There was something in the air Saturday in Otterville, spicy, sweet, hot, hickory, there are hundreds of adjectives to describe the aroma that filled much of the town but one word sums it up best, “barbecue.”
The 17th Annual Otterville Barbecue Contest was hosted Saturday and for event organizer, Tammy Schoen, it marked a day of grilling among friends with a little competitive edge to heat things up.
“We’ve got 14 teams this year in the adult division from all over the area competing,” Schoen said. “It’s an event where we don’t charge an entry fee, we just want people to come out and enjoy the day with their family and friends.”
Nine teams were entered in the junior chef division for ages six to 12 and six teams were competing in the teen division for ages 13 to 18.
The junior chefs would grill hamburgers and the teens were given the task of preparing beef kebabs this year.
“There is a good, friendly, little competition between the teams,” she added. “But, there isn’t a team here who wouldn’t be willing to help out another if they needed something, they might not give away their secret sauce recipe or rubs, but they do help each other during the contest whenever they can.”
There were five categories and participants could enter as many of the five as they wanted.
Schoen did comment that most enter all the categories: pork steak, chicken, ribs, brisket, and the mystery category, because the points in each are cumulative and help to determine the Grand Champion Griller each year.
“At the team meeting this morning we gave them their mystery item which was a bag of potatoes this year,” Schoen said. “There were some smiles and some groans but it is completely up to them what they do with them.
“We want them to be creative with it,” she added. “That’s part of it.”
Sherry McQuitty of team Just Smokin’ Barbecue, said she and her fellow teammates Theresa Palmer and Brian Gant were pleasantly surprised when the mystery item was revealed.
“We thought it might be a dessert item and we were just praying that it wouldn’t be that,” McQuitty said with a broad smile. “We came prepared for just about anything, but not that.”
As Palmer prepared the potatoes and Gant oversaw the brisket, McQuitty spoke to the Democrat about why the team has been so successful at barbecue competitions in the past.
“The three of us all used to be on two different teams in the past, but things happened, and people left because they had other obligations and things, and so here we are,” McQuitty said. This will be our last contest for this year in all likelihood but this one is really the best in the whole world.
“The people here are just so friendly and nice and they try to make it pay off of everyone,” she added. “They organizers don’t get paid for this except for the good time they have at it each year; it’s just a special one.”
The defending champions from last year’s contest, McQuitty said one of the reasons for their success is each member has a specialty but they all work together as one.
“Brian takes care of the ribs and the brisket, Theresa does the pork steak and usually the mystery item and I do the chicken,” McQuitty commented. “But we’ve been doing this for so long and we’re such friends that it all works for us becuase we all know what we need to do and don’t need to do.”
According to Gant, the trio usually enters three or four contests year but often can be found at one of their three homes on weekends grilling and spending time with their families.
“Last Sunday we were all together to practice our grilling and just get together,” Gant said. “We try to do that once a month or so.
“I think that’s one of the keys to our success, practice and sticking with it,” he added. “Collectively we’ve been doing this a long time.”
Gant said he spent the night camping out in the Otterville city park, as do other competitors, to get the fires started in the smokers and grills.
“I started the fire at about 10 p.m. last night,” Gant said. “At 11p.m. I had a brisket, a ham, and some ribs on the grills for some friends.
“I’ve been asked to go to football games and grill for other people’s tailgate parties,” he added. “I don’t ask for anything to do it, they provide the meat and all, I just like to do it when I can.”
As much as all three like to compete, surprisingly, they do not care to eat the results of their hard work at the competitions.
“We really don’t care for it after cooking it and being around it all day,” McQuitty said. “After we have what we need for the judges, we divvy it up and give it away to our friends and family and the other competitors.
“We just like to share it with everyone we can,” she added. “Ask Brian, the first thing he usually wants to eat is a Blizzard.”
Palmer, who was busy with the potatoes during most of the conversation, did mention one thing McQuitty did not like to share, the teams trophies.
“Sherry has a room in her house, we like to call it the trophy room, where she keeps all the trophies,” she said with a laugh after McQuitty told Palmer she was sure Palmer would bring home a trophy for the potatoes.
“I can’t help it,” McQuitty said about the room. “I just like the trophies but she knows she can have the one she will get today for those potatoes, they are so good.”
Even though this may be the end of the competitive barbecue season for the three this year, it certainly does not mark the end of their competitions or their friendship.
“When this is over tonight, it will be our last barbecue contest for the year,” Gant said. “We’ll take a few weeks off but then we’ll go into chili cook off season and we’ll be back at it.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.