By Deb Silverthorn
Saucy and spirited is what guests of the Fourth Annual Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship can expect from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, in the Sunnyland Patio Furniture parking lot on the northwest corner of Coit and Spring Valley in North Dallas.
“This is a day of the best of our community coming together, BBQ greatness and an overall terrific experience,” said Brian Rubenstein, co-chair of the event with Sandy Dorf. “We had 1,200 people in 2015 and more than 1,800 last year. We’re excited about the growth and the enthusiasm for this really wonderful day.”
Presented by the Men’s Club of Congregation Beth Torah, the championships are open to the public with free admission, a large kids’ zone, silent auction, vendors, entertainment featuring Counterfeit Radio and food for sale by Dallas’ Texas Kosher BBQ and JoeBob’s Kosher BBQ from Austin.
Beef ribs, brisket, chicken and turkey will be judged for 12 teams (registered at press time), with participating chefs traveling from Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York and elsewhere. The competition, emceed by KLUV radio host Jody Dean has three sets of judges and awards; the Kansas City Barbecue Society(KCBS) Official, Celebrity Awards and the People’s Choice.
KCBS-certified judges mark ballots in double-blind rulings of appearance, taste and texture, with awards for all four meats, also crowning the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion, who share a $500 prize. Winners will be announced and trophies presented at about 3:30 p.m.
Celebrity judges Jill Grobowsky Bergus (Lockhart Smokehouse), Gabriel Boxer (the Kosher Guru), Vicki Nivens (Hard Eight BBQ), John Tesar (Knife Dallas) and Daniel Vaughn (author and first barbecue editor at Texas Monthly) determine a second contest, and a third set of judges, composed of attendees participating in the People’s Choice program, will determine those awards and announce the winners at 2 p.m.
While the event is not centered on tasting entrant recipes, a limited number of $5 passes for People’s Choice Awards, either brisket or turkey, will be available after that judging at 2 p.m.
“Brian and Sandy are so on the ball there are never any surprises and this is a well-prepped event,” said Jennifer Shiflett, she and her husband Bill both Master Certified Judges representing KCBS, the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, with over 20,000 members and the sanctioning body of over 500 barbecue contests worldwide. “The meat is well-sourced and extraordinary measures are taken to produce such great product. The meat here year in and year out is just phenomenal and the event supreme.”
Teams arrive empty-handed – other than recipes and ruach — with ingredients provided. Seasonings, herbs, meats and all utensils, smokers and grills are delivered to team captains, with Golden Barrel Molasses, Imperial Sugar, Manischewitz broths, TexJoy and others sponsoring the pantry.
Among participants are the 2017 Grand Champion Stan Kotlyar and 2016 Grand Champion Rabbi Mendel “RaBBi-Q” Segal, who is credited with creating the first kosher barbecue championship in Kansas City. He’s now the owner of Backyard BBQ and Brew in Surfside, Florida.
“I was an extreme hobbyist, and when I realized there was no kosher barbecue championship, I wanted to create the benchmark. I’m very proud,” Segal said. “I’m excited to be coming back to Dallas, the organizers have built a great program. For me, success is about the right temperature – it’s ready when it’s ready. Every piece of meat is different, but I do this every day.”
Competitors actually begin Thursday in cooks’ meetings, preparing, trimming and seasoning their meats, before packaging them for refrigeration over Shabbat. On Saturday night, once three stars are out, smokers and grills are set up.
For Kotlyar, of Hartsdale, New York, says while he’s very competitive and focused, some of the best of the event is the up-all-night smoking of the meats, visiting and making friends with other participants.
“We’ve earned a reputation, and some of the best pitmasters, professional and amateur, from around the country will be here,” said Dorf, himself certified as a KCBS Master Judge. “It’ll be barbecue at its best, and even more important it will be our community at its best.”
In addition to Congregation Beth Torah, proceeds from the event will benefit CHAI; Community Homes for Adults, Inc. The American Red Cross will collect blood donations, and food for the North Texas Food Bank will be accepted – a free raffle ticket distributed for every five items brought in.
The Elliott’s Hardware-sponsored Kids Que contest will have 10 aspiring chefs cooking chicken legs, the youngsters 7-15 having access to a full pantry and, with parental supervision, creating their own barbecue masterpieces.
Throughout the day, numerous other contests will take place, including a hot dog-eating event, sponsored by the Texas Jewish Post, and a pickle-eating contest, sponsored by Restland Funeral Home.
“It’s an absolute mitzvah to be a part of this event, making sure the end result is a kosher event – one that most can’t possibly know the intricacies involved in its coming together,” said Rabbi David Shawel, director of kosher supervision at Dallas Kosher. “To sit back at the end of the day and smile at what we’re able to help bring to our community, from the kashrut to keeping kashrut and sharing kehillah, community, is very special.”
“Kish echad b’lev echad, like one man with one heart, the Jewish People stood at Mount Sinai,” Shawel said. “When we stand together as a community, celebrating kashrut and our People, there’s nothing like it.”
For more information, to register for Kids Que, eating contests or to pre-order food, visit dallaskosherbbq.com.