QFest 2013

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California BBQ Association Q-Fest 2013


East Shore RV, Lake Puddingstone

San Dimas, California

Each year the California BBQ Association celebrates the close of a competition year in Southern California at the East Shore RV park next to Lake Puddingstone in San Dimas, California. The park is within the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park. This was my second year at QFest and each time I am surprised at how many unfamiliar faces I meet. The top teams from SoCal who have earned one of the top 10 spots in each category or top 20 overall are likely to attend along with a few teams from up north. KCBS representatives, CBBQA board members past and present, BBQ judges and long time CBBQA members join in on the activities. You don’t have to be involved in competition to be welcomed. You just have to enjoy barbecue. The children of competitors and an unusually high volume of dogs are welcomed at Puddingstone. Hall of Fame member, Dan Canon, can bring up to four dogs I’ve heard.

Dan has organized the event and has done so for 17 years. Attendees if they have a camper can spend the weekend overlooking the San Gabriel Valley which is green and lush at this time of year. You don’t have to be a farmer to know green means plenty of rain. On Friday, there was some rain but Saturday was spared and clear enough to see the wide valley below us. Considering the Northeast was being hit hard with 2-3 feet of snow at the same time, we really didn't have much to complain about. Puddingstone is one of the few RV campgrounds that will allow visitors to use smokers and an open fire making it the perfect setting for QFest. Almost everyone in attendance knew who has won an award that is the achievement of a year of hardwork and tough cooking.

Steve Madule of All Hogs Go to Heaven always brings his fifth wheel and the Brazen boys made good use of it cooking pork jowls and pork loin (which were both delicious). John and Brad really know how to cook pork. After all, they did place 1st in the category this year.

Dale Ginos gave a talk on how to prepare a dish he has known since childhood, beef clod. It was served for Saturday dinner and was as good as I had tasted in Austin two months prior.

The Woodhouse Barbecue team was once again unable to travel down because it was Valentine’s Day and thus one of the busiest times of the season. However, Dave Malone received plenty of boxes of chocolate, as he did last year, and dutifully passed them around with his rib trophy winning son, Ryan. When asked if he plans to do any more cooking this year, Ryan didn’t even hesitate and answered yes! You have to be 16 years of age to judge a BBQ contest but there is no age minimum on cooking.

Our new ToY Commissioner, Abel Tierre, was in attendance. Good thing he was there because a brand new team was already present to check out the BBQ landscape. Board member, Ric Gilbert and Scott Hares drove down in Ric’s truck from San Jose with the ToY trophies. It wasn’t an easy trek since the grapevine was closed overnight due to snow. But they made it well before our 3:30PM potluck supper.

The center of QFest is mapped out quite preciously by three landmarks. There is a ring of folding chairs which surround a permanent fire pit that burns continuously. Next to the fire is the All Hogs fifth wheel. And between the fire and the fifth wheel is a wooden picnic table with two benches that traditionally holds the ToY trophies. This year, Scott Hares presented the awards and Dave helped.

To the tradition, a new one was added this year and that was the shot of alcohol with the acceptance of an award. Mind you, that’s 10 places * 4 meats + 20 overall places = 60 shots.

At least half of the awards were in absentia, so since this was Dave Malone’s great idea, he took one for EACH missing team. We watched Dave’s shade deepen as we approached the brisket category. Scott only took a shot once in a while, moderating his drink wisely. Tom Moore must have felt bad for Dave towards the end because he took a shot for Who’s Smokin Now 7th place overall finish.

First in chicken went to Dave Malone of All Sauced Up. The joke shouted from the crowd was by Moe who said Dave was REALLY All Sauced up this time. First in ribs went to Richard and Michelle Holguin of Cecil's Smok'n BBQ. First in pork went to John Bracamonte and Brad Thomas of Brazen BBQ. First in brisket went to Matt Dalton of Left Coast Q. The top five overall spots were all familiar names. Tied for 4th overall were John and Tracy Anderson of Woodhouse Barbecue who won Silicon Valley, Brentwood and Lakeport contests and Harry Soo of Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ who won Pechanga and Santa Anita contests. 3rd was Dave Malone of All Sauced Up who won Long Beach, Vista and Lancaster contests. 2nd was Bill and Yvonne Souza of Big B's Down & Dirty BBQ who won Bakersfield and Penn Valley contests.

This year’s Rookie of the Year was decisively Jerry Aguilar of Burnin and Lootin (who also took 6th overall for the year). Never has a rookie team dominated a field the way Jerry has done. Not only did he win RoY but he did so with two grand championships wins, one of which was the largest contest in the history of California BBQ (Dana Point). Jerry may better be known as Smokin and Winnin going forward.

