The sweet aroma of brisket, chicken and ribs fills the air at the World Championship Barbecue Cook Off now underway at Reliant Center.
Jeff Jones is committee chairman.
“Last year, we almost had a quarter million people come out and visit this contest. Its kind of been the place to come and see and have a good time.”
PH: “Jeff, we’ve got like 400-cookers vying for the big trophy?”
Jones: “Yes sir, we’ve got 423 spaces, actually 261 teams competing to be the world champion. These guy let me tell you what, their culinary skills, their ingenuity, you can look at the facades, some of the things these guys do is incredible.”
Jones calls the atmosphere Mardi Gras with smoke and boots, with energy that’s contagious.
“Really, the Livestock Show takes a piece of your heart. You watch these volunteers out here, there’s almost a thousand people on our committee. They come out here, take time off work, seeing what they do, and how they do it, for the youth and education of Texas, which is what the Livestock Show is all about and of course, to promote agriculture, it’s just really an important thing to help this great state of Texas.”
To that effort, the WCBBQ Committee took in $3.8 million during the three-day-run of the cook off last year. The bulk of the money will help fund scholarships for high schoolers on their way to college. Meanwhile, the cooking teams will be busy vying for the giant trophy for best overall barbecue.
Randy Pauly heads the Holy Cow Cookers.
“The smokers are going on right now. But funny enough, you’re not smelling competition. You’re smelling the food that we’re gonna be serving tonight.”
PH: “When you’re not doing this, you’re a Houston Firefighter?”
Pauly: “Yes, I’m a Houston Firefighter, so I’m around smoke and fire throughout the year. It keeps me on my toes when it comes to competition time.”
PH: “Randy, what is it about your involvement with the HLS&R?”
Pauly: “It’s beautiful. You know, it’s funny. The Fire Department is very much like the Houston Rodeo. You see the family and the network, it’s unlike no other. But the family is so strong within the fire department, it’s just like the Houston Rodeo. You come our first day when we’re setting up. it’s like old home week. You come around here for breakfast, you’ll see all the competitors sitting here, shooting old stories, and talking about old times, like it’s the first day of summer camp. And then the last day, when we’re tearing everything down, it’s like we’re hugging. Some of these folks we don’t see a year, but it’s like we just saw them yesterday.”
Judging for the best barbecue will be held this Saturday and the results will be announced at 7 p.m. in the Garden, the outdoor concert venue.