Matthew Peterson of Casey's BBQ in Egg Harbor at last year's Death's Door Barbecue contest. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate
In addition of cash prizes for the top 10 in each category, the top three receives ribbons/plaques. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate
Jeff Poole and Tom MacIntosh of the T-Mac Smokin' team of Appleton, right, were last year's grand champions. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate
Thirty barbecue teams from all over the Midwest are set to take part in the Death’s Door Barbecue competition on Washington Island Saturday.
Last August, the inaugural year of the competition, drew 25 teams and approximately 3,000 spectators to the island. The competition is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, and the winner can go on to represent Wisconsin at the KCBS national competition in Tennessee.
According to www.kcbs.us, the group is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and enjoying barbecue.” Certified KCBS judges inspect the meat and score the finished product.
Unlike some barbecue competitions, those taking part in a KCBS competition have to be able to cook chicken, pork, ribs and brisket, said Lisa Gibson, chairwoman of the competition’s organization committee and KCBS certified judge.
Teams are scored in all four areas, and the two top honors are grand champion and reserve champion. Contestants can also place within each of the four meat categories. This year’s competitors are vying for a cash prize of $7,500.
Twenty-three of last year’s teams, including two from Door County, are returning, Gibson said
The free event, held at the Washington Island Airport, 1849 Airport Road, starts at 10 a.m. The contest includes food vendors, activities for children at the Washington Island Farm Museum on Jackson Harbor Road, live music, and a raffle. For more information on Death’s Door Barbecue, go to www.deathsdoorbbq.com.
Free transportation from the ferry to the airport will be provided, Gibson said.
The barbecue competition also gives the island a chance to showoff its uniqueness.
“Showcase what people think that the island is kind of like anyway ... Kind of a step back in time a little bit,” Gibson said
Carol Stayton, who sits on the barbecue committee as a representative for the Washington Island Chamber of Commerce, thinks the positive economic impact of the competition goes beyond the island community. As people travel to and from the island, there is a good chance they will stop to eat and shop.
“It has a rippling effect not just for the island but for the northern part of Door County,” Stayton said.
Barbecuing is serious business for some participants.
Curt Campbell, founder and CEO of Oilerie USA , has competed in a few competitions since 2001, including the Death’s Door competition last year. He has a campsite that he uses during the summer as a place to store Luscious, his 900-pound mobile cooker, and hone his craft.
“I commit August to training for this thing,” he said.
Sometimes the meat he cooks can take up to eight hours.
“I find it to be a real zen thing,” Campbell said of his time at the grill.
Gibson said a team from Casey’s BBQ & Smokehouse in Egg Harbor is also set to compete.
Proceeds from the event are destined for the Washington Island Food Pantry located at Trinity Lutheran Church.
“We kicked around a number of ideas (for groups to donate to), and I think we as a nation forget that there are people who go hungry. And a barbecue contest is a big celebration of food and people, and I think it was a natural segue to take whatever profits we take from that (and donate to the pantry),” Gibson said.
The Rev. Frank Maxwell, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church and president of Washington Island Community Health Program (WICHP), said the organizers donated $500 to the food pantry after last year’s competition.
About 48 people a month utilize the pantry, Maxwell said.
“We appreciate what they are doing. Washington Island has a strong commitment to its people,” he said.
To learn more about the food pantry, call (920) 847-2108.
Contact Samantha Hernandez at email@example.com or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.