This year’s California Team of the Year was Left Coast Q from Banning, CA. Matt Dalton and his team (Moe Lyons, Matthew Dalton Jr. and James Miranda) were 21st overall in KCBS US ranking with 3 GC (Kristie’s, Wildomar and Vista’s Little Engine), 4 RGC and had placed 1st in a category 8 times (3 times in chicken and 2 times in pork and 3 times in brisket).

Team member, Moe says that they plan on cooking in more long distance contests for 2013 into neighboring states which is only natural and right for California’s finest team for the year.

After the ToY award and perpetual trophy were given to Left Coast Q, there were still three more trophies to be awarded. The Presidential service award was given to me for my contribution to CBBQA website and my involvement in the sauce review committee and to developing the CBBQA BBQ Institute. The clear flame acrylic trophy is something that I will always treasure.

Next, Kim Walton and Dan Cannon, walked up to the picnic table and presented the Brent Walton award which was given out for the first time. The award is given to a recipient who best honors Brent’s generous spirit and his role as an ambassador of BBQ. As Kim stood in front of us, her personal loss overwhelmed her strength for the moment. As her eyes welled, so did ours. No words can describe how much Brent meant to the California BBQ community and more importantly, to Kim. When one is among friends who understands the scope of the grief, it is easier to cry. And at the moment, we all really understood.

Dan cleared his throat, took in a deep breath and described the nature of the award and said how the recipient emulates the spirit of a man whom he loved. Andy Soto’s name was called and he shook his head as he walked up to Kim and Dan, not believing the incredible distinction he had just been given. Andy described the man he knew and thanked everyone. Matt Dalton chimed in and thanked Andy for being the first person who welcomed him into BBQ. I nodded my head in agreement as the very same was true for me at Havasu 2010. Actually, Andy welcomed me on the forum and said to come by and say hello at the contest. Well, besides my neighbors, Andy walked right up to my tent and shook my hand and gave me the warmest welcome anyone could give. And he continues to do so at every contest and with each and every person present. It is well known that Andy will open his tent to anyone who wants to learn how to cook competition BBQ, including a very quiet Jerry Aguilar back in 2011 at Vista. Andy is willing to take his shirt off his back for anyone and a deserving recipient of the award.

Kim and Dan then announced that there was second winner of the Brent Walton award and that was Hall of Fame member and 2012 board member, Ric Gilbert. Ric is well known for hosting an annual back yard warm up in his home each spring enabling local individuals interested in BBQ to participate in a welcoming environment that is instructional and fun. His charitable BBQ work is an extension of his desire to help improve the lives of those less fortunate. Through Ric’s initiative, the NorCal BBQ community was able to raise funds for his young patient to improve her physical appearance, but elevated her expectation of strangers and the community that supports her. As a long time BBQ instructor for the CBBQA, Ric has taught many generations of pitmasters. Ric shines when he is talking about BBQ. In addition to being a good friend of Brent and having many BBQ adventures with his fellow Hall of Famer, Ric embodies Brent’s spirit of generosity and warmth and is also a deserving recipient.

Last but not least was the recipient of the California BBQ Hall of Fame award. Each year, the members of the Hall of Fame elect a member and this year’s newest was Tropical Heat competitor, board member, BBQ instructor and volunteer, Bill Keyes. I dare say, Bill was caught off guard and shook his head all the way up to the picnic table which was lined with the members of the Hall Fame. Bill has served the CBBQA for many years in so many different capacities. Surrounded by his peers, Bill was humbled and thankful for the honorable recognition. Besides Andy Soto welcoming me at Havasu, Bill Keyes and his cooking partner, Dan Daniels were my neighbors two years ago. Dressed in his signature Hawaiian shirt, Bill introduced himself and welcomed me to my first contest. Being a rookie, I had no idea who Bill was and what an integral role he played in California BBQ. As a Grand Champion pitmaster, Bill has been competing since 2004 and serving the BBQ community ever since. Bill is incredibly approachable and generous with his time. Year after year, he organizes the CBBQA BBQ contribution to the Veterans Holiday Celebration which feds 2,000 veterans in the Los Angeles area. His humility and good humor inspires us all. We congratulate Bill as the newest member of the California Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to all of the teams who competed this year, to the judges who judged fairly and to our contest organizers and representatives without whom, none of this could be possible. As we move into 2013, at least a few of us will travel to Kansas City and even fewer to Lynchburg and beyond, may we honor the spirit of Brent Walton, as California ambassadors of barbecue.

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