Smoke, sizzle, and samples brought thousands to the 30th annual Exchange Club Chili and Barbecue Cook-Off.
“We are just giving them as much as they can stack on their plate,” said pitmaster Larry Montgomery.
Wind gusts carried the barbecue smell through downtown Muskogee. Tasty food seekers congregated to the Civic Center Market Square Festival Area to sample local chili and barbecue.
The first chili cook-off took place in 1984. Over 30 years, the event has grown substantially, but the goal of raising money for local charities and giving back to the community, has stayed the same. Proceeds from the cook-off benefit Kids’ Space, Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Exchange Club’s annual Shoe and Coat Fund, as well as other projects.
To see a gallery of photos and purchase reprints from the Exchange Club Chili and Barbecue Cook-Off, go to muskogeephoenix.smugmug.com.
For cook-off participants Restore Home Health Care and Smoke Shack BBQ, crowd pleasing was the main objective.
Billy Durossette cooked barbecue and handed out samples for his new restaurant, Smokeshack BBQ.
“We just opened about five and a half months ago,” Durossette said.
The Smoke Shack didn’t enter the competition, but they did almost run out of barbecue, Durossette said.
For some of the teams who did enter to win, it was a long weekend of tough competition. Brisket, chicken, hot links, pulled pork, pork loin, sausage, hot wings, and fried catfish, were all in one square block.
Brad Campbell, cooking for Carlton Landing, started at 8 a.m. Friday.
This is Campbell’s eighth year at the cook-off.
“It looks busier than last year for sure,” he said.
“It’s a good turnout.”
It was the second year at the cook-off for Fat Daddy BBQ pitmaster, Scott Rhoads.
“Yesterday I fired that thing up. I’m going on about three hours of sleep,” Rhoads said.
Josh Harris and Lee Stovall, both of Muskogee, said they had sampled an abundance of chili and barbecue but were only half way done.
They both agreed, Foo King Wings was their top pick, so far.
Foo King Hot Wings Company, is a fan favorite and a returning champion.
“This is my 20th year. I have been doing this since I was in high school,” said Colin Wetz of Foo King Hot Wings Company.
This year, Foo King entered more competitions than ever before.
“We are exploring different categories,” Wetz said.
Debbie Phillips and Christine Felts, both of Muskogee, said they liked the chili from the 92.3 The Rock tent.
“That was the best one we had,” Felts said.
Michael Torkelson of Firstar Bank said they were going for a double win after placing first in the parade float competition. But it wasn’t only about competition.
“We are here to support the Exchange Club. They raise money for charities, and we feel like it’s the right thing to do.”
Paul and Mary Dolson served chili for last year’s first place Chili Cook-Off winners, Georgia-Pacific. They said they were feeling confident, but it wasn’t all about winning.
“We are winners, it’s all about helping the community though,” Paul Dolson said.
Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.