KCBS Pro Cooking Contest
Indiana duo to defend last year’s
KCBS title in pro cookoff
Grey Street BBQ sells its sauces and rubs commercially
(August 2018) – Grey Street BBQ of Avon, Ind., is heading back to Madison, Ind., on Aug. 17-18 to compete at the Madison Ribberfest’s pro cooking contest, the Indiana State Championship Barbecue Cookoff, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.
The trip comes with a challenge to defend its current title as grand champion of last year’s event. The team consists of captain Nathan Dexter, 37, of Avon and his cousin, Ryan Horace, 37, of Fort Wayne, Ind. This is the fourth full year the cousins have competed and also their fourth trip to Madison to participate in Ribberfest.
Madison Ribberfest’s 2017 Grand Champion Grey Street BBQ of Avon, Ind., included (from left (Nathan Dexter and his cousin Ryan Horace. The team is returning to Madison to defend their title at this year’s Indiana State Championship BBQ Cookoff on Aug. 17-18.
Dexter said it all began with a passion for cooking at home and the influence of popular barbecue competition shows on television. “We thought, ‘hey, that looks like fun,’ and already enjoyed grilling at home. Why not give it a try?” Dexter said.
Now Grey Street BBQ participates in about 20 contests each year. “The furthest we’ve traveled is California, and most of our competitions are in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky,” Dexter said. One of their recent competitions was a tent contest to determine their current national ranking, where they moved to 16th overall out of nearly 4,000 teams from around the country. This is an upward move from the team’s prior rank of 19th nationally.
Ken Schneider, KCBS pro cooking contest chairman, said he expects more than 50 teams competing at Ribberfest this year. “We limited the teams to a maximum of 55 this year because of the potential construction on Elm Street,” Schneider said. “We just decided to plan that it won’t be open, and we’re hoping to have enough electricity for 55 teams in the space we do have.”
While many Ribberfest competitors hail from the Hoosier state, two Florida teams are making the trip to this year’s festival, along with several from nearby states such as Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois.
“We’re excited to come back,” Dexter said. “We love Madison and the atmosphere of being by the river. The festival competitions are our favorite. The public gets to see more of what you do. Ribberfest is the best, biggest and oldest contest in Indiana, which brings teams back every year.”
A few of the teams participating in this year’s competition are also brand new to the barbecue scene. “Some teams just catch the bug,” Schneider said. “They enjoy the experience and cooking as a hobby. They’ve cooked successfully for family and friends then decide they want to try competing.”
He said Ribberfest strives to be accessible to new and experienced teams alike.
A Hanover, Ind., resident, Schneider has been on Ribberfest’s barbecue competition committee for eight out of the festival’s 16 years but said he has volunteered every year. “I enjoy seeing old friends as they compete and making friends with new teams.”
Schneider has also enjoyed seeing the teams grow and change over the years. “I always think of one team that started out just bringing a pop-up camper. Then last year they showed up with a complete trailer with the cooker built in,” Schneider said. “Some teams that have been successful in the Backyard Blast (amateur) cooking competition in the past will be competing in the pro competition this year.”
This year, Grey Street BBQ has made some slight changes with the introduction of a different smoker. “This changes our timing a little bit,” Dexter said. He also said that they have tweaked some sauce recipes, though they may go back to their old favorites for the competition since it was a success last year.
The KCBS pro teams will be set up along Broadway Street and Vaughn Drive in front of the Crystal Beach Swimming Pool Pavilion just west of the festival gate.
“We hope it plays out well for us and that the judges will like it,” Dexter said. “We put our heart and soul into everything we do.”
When asked what the team’s specialty is, Dexter said it is their handcrafted barbecue rubs and sauces that are sold at 30 different retailers across the country. “We’ve worked hard on all these products to get to the profile we’ve tried to achieve. I’d say that’s our specialty.”
Though Dexter and Horace live in different cities, Dexter said they consistently brainstorm ideas and talk nearly every day about innovative techniques and recipes they want to try. “We’re always discussing competitions and talking a lot, especially in the off-season,” he said. Dexter also said that he and Horace have the same smoker, which allows them to try new barbecue recipes on their own time and share them with one another when they get together.
“It’s an ongoing goal for us to be as high as we can be ranked and to keep moving up. We always hope to finish as high as we can,” Dexter said. Dexter said that the feedback from last year’s Ribberfest was extremely positive and that Grey Street BBQ ranked high for an Indiana team at the festival.
“Based on our scores, the judges really liked it. We hope we can pull a repeat of last year at Ribberfest.”
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