A barbecue contest and a horse race in Los Angeles, of all places? We've seen a rodeo and BBQ competition before, but this combination is a new one for us. The Santa Anita racetrack is hosting both the San Felipe Stakes and the Winners Circle BBQ Championships on March 10. While the horses run at this tuneup for the Kentucky Derby, top West Coast BBQ teams will battle for the California State Championship title and $10,000 in cash prizes.
This is one of only two sanctioned barbecue contests scheduled within L.A. County this year. The public is invited to sample their way through the competitors' tents, and cast a vote in the People's Choice contest. The reigning California Team of the Year, Harry Soo's Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ, will be among the famous teams cooking on the infield of the racetrack. Full disclosure: This writer will be among the certified BBQ judges blind-tasting the entries.
In a sanctioned BBQ contest, teams cook four required meats: chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and beef brisket, and turn their entries in following that sequence starting at noon. After each team turns in one meat category to the judges' tent, you'd better be standing in line with a sample ticket in hand, or you might miss out. Once the meat's gone, teams will not be cooking more. Word to the wise: Show up early!
The BBQ championship is free with admission to the track, which costs $5. Parking is $4. Tasting tickets are $1 each, sold in packs of 10. The gate opens at 10:30 a.m., which will give you time to watch the BBQ teams as they prepare for the heat of turn-ins. Nine horse races begin at 12:30 p.m.
Maybe you've been watching reruns of BBQ Pitmasters on Planet Green, and think you'd like to compete in a local contest? You still have time. As of this writing, only 31 teams are committed and there is room for almost 50. Event organizer Ben Lobenstein reports that the deadline for teams to enter is noon on Monday, March 5. See the California BBQ Association site if you'd like to take on the best teams in California.
See the event website or their Facebook page if you'd like to eat rather than compete. There's also more information on the horse racing and the betting if you're into that. And, no, there is no handicapping on the BBQ contest.
Shuji Sakai is a BBQ competitor, judge and instructor and has appeared on TLC's BBQ Pitmaters 2. He writes about the contest circuit in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter and professorsalt.com