KCBS Pro Cooking Contest

Mitchels have turned a hobby
into serious competition

The Decatur, Ind., couple travels the country to compete

(August 2017) – Jan Mitchel is serious about barbecue competitions. When the Madison Ribberfest begins in Madison, Ind., on Aug. 18-19, he will compete in the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned pro cooking contest here for the 10th year. The Decatur, Ind., native was Reserve Grand Champion (runner-up) last year. He has competed all across the country.

Photo courtesy of Ken Schneider

Madison Ribberfest 2016 Reserve Grand Champion (second place) Fowl Butt BBQ from Decatur, Ind., is pictured at the awards ceremony. They are (in center) Jan and Lulu Mitchel. Also pictured is KCBS chairman Drew Garrett (far left) and Arvin Sango Inc.’s Dan Baughman and Tom Hasegawa. Arvin Sango is the primary sponsor.

“I’ve driven my motor home down the streets of Las Vegas. We have been everywhere,” said Mitchel. “We have competed in Florida, Atlantic City, Lake Placid, Alabama and Mississippi.”
Mitchel has plans to do even more competitions once he retires.
“In retirement, my wife (Lulu) and I will do a lot more,” he said. “We have done up to 20 per year, but we are down to six or seven now.”
Mitchel competes in the four main categories: chicken, ribs, pork and beef brisket.
“Chicken is hardest because of the preparation,” he said. “It takes 11/2 hours to trim eight thighs. Brisket is hardest to get good, but I have spent so much time on brisket, it is a piece of cake.”
He won the brisket category last year.
“We started with a real high quality brisket of Wagyu beef,” Mitchel said. “We bought it online from Snake River Farms. It is a cross between American angus and Japanese Kobe beef.”
The competition at Ribberfest is a very serious competition. It attracts more than 60 teams. Some of the grills are almost beyond imagination. They can look more like space ships than barbecue grills, but Mitchel has more simple tastes.
“I use a Jambo grill.” He said. “Some guy out of Texas makes them. It is a traditional stick burner. Nothing automatic, and no electronics, just an inflated fire box. I tell people I could cook in a hurricane if I had to with it.”
“My smoker is black with grey ghost flames,” he said, laughing. “It is a good looking grill. Better looking than I am.”
Mitchel recalled his team’s beginnings. “We originally got a team together in 2008 and came to Madison planning to only do it once just for fun. I got hooked on it. We now have our second motor home.” 
Normally throughout the year, the couple travels to competitions, but when they come to Madison, they gather a team of as many as 15-20 people and have a lot of fun.
“It is where we want to go,” he said. “It is a neat setting along the river. We go to a lot of new competitions around the country, but we consider Madison one of the top places. We have used it to draw a really good team.”
Mitchel said his team has competed in about 130 cooking events. “We have been to Indianapolis, Liberty, Ind., and Iron Mountain, Mich. We have been all over the country.”
Drew Garrett chairs the KCBS contest for Ribberfest. He has a long history with the competition.
His father, Jeff Garrett, started the festival 16 years ago in 2002. “He died 12 years ago, and I have always been there. I started on the trash committee when I was 14 and worked my way up.

“When he was an Eagle Scout, he was known for eating everything. That is called Galloputin, so every year we give a Galloputin Award. It is basically a team that has my dad’s strength. They love what they are doing, and are getting out there having fun.

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