July 14th, 2024

Ribfest competition showcases best of barbecue

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on July 2, 2024.

Herald photo by Justin Seward Uyrell Philip of Billy's BBQ grills up a pile of ribs during Ribfest on Saturday at Exhibition Park.

Smokers churned out many racks of ribs over the weekend during Ribfest at Exhibition Park.

Ribs were not only being handed out as part of meals to attendees but allowed competitors to create the best sauce and rib style in a competition in hopes of hoisting the trophy and adding another banner to the food truck trailer.

Paul Mendonca has been on the tour for 15 years with Ribfest.

“And started without knowing anything about smoking and making barbeque and over the years just been gradually learning more and more from different pit masters,” said Medonca.

The specific spices, temperatures that smokers are set at and type of wood mixed in with the barbeque sauce at the end are important components for Medonca in how he cooks his ribs.

“Over the years you just hone that own craft, … finding out what temperatures work best for me to give the best product,” said Medonca.

Medonca uses a salty base for the dry rub and cherry wood.

“There’s different types of wood -cherry, maple, apple – which have a lighter smoke point and won’t impact that much smoke flavour into it but still gives you a good, tender meat and you get a little bit of (the) flavour but not overpowering,” Medonca.

Ned Simpson, who worked under Medonca at the Billy’s BBQ last year, is only in his third year on the tour and branched out to work with Blazing BBQ with his fiancé this year for the tour.

“We’re really kind of trying to reach for the community, to see what the community likes, to try and get the best for what the people want and less of what the professionals want,” said Simpson. “Which I find a little bit more importance in it because we are feeding the community. We’re not just feeding master ribbers, master judges, thinks like that. We’re here for the people.”

Rounding out the event was the Big Rib competition, where all the trucks will compete for the title of greatest ribs and best sauce. Judges will be given ribs without knowing which truck it’s from prior to ranking them.

“Making sure that we add a little butter to it, do a couple little key things in the back but just the presentation of the ribs, giving that little extra attention that we really want to garner,” said Medonca, who was with Billy’s BBQ during the competition.

The pressure is on during the competition.

“It is just having that pride to say ‘hey I came to this city and I got best ribs or best sauces’ is big to me,” said Medonca.

“We try and put out very close to what we give to the community and so we do make little tweaks,” said Simpson.

“So for ours, we have a nice little sweet, tangy, peppery sauce for our Blazing BBQ. Personally, maybe in an unbiased way, I think it’s the best, I’m a big fan of it.”

-with files from Justin Sibbet, Lethbridge Herald

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