475 teams assembled around Kemper Arena in Kansas City the first weekend in October for one thing... BBQ... Well not everyone was there for BBQ, some were there for the crazy parties on Friday night, or just there hanging with friends, or even there to try to sneak a few secrets, photos, and if lucky a bite of some good BBQ. First off, I have to thank the team from Cookshack, Stuart and Jessica Powell (a father-daughter tram) from Ponca City, OK for allowing me to tag along and cook with them all weekend. I'd also like to give a big thanks to Fast Eddy and Kathy Maurin for letting me invade their cook site as well over the course of the weekend.
The "weekend" for many began as early as Wednesday as people began to load into the parking lots at various cook sites. I arrived Friday and met up with Stuart and Fast Eddy. Friday at the Royal is known for two things. Parties and the beginning of the Invitational part of the cook-off. The invitational competition is only for those teams who have qualified by being crowned Grand Champion at one of the qualifying "State Championship" competitions throughout the year. This year 141 of the best teams in the nation competed in this portion of the competition. But more people participated in "the biggest party in KC" which is the Friday night of the Royal. Thousands of people converge at various private and public parties around the Royal site. There were multiple live bands playing around the area, as well as DJs and other forms of entertainment, such as a mechanical bull and a hot tub with scantily clad women (anyone have a picture of that?!?). People watching on Friday night is a great form of entertainment... I wish I had taken more pictures/video...
Saturday is when the BBQ fun starts for most people. 475 teams spend the day prepping meats which will go in the pit later Saturday night or early Sunday morning. We spent much of the afternoon Saturday prepping meats and talking with the visiting "Tours of the Royal" who were stopping by throughout the day. Stuart and Eddy do a great job of sharing part of the Cookshack story and discussing the Fast Eddy line of Cookshack smokers. We also prepared chicken and some steaks for each of these tours to sample as they came by. I enjoyed cooking the chicken, but also enjoyed listening to Stuart and BBQ legend Fast Eddy discuss the history of the Royal and Cookshack. Here's a video of Stuart and Fast Eddy doing one of the tours.
Late Saturday the briskets and pork butts go on the FEC100 smoker for Sunday's competition. The Saturday night festivities are much more subdued as the teams are starting their cooks for the competition. Due to the ease of cooking on the FEC100 we then all hit the hay for a few hours.
Sunday AM, let the games begin!!! Brisket and Pork finish up and are put in the hot box to hold. Ribs and Chicken are prepped and cooked. Turn ins start at noon and every 30 min a different meat is turned in, first chicken, then ribs, then pork, and finally brisket. Then it's in the hands... or mouths... of the judges.
A couple of hours later everyone gathers for the awards ceremony before heading home.
We didn't do that well in the opinion of the judges... but we cooked some great food and had a great time all weekend.
Friday night at the Royal
Parties on the "DarkSide"
Cookshack Cook site
Fast Eddy's Cook site - (If you look closely there is a new prototype pellet grill in this picture)
Fast Eddy and Stuart presenting for a "Tour of the Royal"
Saturday Night FEC100 Getting ready for brisket and butts
Brisket and butts on the pit
Stuart prepping ribs - (Dude on the left is a restaurateur from England)
Stuart continues to work... While Jessica watches...
Stuart and British guy working on parsley garnish for turn-in boxes
Stuart inspecting the work
Jessica prepping chicken thighs
Thighs cooking on the PG1000 - Fast Eddy Pellet Grill
Brisket turn-in box
Jessica turning in brisket. Behind that curtain are the 500 BBQ judges
Fast Eddy after winning Reserve Grand Champion (2nd place) in the Legends Division (those who have cooked more than 20 years at the Royal) Congrats Eddy!
Pelletheads.com team and a few other "Pelletheads"
Pellethead = BBQ Cook who cooks on pits fired by wood pellets
Credit to Pelletheads.com moderator Bentley for this picture!