1st Annual Sam's Club Invitational BBQ Bash
August 20-21, 2010
Midwest City, Oklahoma
    

Remember those dreams where it's the first day of school, and you're the only freshman in a room of upperclassmen?  Now imagine that dream staged at a BBQ contest, populated entirely by top KCBS Team of the Year contenders -- only it's real, and you've got to cook against all those big names.
    
The Inaugural Sam’s Club BBQ Bash was part of the company's new sponsorship program of KCBS and competition barbeque. In an effort to support the barbeque industry and its related suppliers, Sam's Club invited 25 of the highest ranked KCBS teams in America to Oklahoma for a chance at a $25,000 prize pool.  Among those teams was Rhythm 'n QUE, at the location of the first-ever Sam's Club.
    

    
Things we learned that weekend:
It's a long way from Phoenix to OKC, and sixteen-plus hours in the car will make your butt square.
Heat, humidity and asphalt are a bad mix.
Standing in a pan of ice and water does very little to ameliorate the foregoing.

And the most important thing demonstrated yet again:
BBQ people are the BEST wherever you go, and wherever you're from. From the moment we arrived at the venue, teams that have been like rockstar names to us greeted us warmly and made us feel as if we were old friends that they just hadn't had the chance to meet yet. Not only do these teams represent the highest achievement of the sport, they also exemplify the camaraderie among cookers.
    
The contest and sponsors treated all the teams like superstars, they really went over the top.  At the cooks' meeting, we were informed that our "goody bag" was a flatbed cart loaded high with Sam's Club swag -- flats of water, cases of sodas, Gatorade and Red Bull, paper products, charcoal, gallons of sauce, foil, seasonings -- totally OFF THE HOOK! 
    


photo:  KCBS

    
The teams were also treated to a VIP reception at a nearby Sheraton with wonderful appetizers and a bar stocked with Budweiser and Pepsi products, and we were able to meet several sponsors' representatives and express our appreciation. On Saturday, Tyson had a booth giving out free shave ice and Gatorade so we didn't drop in the inferno. 
    

Carolyn Wells, Executive Director of KCBS, Mike McCloud, CEO of MMA Creative, and KCBS staffers Dawn Endrijaitis and Kelly Cain were everywhere, making sure that everything was handled and even taking time to chat with us in the middle of all they had to do. This was our first contest administered by KCBS contest reps Mike and Theresa Lake, and their expertise makes us look forward to cooking under them again.
    
But even with all the star power at the venue, just like at every other contest, Saturday morning comes and it's crunch time, where all you do is put your head down and just cook as best you can.
    

      
photo:  Ribbie         

   
The collective talent assembled at that contest was mind-boggling. The pack scored tightly together, with no more than forty points between the top and bottom of the field.  Any of the combined scores there could have won a good number of contests anywhere in the nation.  No wonder everyone looked around twice before dropping their box on the entry table!
    


photo:  KCBS

   
I
would have loved to be in the judging tent, and hated to be in the judging tent! When the caliber of food is that high, how do you differentiate without comparing? Not everything can be 9-9-9, and determining the breakpoint between an 8 and 9 must have been so hard.
    


photo:  KCBS

   
When it came time for awards, we all assembled and heard the placements read out.  With so many great teams,  the top calls were all over the place, and we tried to keep track in our heads -- who'd gotten two calls?  Three?

We had managed to place fifth in chicken, sixth in ribs, and ninth in pork.  Not quite as comforting as top-four calls, we waited nervously as brisket results were announced up through second place.  We call that the "zero or hero" moment, when the next call determines your fate.  As it turned out, we liked what we heard.
    


photo:  KCBS

    
Then came the overall placements.  With one high call, it all comes down to the numbers on the score sheet.  When we heard Munchin Hogs at the Hilton called as reserve, there was that surreal moment where you think you know what's happened, but you have to wait to hear it called to know it's real!
    


photo:  Ribbie
    


photo:  KCBS

    
This contest was, I think, a watershed moment. It was an amazing, rare chance for teams from widely disparate areas to compete head-to-head, the closest thing to a "playoff" format we've yet seen.

Thanks to all who have sent their kind congratulations -- this contest was a defining point in our team history, and one we'll remember always.

    

 

    


4727 East Bell Road #45-360
Phoenix, AZ  85032

info@rhythmnque.com

   

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