By Donna Cornelius
A Birmingham cooking competition that’s traditionally a hot ticket is turning up the temperature this year.
Iron City Chef: BBQ Edition will pit Birmingham-based grill-centric teams against each other. The event, hosted by the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club, is set for 6 p.m. July 23 at Jefferson State Community College’s Culinary and Hospitality Institute, at 4600 Valleydale Road.
Showing off their cooking chops will be teams from the Jefferson State culinary program, Moe’s Original Bar B Que and Shane’s Rib Shack. Jim ’N Nick’s BBQ also will participate in the fundraiser.
Ticket-holders can cast votes for their favorite teams; the top two teams will face off against each other. When the smoke clears, a panel of judges will select the 2016 Iron City Chef winner.
“The teams can do traditional barbecue, wings, ribs – whatever they want to do,” said Kent Howard, event chairman. “Their menus will also include side dishes.”
There’s another new ingredient at this year’s event.
“We’re adding a ‘best dessert’ competition also,” Howard said.
Proceeds benefit local and international Rotary programs, including End Polio Now, Clean Water for the World, the Vestavia Hills High School debate and math teams and Jefferson State. Past events have raised more than $675,000.
Tickets are $55. Visit rotarytoast.org to buy them – but you’d better hurry. The event has sold out for the past six years.
Western Supermarkets again will sponsor a wine tasting at the event.
Steve Shelton, general manager at Western’s Rocky Ridge Road store, said his company likes participating in the fundraiser since it benefits Vestavia schools.
“Our store is right at the bottom of the hill from the high school, and we support all the schools,” Shelton said. “We try to help out with everything from car washes to hosting free hamburger nights at baseball games.”
Western wine consultants Wendy Watts and Russell Taylor will be choosing wines for the Iron City Chef tasting.
“Wendy is our main wine consultant, and Russell has taken the lead at Iron City Chef since we started participating,” Shelton said. “Since they’re doing barbecue this year, I’ll expect we’ll have some craft beers as well as wines.”
He and his wife enjoy attending the event every year, he said.
Iron City Chef for several years featured four chefs in the competition. Last year, Over the Mountain firefighters competed. This year’s theme promises to be a popular one, Howard said.
“We had a guy come speak to our club about barbecue,” Howard said. “After that, when we were talking about Iron City Chef, several club members said, ‘Let’s do barbecue.’ It was pretty much by acclamation.”
The OTMJ asked each team to tell us something about themselves – and to throw in a few grilling tips, too.
ICC: Meet the Competition
Jefferson State Community College Culinary and Hospitality Institute
Team leader: Chef Todd Jackson
Team members: CHI apprentices
What you’ll be cooking: We may do a pork loin, butt or brisket – still planning the menu.
Why are you participating in Iron City Chef? We have been working with the event since it started, and this year barbecue was the main item/theme. We saw a chance to let the apprentices take part, so we jumped on it.
What’s your favorite barbecue dish when you’re cooking in your own backyard? That’s hard to pick just one, but what I will say is a whole chicken so I can make chicken salad. Baby back ribs are a close second. Fresh corn on the cob.
What’s a barbecue side dish that you can’t do without? Baked beans are to me the most important side item, but not with green peppers in them.
What’s your best tip for backyard barbecuing? Fire/temperature control. Barbecue at the right temperature range is key to good barbecue, and it’s not a competition like you see on TV; cook what you like. Also, using the correct seasoning is very important. Salt can be your friend – but not too much.
What’s a mistake that many people make when they’re grilling meat? I see more people who grill at too high of a temperature being one problem, but also in the backyard the right type of grill. To me, wood/charcoal grills are the way to go; nothing wrong with gas, but to me, the best flavors come from charcoal/wood grills.
Shane’s Rib Shack
Team members: James Grigsby and
What you’ll be cooking: Pulled pork, baby back ribs, mac and cheese and peach cobbler.
Why are you participating in Iron City Chef? Community involvement and participating in charity events are always high on our priority list.
What’s your favorite barbecue dish when you’re cooking in your own backyard? Ribs, ribs and ribs.
What’s a barbecue side dish that you can’t do without? Cole slaw is always a great counterpoint to the richness of pork.
What’s your best tip for backyard barbecuing? Don’t stress, enjoy the process.
What’s a mistake that many people make when they’re grilling meat? Rushing the process. You want real food, not fast food. Plan, prep and organize.
Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Team members: Eric Witherington,
What you’ll be cooking: Smoked chicken wings with barbecue flavored ranch.
Why are you participating in Iron City Chef? When it comes to helping the kids in our community, we try to help as much as possible.
What’s your favorite barbecue dish when you’re cooking in your own backyard? Ribs.
What’s a barbecue side dish that you can’t do without? Slaw. Barbecue just isn’t barbecue without a good slaw.
What’s your best tip for backyard barbecuing? Give yourself plenty of time; you can’t rush good Q.
What’s a mistake that many people make when they’re grilling meat? Don’t overcook; nothing worse than dry meats.