The 4th Annual Middletown BBQ Cook-off, which also serves as the state barbeque cook-off, took place last weekend at Frightland. Last year's event drew in more than 10,000 meat-lovers from all over the region anxious to compete in the state's only Kansas City BBQ Society-sanctioned competition. This year's cook-off, attended by almost 4,000 people, had to contend with dismal weather and several other local and regional events, including the Middletown High School and Appoquinimink High School graduations.
Despite the setbacks, though, more than 50 barbeque teams showed up Friday night to start grilling meats in four categories: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. The competition also included two bonus categories: dessert and chef's choice.
All entries had to be turned in by 1:30 p.m., Saturday, and the winners were announced later that day at 5 p.m. This year's grand champion, Wilbur's Revenge, was a team out of Pennsylvania that also has strong ties to Delaware. Its founder, head cook and pitmaster David Marks owns the Famous Dave's BBQ Restaurant franchises in Delaware, Philadelphia and South Jersey. Owning a barbeque restaurant doesn't automatically mean a wall full of grand champion trophies, though. Despite having placed well in 26 other competitions over the last four years (including third place in chicken and brisket in the Middletown competition), this is Marks's first grand champion win and he couldn't hold back the tears as he accepted the trophy Saturday.
Then, it hit him.
"Oh God," he said simultaneously laughing and crying. "I'm going to Lynchburg."
That's because the winner of the competition automatically qualifies for the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn. Marks and his team will now compete with world-class grillers and chefs from all over the globe.
"To be good at anything takes a lot of effort," said Marks. "So, I'm going to practice, study, collect advice from people who have competed there and try my best to recreate what I did in Middletown. Most importantly, I'm going to do my best to make Delaware proud."
It must be in their DNA
One local family and their team, Pigheaded BBQ, came close to the grand champion title but have happily settled for seven other notable honors. Aside from placing fourth in pork, seventh in chicken and twelfth in ribs and brisket, the team also took home two first place honors in the chef's choice and dessert categories as well as third place overall, making them the "Best in Delaware" winner.
When asked why he thought Pigheaded BBQ did so well across all of the categories, the team's head cook Ron Templeman said that the competition experience is shaping their successes but he also pointed to the joint efforts of his whole family.
Page 2 of 2 - "I'm so proud of everyone," said Templeman. "My son did the chef's choice, my wife did the dessert, my son-in-law did the pork and I did the chicken, ribs and brisket. You can see that for us, it really is a family effort."
And, while trophies and bragging rights motivate the Templemans to compete, it's the competition environment that really inspires them.
"Coming in third meant that we beat the number one team in the country right now so needless to say we were thrilled," said Templeman. "But we were happy for everybody. The barbeque competition atmosphere is really friendly. We all consider ourselves barbeque family."