8th Annual Winner's Circle BBQ Championship - Santa Anita Park

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
I will be there Saturday and Sunday. Never been to a two-day back-to-back contest, so this should be interesting. Or exhausting. Or both!

If you live in the Great Los Angeles area, consider dropping by! There will be BBQ vending, a carnival with rides, and plenty of BBQ competition teams to talk to. You might even run into me!

Learn more, get tickets, etc: https://www.santaanita.com/events/world-bbq-championship/
 

Mac LA

TVWBB Super Fan
My Wife and I will be there Sunday, in the tent...
Should be a good time !!!!
Dang Bob, we always seem to miss each other every year! lol I will be there Saturday.

I will be there Saturday and Sunday. Never been to a two-day back-to-back contest, so this should be interesting. Or exhausting. Or both!

If you live in the Great Los Angeles area, consider dropping by! There will be BBQ vending, a carnival with rides, and plenty of BBQ competition teams to talk to. You might even run into me!

Learn more, get tickets, etc: https://www.santaanita.com/events/world-bbq-championship/

It's sooo much fun!!!

Do you know why they split into two days this year? Are they judging different meats different days?
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
Do you know why they split into two days this year? Are they judging different meats different days?
Double your pleasure, double your fun! Two back-to-back KCBS competitor series contests, the usual four meats each day, each contest with its own prize purse and trophies, and an overall two day cumulative point winner. Also, having two contests allows teams to earn more points during a single weekend for Team of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc.

As it turns out, our friend and WSM user Jerry Aguilar of Burnin and Lootin BBQ had a commanding performance on both Saturday and Sunday, taking Grand Champion on both days and winning the overall cumulative point total. He also won a bunch of money from SRF and a cool SRF barrel cooker. Jerry had it dialed in this weekend, and part of his success may have been that he brought a WSM back into his mix of cookers at this event! :D

 

Mac LA

TVWBB Super Fan
I went on Saturday and was sad to see they changed the layout and there were noticeably less teams this year; I count only 7 or 8 teams. Were there more teams on Sunday? We still had fun but entries were way down, unless there was a section where all the other teams were and I missed it. hahaha


Congrats Jerry Aguilar BTW!!! Whoot whoot!!!
 

Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
There were 70 teams competing on Saturday and 49 on Sunday. Most teams were located farther South in the parking lot then those seen in front of the South entrance. If you saw the big white tent, teams were located just to the East and South East of that.
 

Mac LA

TVWBB Super Fan
OMG!!! LOL Now that is comical. Dammit! I had a feeling but some of my friends wanted to bet the races so we didn't venture further out to the entrance you spoke about.

We also parked in the infield, assuming it would be the previous years. Oh well, there's always next year. So mad at myself.
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
It was my privilege to judge barbecue for the fifth year in a row at the 8th Annual Santa Anita Winners Circle BBQ Championship (aka SAWC8) at historic Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA on March 30-31, 2019. This contest is at the top of my list and probably every other California barbecue judge's list because:

  1. It's a beautiful venue set against the San Gabriel Mountains.
  2. A large number of the best teams travel from all over California and beyond to compete.
  3. It's a well organized contest presented by Ben Lobenstein and Ric Gilbert of Fire It Up! BBQ Events.
  4. You can socialize with lots of friendly judges that you haven't seen since last fall.
  5. You can watch and/or bet on horse racing at the conclusion of turn-ins.
  6. All of the above!
The answer is All of the above! This event is all of those things, and more!

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't put this contest into the context of the recent sad events at Santa Anita Park where almost two dozen horses have been injured and put down since the start of racing season last December. One of the unique aspects of this event is that the barbecue contest is held in the racetrack infield, right in the middle of the action. With the suspension of horse racing and the uncertainly of when it would resume, the barbecue contest was moved from the infield to an area in front of the main entrance to the grandstands. Instead of competing on lush green grass, the teams were cooking on asphalt. Sad. And although racing did resume on the Friday before the contest started, there was yet another accident on Sunday afternoon that resulted in a horse being put down. We all appreciate that Santa Anita Park is a gracious host for this event and we're happy to just be able to hold the contest anywhere on the property. We hope they get past this streak of sad events and that the barbecue contest can return to the infield where it belongs in 2020!

Having said all that, a move from one location to another was not going to stop anyone from having fun and competing for cash, trophies and bragging rights! This year, SAWC8 was a two-day, back-to-back double contest. Teams could compete on both Saturday and Sunday, cooking the four competition meats (chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, brisket) for separate prize purses and trophies, earn Team of the Year and Rookie of the Year points for each event, and win the coveted trophy for overall points winner across both days. There was also a SFR Challenge offering additional cash for winners using Snake River Farm briskets in the competition.

