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KCBS Pro Cooking Competition

Madison, Ind., has emerged
as a favorite on the cooking circuit

Pro teams vie for prize money,
trophy, entry in nationals

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(August 2012) – Barbecue grillers from around the country will descend on Madison, Ind., on Aug. 17-18 for the 11th annual Madison Ribberfest pro cooking competition, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.
Many are particularly fond of this competition because of the beautiful view of the Ohio River and the quaint environment that historic Madison offers the visitors.
“I love coming to Madison. I get a break from the heat, enjoy the beautiful setting by the river and get to spend time with the jovial people in Madison,” says Byron Chism, the returning Grand Champion of the 2011 contest here.

Fowl Butt

File Photo by Don Ward

Fowl Butt pro
cooking team of
Decatur, Ind.,
prepares an entry.

While Chism, who travels from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., to compete, may not enjoy a break from the heat, jovial people will still come cheer for him and the 59 others competing in the region’s premiere professional barbecue cooking contest. A full slate of competitors means Chism must be at the top of his game to reclaim his title.
Competitors will set up on Friday and begin smoking their meats that evening and throughout the night. They will begin turning in their judged entries at 11 a.m. Saturday. The judging takes place inside the Brown Gym on Broadway Street, and the cash awards and trophies in various cooking categories are presented there at 4 p.m. Saturday. The public is welcome to watch the awards presentation, according to KCBS competition chairman Ken Schneider.
Chism competes all over the nation, both because he loves to compete and to promote his line of rubs and seasonings available through buttrub.com. Featured on cooking channels, his fame as a cook and for his products has spread largely due to his success at competitions like Ribberfest. He says he looks forward to trying to defend his title of Grand Champion.
Chism, like most competitors, arrives Thursday night for the camaraderie. He especially looks forward to the river boat ride that was implemented last year. “I suggested it seven years ago. I am glad they finally went with the idea. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what’s unique. I asked why they didn’t use the river. Now we have a private party where competitors enjoy reconnecting. One of the best parts of the competition.”
Thursday night provides the only window for relaxed fun. Friday morning, the work begins.
Schneider notes that competitors spend all day Friday smoking meats, preparing sauces and rubs, and perfecting their entries. “They work around the clock – most staying up all Friday night,” he says.

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 2013.
• 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.
• For more information, visit: www.kcbs.us.

Schneider’s all-volunteer staff takes care of the competitors’ teams. That’s not an easy task, given that the teams are spread between across three different streets. Schneider ensures each team has water, electricity and other support elements. “Whatever they need, we get it for them,” Schneider says.
The greatest challenge is helping the teams deliver their entries on time. Once turn-ins begin on Saturday morning, they continue on the half hour. Teams must meet a 10-minute window or face disqualification. After so much preparation and investment, Schneider gets teams where they need to be with a fleet of golf carts and drivers racing to make the deliveries.
Carolyn Wells, the KCBS executive director, comes from Kansas City each year to oversee the competition for the society. She brags to competitions throughout the country about Madison. She sees the preparation, how the teams are treated and that teams keep coming back. Wells tells others that Madison does the job right – spreading Madison’s reputation around the nation.
“We are known as a premiere competition,” says Schneider. “Our reputation keeps spreading and bringing people to Madison. That’s good for them and for us.”
Teams at the Madison Ribberfest compete for nearly $13,000 in prizes. The Grand Champion in Madison becomes the Indiana State Champion and moves on to the American Royal Competition in Kansas City, Mo. Ribberfest is also one of the five competitions that make up the National BBQ Cup. Finally, the winner at Ribberfest is put into a drawing to compete in the Jack Daniels World Competition, which takes place in Lynchburg, Tenn. Former Ribberfest winners have won in these competitions, making Ribberfest the premiere regional competition, Schneider says.
“Because we take care of teams, we get the best teams in the nation coming to Madison,” says Schneider. “That makes for a great event.”
Steve Creech of Columbus, Ind., was Reserve Champion (second place) in 2011. Competing as the ZZ-Que team, Creech said he can’t wait to get back to Madison to aim for Grand Champion. Like many, Creech started in the amateur Backyard BBQ Blast, back in 2004. “I wandered over to where the professionals were, saw how much fun they were having and decided to go pro in 2005.”
Creech’s specialty is brisket. Teams compete in four main categories: chicken, ribs, pork butt or shoulder, and beef brisket, plus three auxiliary categories. Nine judges review the entries for appearance, texture and taste.
Creech notes, “There are about 20 steps for every meat, and all the details matter.”
Now competing throughout the nation, Creech said he loves returning to the Ribberfest each year. “I was raised in North Vernon (Ind.). I live in Columbus. So coming here is like coming home.”
Unlike most teams that use competitions to promote their catering or cooking businesses, Creech competes solely as a hobby. “I’m here to be with friends. It’s a tight-knit group. Being with them is the best part. Of course, I want to beat my score from last year, too!”
When Chism, Creech and the other cooks descend on Madison, they turn the riverfront into a feast of aromas and friendship.
“It’s the grand lady of cooks in Indiana,” says Creech. “I can’t wait to get there.”

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