Butts & Clucks warms up Battery Park

Jessup, Georgia team sweeps contest

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Last weekend’s annual Butts and Clucks Cook-off on the Bay went well from the moment it started Thursday in Battery Park, as 43 teams from around the Southeast, same number as last year, gathered in hopes of securing the championship belt, and a chunk of the $12,000 in prize money.

That is, up until it closed early Saturday evening when organizer John Solomon announced the winners.

That’s when it turned into a giant sh*t show.

It wasn’t because teams walked away angry; in fact, they were high-fiving each other when they weren’t whooping and hollering over their finishes.

No, it was because the three-man crew from Jessup, Georgia that took home the championship belt was named Sh*t Show Trio.

“We’ve never won one,” said Joseph Puccio, pitmaster of the crew that also includes his buddies Matt Groover and Jason Singletary. “We’re excited; this took our virginity.”

They’ve been together five years, after two teams from the Savannah, South Carolina area, Smoke Central and Yes Dear, merged with the Smoke Show Mantra, Puccio’s old team.

Singletary wasn’t very optimistic at the time, exclaiming that it would be a “real sh*t show.

“It’s ain’t going to be no good,” he had said.

Well last weekend, the judges that filled a giant white tent didn’t think so, placing their chicken and their brisket first, their pulled pork third and their ribs 15th, which gave them enough points to inch ahead of Nick Racks, out of Englewood.

Eric Pinkham, who along with wife Kim and son Drew, had championed his Nice Racks team, as they won pork, took second in chicken, ninth in ribs and 16th in brisket.

Sh*t Show took home the $3,000 first prize, plus $900 for their two firsts, and $200 for their third. Nice Racks took home the $2,000 overall second place prize, plus $450 for their first, and $300 for their second place category finishes. 

Finishing third overall, and taking home the $1,000 prize check, was Hold Your Horses BBQ, out of  Griffin, Georgia, while Backyard Bros, out of Oldsmar, carried home the $500 check for fourth place, plus $200 for finishing in second place in ribs to that category winner, Smoke It Up, out of Jacksonville.

Bearded Monkeys Twisted Q, out of Frostproof, took a second in brisket. The chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket categories paid all the way down to sixth through 10th place, which paid $50.

There were lots of other prize winners, including Southern Fried Deviled Eggs, the “Cluck” contest, that was won by the teams of Edwin Jones and Chris Powers, with the Water Pig team out of Pensacola, that had whipped up a dish that featured deep fried egg whites, combined with the burnt end of a pork belly on top, all capped off with a homemade pickle.

The runway winner in the Mystery Box contest was Roni Lopez, whose boyfriend Jim Elser has the Sweet Smoke Q team out of Lakeland. The mystery box contained Tupelo honey, raw oysters and an Oyster City beer, and gave contestants two hours to use them in a dish.

Using crawfish and crabmeat she hurried off to get at 13-Mile Seafood, Lopez combined onions, carrots and celery, plus her own roux, and baked it into a pot pie whose dough was flavored with the beer, and glazed with the honey.

The BBQ sauce contest was won by Q-Dawgs, out of Starkville, Mississippi, while Backyard Bros took Peoples Choice honors, selected out of 20 varieties offered up for public sampling.

Traveling the furthest was RGD BBQ, out of New Jersey, while the Best Big trophy went to Smokin’ Ain’t Easy, out of Valrico.

Several local teams took part, led by Brag-N-Bones, Richard Wade’s team out of Eastpoint, which finished sixth in pork, ninth in brisket and 10th overall. Up the Creek out of Apalachicola, took 11th in the pulled pork competition, 

Also taking part in the event were Saltwater BBQ, out of Tallahassee; Boog-a-lou Smoke Crew, out of Crawfordville; and John’s Real South out of Tallahassee.

At least a half-dozen local people served among the dozens of judges, 12 of whom were newly trained. Anyone who serves as a judge, and evaluates the meats from presentation, as well as taste and tenderness, must take a course to be certified for the sanctioned Florida Barbecue Association event. Taking part as judges were Al Reed and Simon Hodgson, from St. George Island; Will and Jodi Rosenbaum, and Anthony Croom, all from Apalachicola; and Russ Eiseman, from Carrabelle.

Six food trucks kept the many visitors well-fed all day long. Solomon said the 10-4 BBQ booth he manned for the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce alone sold three whole briskets for sandwiches.

On Saturday morning, he presented a “belt of appreciation” to Lorne Brumm, a volunteer who is retiring after she helped transform the seven-year-old lowkey amateur Butts and Clucks into an official FBA event five years ago and has worked at it every year since.

Following the conclusion of the event, the teams donated 30 full pans of food to the Elder Care Community Council program at Holy Family Senior Center. In addition the $200 that was cleared from the raffle of a gift certificate to The Butcher Shoppe.

The coronavirus, and possibly the cold weather, may have been a factor in the decision by a half-dozen teams out of the 50 that registered not to attend.

Solomon said he was pleased and is looking forward to next year’s event, slated for Jan. 20 and 21, 2023.

“I had some happy folks,” he said.

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