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Teams compete in state BBQ championship in Manorville
Standing inside his trailer Sunday looking out at the crowd of people line dancing, grilling and licking barbecue sauce off their fingers, Phil Rizzardi said he was filled with pride.
“How many people can say I just threw a party for 8,000 people?” said Rizzardi, 53, of Nesconset, co-founder of the BBQ Brethren New York State BBQ Championship. “There’s a certain amount of pride in that.”
The two-day competition, now in its seventh year, drew thousands of people including 38 teams on Saturday and 44 on Sunday to the roughly five-acre space behind The Maples bar on Ryerson Avenue in Manorville. The event also featured country line dancing, live music, cooking demos and children's activities. All proceeds from admission sales, which Rizzardi hoped would be somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000, will be donated to the John Theissen Children’s Foundation.
“The rain really killed us yesterday,” he said on Sunday. “Our admissions were 20 to 25 percent of what they should have been.”
On Saturday, he said 12 teams competed in a “iron chef shootout” grilling competition, with finalists going up against Lia Fallon, executive chef for the Riverhead Project, a restaurant in downtown Riverhead. The teams were given a basket of surprise ingredients -- beef shoulder steak, yuca, blackcurrants, sour pickles and poblano peppers -- and had 40 minutes to come up with a recipe that would impress the panel of judges. The winner, which turned out to be Fallon, was selected based on “creativity, originality and taste,” Rizzardi said.
The real competition, the finals of the New York State competition, took place Sunday. Roughly 50 certified judges sampled various pork, chicken, ribs and brisket dishes, taking into account appearance, texture, tenderness and overall taste.
“This the main event on Long Island,” Rizzardi explained.
A team from Oceanside named “Stubborn Bull” took home the grand prize trophy and $1,800, and “Jacked Up BBQ,” of Forked River, N.J., won the grand reserve title and $1,400. Twenty smaller cash awards were also doled out to the top five entries in each meat category.
The event’s co-founder, Willie Breakstone, who also hosts Long Island’s longest-running BBQ competition, “WilliePallooza,” each spring, said that “Jacked Up BBQ” was one of the favorites heading into the finals. So was the team that consisted of veteran competitors Ray Lampe, known as "Dr. BBQ," and Rich “Dirty Dick” Westhaver.
“We’re not sure if we’re competitive anymore,” admitted Lampe, 56, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who has participated in more than 300 contests since 1982. “We’re kind of the old timers.”
Lampe said he and Weshaver, 60, of Norwell, Mass., made the trip to Manorville to spend the weekend together.
“It’s really about the camaraderie,” he said. “It’s a fun weekend away with my buddy. We have drinks, cook some barbecue and maybe we win something.”
As the event organizer, Rizzardi could not compete, but Breakstone, 44, of Islip, said that when he does, Rizzardi’s team, BBQ Brethren, is often a favorite to win.
Rizzardi doesn’t enjoy eating the food he makes as much as he likes cooking it.
He said, “I turn stuff into the judges I don’t even taste.”