the brains of it.”

Madison Ribberfest
KCBS Contest Facts

• 60 teams compete in four meat categories (chicken, pork ribs, pork, beef brisket) and three auxiliary categories (dessert, anything but, sauce). Entry fee is $250 per team.
• It takes 77 KCBS-certified judges and table captains to determine the winners in each category, plus an overall Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion (second place). The Grand Champion earns a trip to the KCBS American Royal in Kansas City. The team also is entered into a drawing of eight other Indiana KCBS competition winners to determine a berth in the Jack Daniels Barbeque Championship in Lynchburg, Tenn.
• The Grand Champion earns $2,500; Reserve Grand Champion collects $1,500. Both receive wooden cutting board trophies. The top 10 places in each meat category also receive cash awards, with the category winners receiving wooden cutting board trophies.
• This year’s pork category winner at Ribberfest will be one of only 10 such winners nationwide to be invited to the “Butt to Butt” pork competition in Jefferson City, Mo., in April 2012.
• The late Jeff Garrett founded Ribberfest in 2002 and a spirit award in his honor is voted on by the teams and presented each year at the awards ceremony.
• KCBS co-founder Carolyn Wells will serve as one of three KCBS reps this year at Madison Ribberfest. The organization was founded in 1985.

The couple won their first Madison Ribberfest professional cooking contest in 2004 and captured the Grand Champion trophy again last year. Hayden began competing professionally in 2004 but his interest in barbecuing was piqued in 1997 when he visited the Memphis in May competition in Tennessee with friends.
“I loved it and thought I’d get into it,” he said after experiencing one of the biggest competitions out there. The husband-and-wife team lives in Taylorsville, Ky., and competes under the team name “Moonswiners.”
The Madison Ribberfest was their first ever competition. It is conducted and sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, and winning it brings a lot of notoriety to the top team.
After winning the 2007 Madison Ribberfest, the Haydens were entered into a drawing for the Jack Daniels World Champion-ship Invitational Barbeque located at the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. Luck was on their side and they won that competition as well, placing first in the chicken category and second in ribs.
The same year, a few weeks before the Madison Ribberfest, Hayden said he was not doing too well with his barbecue sauce. But he pulled out of his slump and “developed a sauce that helped me win.” The sauce was so good that Hayden sold it to T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant chain.
“The competition gets tougher and tougher each year,” he said. He credits this to the media. “Barbecue has kind of exploded from all of the attention in the media.”
Hayden admitted that he has to “practice a heck of a lot to be a step above the competition.” Out of approximately 60 entries in last year’s Madison Ribberfest, he said there were close to 20 that had the potential to win.
Hayden and his wife have traveled to competitions across Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Illinois. Even though the Madison Ribberfest is very similar to other competitions, Hayden compares it to a “homecoming game for me.”
Originally from Louisville, Hayden said the Madison Ribberfest holds a lot of sentimental value for him, since it was his first competition. “It’s very well run. Madison is a beautiful place.”

Chad Hayden

File Photo provided

Chad and Christine Hayden of Elk Creek,
Ky., have become the team to beat
on the pro barbecue cooking circuit.

Last year’s Reserve Grand Champion, Fred Larson, said “It’s the best organized event we go to every year. Madison has been doing this a long time, and Madison does it right.”
Larson and his wife, Dianna, of Mooresville, Ind., started their own team, Pirates of the Grill. They usually attend 10 competitions a year, which is hard to do when both have full-time jobs.
“You have to have a lot of skill; there’s a lot of good cooking teams out there,” said Larson, 50. “You have to be on your game.”
Due to the level of competition, the “caliber of teams is top notch. It’s the premier Indiana event.”
Having competed in the Madison Ribberfest for six years, “It can open the right doors for you if you win it,” he said.
He has been barbecuing for the last 10 years and became interested after taking a class and sitting next to Gary Hembrough, who ran a team known as Coach’s Cooking Team. Larson said the Madison Ribberfest is an event “the whole family can enjoy.”
This is the only barbecue competition in which his daughter, now 23, takes part. “She won’t cook anywhere else, but she’ll go to Madison.” Like many others, she enjoys the social aspect that accompanies the event.

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