Martinez Waterfront Park was alive with family fun Father's Day weekend. The sixth annual King of the County Amateur BBQ and Music Festival was two days of music, delicious food, kid play and a little drama.
Colin Mendenhall of Third Coast Smoke took first place in Chef's Choice and chicken categories, and Sean Ekman of Steel House BBQ was first in the ribs category on Saturday.
Sunday's first-place winners were Jack Simmons of Big Shot BBQ for Chef's Choice and chicken, and Bill Keoho of Kahuna's Bones for ribs.
Both Chef's Choice winners wowed judges with dazzling presentations. On Saturday, Mendenhall's black oval tray was topped with a smoking volcano, surrounded by salmon-colored lilies with barbecued drumsticks radiating out over pineapple slices resting on a bed of dark green leaves.
On Sunday, filet mignon shish kebabs garnished with grilled lemons and brightly colored peppers and accented with a side dish of asparagus, made Simmons the winner.
By Sunday, a Carquinez Strait breeze had cooled Saturday's heat by 15 degrees, making it perfect for kid's play, moving to the rhythm of the bands, quizzing amateur barbecue teams, checking out vendors and information booths or sampling outdoor cuisine, wine and beer.
A comfortable-sized crowd came from throughout the Bay Area. One couple from El Cerrito said they considered a North Beach event, but were glad they opted for the Martinez barbecue and music.
Eighteen dedicated, fun-loving barbecue teams entered 29 culinary creations in the 2012 competition, sponsored by the Martinez Chamber of Commerce. Judges were carefully instructed on scoring and criteria such as flavor, texture and presentation before the contest.
Supervisor Federal Glover, Martinez Chief of Police Gary Peterson, Pleasant Hill Councilman and former mayor Michael Harris, Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder, Kansas City Barbeque Society certified barbecue judges Dave Tendick and Bill Jones were among Saturday's judges. Martinez Councilwomen Lara Delaney and Janet Kennedy joined the panel Sunday.
All confessed to an affection for barbecue dishes, but Glover was the only judge willing to identify himself as a connoisseur.
"I'll know the goods. I am a cook myself," he said.
Competitor Tom Pierce headed up the Candy on a Bone team, and was probably the only person to leave the BBQ Challenge genuinely disappointed. As usual, Pierce started working long before they fired up the barbecue on Saturday.
"We were defending champions," he said.
Pierce's Allied Storage team hoped to surpass their last year's winning entry with individual decorative plates topped by his complex "Bacon Explosion," Cajun corn, macaroni salad and mini bottle of Tabasco sauce for each judge.
Organizers were as shocked as he, when his team delivered the tempting repast to the deserted judging area an hour late.
"It is the most delicious thing on the planet," Laura Lawrence, chamber event committee member exclaimed in dismay. "He would have won with that!"
She was referring to the Bacon Explosion, a lattice work of bacon covered with prosciutto, hot Italian sausage and tomato-basil mozzarella which is rolled up, coated with a special rub, cooked, and then sliced. The slices are coated with homemade sauce which is caramelized on a grill.
No one will ever know if the submission time mix-up was good luck for the 2012 winners, but Pierce took it philosophically.
"We come here to have a good time and support the community," he said. "We have a blast."
Repressing his dismay, Pierce said he is looking forward to his next barbecue challenge at the Oakland Athletics-sponsored benefit for Foster Youth on July 7.
Barbecuing for fun and community was a theme of conversation. Between jokes, the Three Guys Doing BBQ team from Martinez proudly explained how they had cut green branches from an apple tree in spring, vacuum sealed and frozen it, to be defrosted for the King of the County competition.
Team member Howard White claims that the smoky apple flavor from the tree makes all the difference in the taste.
The Bucket Boy BBQ team from Concord was doing more laughing than cooking by afternoon. They claimed to have special "John Muir" wood that added flavor.
They did not place in the top three, but team member Jeff Luckerogh said, "If you win, that's just extra. It's a blast. We'll be back next year."
Contact Dana Guzzetti at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-202-9292.
WHAT: Sixth annual King of the County Amateur BBQ Challenge
First place: Colin Mendenhall, Third Coast Smoke (Walnut Creek), for his Smokin' Hawaiian Volcano presentation with chicken drumsticks and garnish
Second: Danny Chavez (Martinez) for popular, flavorful nachos
Third: Morris Mark, Smokin Mo's (Walnut Creek) for individual pork sliders with a side of sliced melon
First Place: Colin Mendenhall, Third Coast Smoke (Walnut Creek)
Second: Kurt Lusetti, Shell V Power (Martinez)
Third: Kyle Fowler, Kyle's Killer Que (Concord)
First Place: Sean Ekman, Steel House BBQ (Concord)
Second: Darvin Montero, Smokin Bones (Martinez)
Third: Steve Likos, Bear B Que (Martinez)
First Place: Jack Simmons, Big Shot BBQ (Discovery Bay) for filet mignon shish kebabs with asparagus side garnished with grilled lemons and peppers
Second: Jonna Fowler, Kyle's Killer Que (Concord) flavorful tacos with mole sauce
Third: Kurt Lusetti, Shell V Power (Concord) for vegetarian quesadillas
First Place: Jack Simmons, Big Shot BBQ (Discovery Bay)
Second: Wade Cantrell and the Twin Pillars Team (Pleasant Hill)
Third: Greg Rodriguez, Dog Day Spice Rub (Martinez)
First Place: Bill Keoho, Kahuna's Bones (Martinez)
Second: Jack Simmons, Big Shot BBQ (Discovery Bay)
Third: Jerry Meadors, Team Meadors (Martinez)