By Karyn Ho, Spirit of Texas Festival Publicity Committee
Kelly Curtis of the Panther Creek Cookers was crowned grand champion and Melissa Marek of Hot Mess Cookers was named reserve grand champion of the BBQ Cook-off at The Spirit of Texas Festival, sponsored by Bolner’s Fiesta Spices. The Cook Off, which was sanctioned by International Barbeque Cookers Association, was held March 23-25 at College Station’s Wolf Pen Creek Park A. More than 90 teams competed to showcase their skills in brisket, chicken, ribs, fajitas, margaritas, beans, for the grand prize of $10,000 in cash and prizes.
The BBQ cookoff is an integral part of the Spirit of Texas Festival. “BBQ is so much a part of Texas culture,” said Cynthia Caronna, Spirit of Texas Festival executive director. “Because our festival celebrates all things Texas, we had to offer a chance for the state’s top teams to compete for prize money and bragging rights as to who is the most ‘Spirited’ BBQer.”
In addition to the grand prize, Kelly and his wife, Lisa, won first place in ribs, third place for chicken and seventh place for brisket. Their team name pays homage to their grandfather, C.W. Cook (also known as “Cousin Charlie”) and his property in Keith, Texas. The couple, who first competed in the 2014 Hempstead Watermelon Festival, now travels almost every weekend to enter BBQ cook-offs. They average about 40 events each year and hope to eventually compete in the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, TN. Their motto is, “Life is a process, winning is a process – losing is a prerequisite.”
The top winners in each category were:
- Overall – 1st place: Kelly Curtis of Panther Creek Cookers; 2nd place: Melissa Marek of Hot Mess Cookers; 3rd place: Todd Nelson, Double Barrel Cookers
- Brisket – 1st place; Brad Olenick, Burn in Money; 2nd place: Clint Koch, Young Gun Cookers; 3rd place: Melissa Marek, Hot Mess Cookers.
- Chicken — 1st place: Robert Watson, Meats’ on Fire; 2nd place: Mary Praytor, Flirtin’ with Fire; 3rd place: Kelly Curtis, Panther Creek Cookers
- Pork Spare Ribs — 1st place: Kelly Curtis, Panther Creek Cookers; 2nd place: Jacob Lilley, Suburban Gringo Cookers; 3rd place: Isaac Prieto, Rogue Que
- Beans – 1st place: Darrell Weed, The Smoking Weeds; 2nd place: Michael Kimich, Too Hot To Handle; 3rd place: Sue Barkley, Bastin’ Awain in BBQville
- Chef’s Choice – 1st place: Danny Woodring, Texas Brew N Crew; 2nd place: Josh Ferguson, Fergalicious BBQ; 3rd place: Allan Freeman, Take It To the Bank
- Dessert – 1st place: Dennis Lucky, TTK; 2nd place: Robert Badgett, WiebadBBQ; 3rd place: Allan Freeman, Take It To the Bank
- Fajitas – 1st place: Dennis Butterworth, Warpig; 2nd place: Kevin Jackson, TCT; 3rd place: Jacob Lilley, Suburban Gringo Cookers
- Margarita: 1st place: Robert Badgett, WieBad BBQ; 2nd place: Todd Nelson, Double Barrel Cookers; 3rd place: Todd Nelson, Double Barrel Cookers.