Having the biggest smoker paid off for Todd Wilcks and his Hay Ewe Barbecue, earning him first place and People’s Choice at the Grillin’ and Chillin’ cookoff Saturday in Minden Park.
Wilcks’ pork tacos went head-to-head against nine other backyard grillers for the Family Support Council fundraiser.
“That smoker puts out some pretty amazing food. It never lets me down,” Wilcks said. “We were so busy trying to keep up with all the people coming through, it was sure exciting when we heard who won.”
As for next year, Wilcks said he’ll definitely be back to defend his title.
“If you’re successful one year, you might as well stick with it,” he added. “It was so much fun for everybody. It was a real friendly competition with some good teasing going on as well.”
Minutes into the public tasting, Steve Brower’s baby back ribs were having some success of their own.
“People seem to like them. We just started a little while ago, and we’re passing them out left and right,” the Hot Rod Grill team leader said Saturday. “I’ve been doing these ribs for 40 years. It’s a family recipe. I learned it from my dad. “
Brower was slow cooking 25 racks of ribs.
“It’s a lot of ribs for a backyard barbecue,” he added. “I start with a dry rub and finish them off with a sauce carmelized.”
The Farmer’s Wife, Kathi Hussman, was selling the recipe to her Cajun shrimp for $5 as an added donation to Family Support Council.
Hussman had 350 shrimp smoking on the grill.
“Once we got started they are going good. I’m trying to close the lid and let the heat smoke them.”
When asked what customers were saying about her crustaceans, she replied, “I’ve been trying not to listen. I don’t want to know.”
Tom Perkins, East Fork Justice of the Peace, and his wife, Ellen, enjoyed Hussman’s shrimp and the event itself.
“I think this has the potential for an annual event,” Ellen said.
“It’s a worthy cause and great to see so many people in town support it,” Tom added.
Gardnerville resident Shari Whipple said she liked the tri-tip and Big Boy Barbecue ribs the most.
“I’m definitely getting some tips,” the novice backyard griller said. “I need to get into the rubs more, and maybe get a smoker.”
Ray Van Winkle Jr., and Brent Tessmann of Big Boy Barbecue were serving up 30 racks of their St. Louis-style ribs.
“Whether win, lose or draw, we’re here to raise money for Family Support Council,” Van Winkle said.
“This is an awesome event, and we’re having a ball. I think Family Support Council hit a home run here,” Tessmann said. “I want to thank GE, Rocky Walling, Ginger Easley, Stilts Tile, A&A Construction, Bing Material and WNS for sponsoring us, and everybody else who donated to us.”
Comedian Kat Simmons served as emcee for the fundraiser.
“I think we have an amazing assortment of chefs and entries,” she said. “I think for a first run through it’s amazing. Why go all the way to Victorian Square when we have Minden Park here?”
Wayne Blaylock of Gardnerville said he preferred the ribs from Three Little Pigs over the chicken from Grill Masters.
“The chicken was very tender with a little heat to it which is good, and I like the moistness, but I liked the ribs better,” he said. “They were moist, they had good flavor, and they were just right.”
Close to 400 tickets for the Grillin’ and Chillin’ fundraiser sold out Saturday afternoon, earning the Family Support Council $20,000.
“It was wonderful. For our first event it was bigger and better than expected,” said Shirley Gibson, Family Support Council executive director. “We were really happy with the community support, and with the grillers and their sponsors.”