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Locals to Compete in Pork in the Park

POWELLVILLE — Three local men will be going just short of whole hog when they make their first foray into competitive cooking this weekend at the Pork in the Park Festival in Winterplace Park this weekend. Danny Morris, team spokesperson for the Station 7 Smoke Eaters team said they decided to enter in every category of the Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned BBQ Competition except for whole hog because it would have been difficult to find the right butcher on such short notice.

Morris, along with teammates Pat Townsend and Bob Croll of Bishopville, decided only a few weeks ago to actually compete, though it was something they’d discussed before.

As regular Pork in the Park attendees and self-described weekend warriors of the barbecue grill, they often talked about competing in the competition. Checking out some of the competition last year Morris said they felt as if they could cook as well as any of the other teams but let the subject drop.

For Christmas Morris’ wife, Carol, got him a grill made from a converted heating oil tank. These grills are common on the competitive cooking circuit as well as at civic barbecues. After convincing a welder friend to make the necessary modifications, including adding a chimney and redoing the ventilation, Morris, Townsend and Croll began experimenting on the grill, having serious cookouts of all different sorts.

They were content in that until the Station 7 ownership approached them and offered to sponsor their participation in the competition. The three assented immediately and began preparing a menu consisting of the items they felt they prepared the best consistently.

“Bob is the sauce guru,” Morris said. “Pat and I keep the temperatures right and do the basting.”

Their wives, he said, are all also integral members of the team.

The major difference between cooking competitively and cooking in your backyard for friends and neighbors is that competitive cooking has a clock. If you’re feeding company they’re often happy to have another beer while they wait but the judges are a little less forgiving, which is Morris’ only real concern,

“We have a 10 minute window to get the food in,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been practicing and talking about.”

Preparation is one thing, making sure that something which can take a few hours to cook is ready within a certain time period is a different problem altogether. Start too early and the food could be cold or dried out, start too late and it might not be ready to serve. Getting everything together at just the right time is key to making sure the work it took to be ready isn’t wasted on the judges.

Morris said that, for his team, the competition is as much a matter of curiosity as it is a matter of pride. Unlike many if not most of the competitors, they have no plans of joining the competitive barbecue circuit. One event each year is sufficient for them. But they would like to get an idea about whether their food is as objectively good as the people they’ve already fed claim it to be.

“We’d like to see where we stand,” Morris said. “We thought it would be interesting to see how we held up.”

Whatever the case, the three have decided to go on a butcher hunt in preparation for next year, hoping to improve their main ingredient and become even more competitive.