The Port Macquarie VIC’S MEATS BBQ Wars 2016

Andrew Walliker - Monday, April 04, 2016
The Port Macquarie VIC’S MEATS BBQ Wars 2016

Driving into the beach-side town of Port Macquarie is like descending on the mecca of Australian BBQ. It’s the spiritual home of ‘low n slow’ and most team’s favorite event of the year. You can almost smell the smoke as we reach the Sundowner caravan park ready to compete against Australia’s best teams. It’s a real mix of semiprofessionals with sponsored set ups and ‘backyarders’ having a crack for the first time and that’s what makes our scene so great.

The largest ‘low n slow’ bbq festival Australia has ever hosted. Yes the interest in bbq has absolutely gone berserk in the past year with the number of teams competing increasing from 45 teams in 2015 to 83 teams in 2016.

Barbecue Mafia made our competition debut last year at this very venue and finished a respectable 23rd out of 45 teams. Looking back now, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing, operated on no sleep and stressed a lot! One year into the future and we were a completely different team, well drilled from 2 full competition practice cooks, efficient in terms of how much gear we took (last year we only left the kitchen sink at home because it wouldn’t fit in the car!) and ready to put up a good showing in our 5th competition event.

Most teams arrive on Thursday to set up, this year was mind boggling. There were teams with full bar set ups, the biggest smoker we have ever seen and a team with an alcoholic slushy machine and golf putting green. It’s not all about the meat and these guys certainly helped create a real party atmosphere.

As Friday approached the nerves set in as at 3pm cooking can start. Up until that point no meat can be brined, rubbed, marinated or injected. All teams were supplied with 9 x 9 foam containers for category hand ins. This year we had Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Pork Ribs, Beef and Chefs Choice. Hand ins begin at 9am on Saturday morning and continue at 45 minute intervals during the morning. Hand in are anonymous to the judging panel and each box should have a minimum of 6 serves, be presented on a bed of approved garnish and have no distinguishing features such as foreign bodies or pools of sauce etc.

Fast forward to us lighting our Radar Hill reverse offset smokerThe Don’ at midnight, our whiteboard set up with cook times and ready to go! Bleary eyed and already questioning why we were doing this, we rubbed our meat, injected our cuts and started our brining process for chicken. Around the BBQ pit yard we could hear many teams burning the midnight oil and enjoying a lager or thirty, that’s going to hurt come 7am tomorrow morning.

The smell of slow smoking meat is something all humans should enjoy and we certainly gave the residents of Port Macquarie a treat to wake up to! As the sun rose on Saturday morning, the smoke filled the streets like a creepy fog and the smell was amazing. Most teams were heading out for coffee before everything got very serious, hand ins start at 9am with the first category being chicken.

Over the course of the morning, we pulled each meat off the smoker, carefully glazed and sliced to find the prettiest 6 portions for our boxes, questioning and doubting everything as we went. Lack of sleep and a very competitive nature means that we are very hard on ourselves when it comes to what is great and what is mediocre. We chatted to the general public as they wandered around the pit talking to different teams and that for us is the highlight, sharing our passion with folks who haven’t started their smoking journey but who share our passion for meat, fire and smoke.

By 1pm all hand ins are complete and we finally sit down with a beer, exhausted and doubting ourselves. We think we have done an ok job, but it’s very hard to tell with 83 teams all thinking the same. The art of competition bbq is handing in dishes that not only look appealing to the eye but reach the judges table hot enough to still be tasty. Our boxes are judged on appearance, taste and tenderness and judges will generally take 1 bite so we need to make sure that one bite is memorable.

At 4pm once we have showered and maybe had a nap, we all head over to the presentation area to hear the results. The BBQ Wars also have a Blues festival so the crowd is huge and pumping and the nerves kick in. Realistically, we aren’t expecting to place in categories and have set an expectation on a top 15 finish which requires great consistency. Each category has a prize and trophy for the winner, second and third place and all categories except for Chefs Choice are tallied to crown and Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion.

We sit in anticipation with our families and friends and as they count down from 5th in chicken to 2nd, we clap and congratulate our fellow teams on a great effort. “The winner of the BBQ Wars Chicken category is ……… BARBECUE MAFIA!” We spring up and high five everyone with a pulse as the adrenalin of knowing we scored best out of 83 teams in chicken hits us. Hugs from other teams, fist pumps and general man love ensues and we stand on stage to collect our trophy! All of our hard work practicing chicken has paid off and we are stoked!

The team don’t receive any further places but when the dust settles and the top 30 teams overall are read out, we are amazed to hear our name called out in 6th place out of 83 teams overall. Our consistency has certainly shone at Port Macquarie and we party well into the night.

What an amazing experience and great to share with our families. It’s a huge weekend with lots of travel and planning, no sleep and some very stressful moments but bring on the next one!

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Post Feedback

Amy Kenna commented on 18-Apr-2016 08:43 PM
So proud of you boys! You are doing what you love and chasing your dreams!! Good for you! Just so happy I have a front row sit to it all!! Keep killing it. Xxx
Drew commented on 29-Apr-2016 12:29 PM
Thanks Amy,
you have seen our passion grow from the start, keep an eye out for the guys in TBA real soon!!

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