As it turns out, 70 teams competed on Saturday and 47 teams competed on Sunday. It was the commanding performance of TVWBB member and WSM user Jerry Aguilar of Burnin and Lootin BBQ that blew everyone away over the weekend. On Saturday, Jerry won Grand Champion with an overall score of 709.1428: A perfect 180 first place in both chicken and brisket, third in ribs and ninth in pork. On Sunday, Jerry won Grand Champion again with an overall score of 699.406, beating out Reserve Champion Big Poppa Smokers by 0.0116 points! He took 6th in chicken, 8th in ribs, 19th in pork, and 3rd in brisket. And of course he was the cumulative point total winner across both contests. And he took home a bunch of SRF Challenge cash and a big-old drum smoker.

One secret to Jerry's success may have been that he brought a WSM back into the mix at this contest. Jerry used to cook exclusively with WSMs but in recent years has been using drum smokers. Maybe bring one of his WSMs back into his arsenal of cookers at this contest was the key to success. Hey, it could happen! :D

Congratulations to all the other winners, including Papa La Rue's BBQ for winning RC on Saturday and as I mentioned Big Poppa Smokers for winning RC on Sunday.

Here are some photos from our long weekend adventure, hope you enjoy them!


We arrived in Arcadia on Friday in time for lunch at the famous The Derby restaurant just down the street from Santa Anita Park. This old-school steakhouse has a long, storied history that connects it with the race track and everyone who's worked and played there over the years since 1922.


Lots of horse racing memorabilia and artwork adorns the walls throughout The Derby.


A photo of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit in the lobby display case.


The Derby is famous for its bacon-wrapped filet mignon. When in Rome...medium rare, please.


Followed by a half-order of cheesecake. Gotta save some room for barbecue judging tomorrow!

Continued...
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member

On the flight from San Jose to Burbank, I was surprised to see and sit next to California BBQ Association legend and BBQ photographer extraordinaire Frank Boyer. You've seen Frank's photos of the American Royal and Jack Daniel's Invitational over the past 20 years featured in the KCBS Bullsheet and National BBQ News. Frank organized the BBQ class in 1997 that got me hooked on making barbecue with the WSM, so I owe him a big debt of gratitude! I hope Frank turns up at more California contests this season.


When I get to contest early on a Friday, I like to walk around the venue, say hello to folks, and take interesting photos. Here are a few...this logo cracks me up!








More and more of these (not so little) Jambo Pits are showing up at CA contests.


For the first time, there were carnival rides for the kids at SAWC8.


This is Ric Gilbert, one of the organizers of SAWC8, head of Ric's Righteous Ribs competition BBQ team from San Jose. Ric is an old friend going back to that 1997 barbecue class that I mentioned earlier.


The gentleman second from the left is Rick Brandini, head of RBQ competition BBQ team from Gilroy. Rick usually competes alongside his son and often hosts a Certified BBQ Judge on his team so they can get a cook under their belt as part of the Master CBJ certification process. Lately Rick has been left high and dry by his son...something about getting married soon...so for SAWC8 Rick took on-board two judges, both of which are already MCBJs and just enjoy cooking with Rick...that's Tim Obole and Gloria Lee to the right of Rick. On the far left is top-notch KCBS rep Ian Schmidt from Sacramento.


This is Benny Adauto, head of Funtime BBQ competition BBQ team from Whittier, CA. Astute viewers may remember that Benny cooked alongside Harry Soo of Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ years ago, so Benny knows his way around the multiple WSMs he uses in competition! He finished 34th overall on Saturday and 27th overall on Sunday. Well done!

Continued...
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member

Folks mingle before the start of the Judge's Meeting on Saturday morning. That's Mrs. TVWB walking up the left side of the tent.


And here's a lovely photo of me and Mrs. TVWB. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


Here's something I rarely get to show you...an example of a turn-in box in the Judge's Tent, this one for chicken. Just some of the great photography of Frank Boyer. Please note that I did not judge the entries shown here. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


An anonymous judge sampling six chicken entries. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


Here's a rib turn-in box. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


A pork shoulder turn-in box. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


A brisket turn-in box. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


Me sampling a rib during competition. Photo Credit and Copyright: Frank Boyer


There was also an Ancillary Category called "Woodford Reserve Bourbon BBQ Sauce" in which a subset of teams turned in their own concoction feature a little (or a lot) of Woodford Reserve Bourbon. (Woodford is a sponsor of Santa Anita Park.) I chose not to judge the sauce contest, but I'm told the winning entry from Bar-B-Q's-2Go was da bomb!

Continued...
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member

After all the BBQ entries were sampled, it was time to hit the racetrack for some beer and horse racing. What a beautiful venue!


In case there was any question where we were at...


Thundering toward the finish line...


Start of a turf race...


Heading toward what was about to be a Photo Finish between horses 2 and 4. Horse 2 won by a nostril!

Continued...
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member

Enough horses, let's get back to barbecue. It seems I can't help but take photos of WSMs. I wonder why?


WSMs as far as the eye can see.


Kind of hard to see, but there's a junior pitmaster behind the screen serving up 'que to the hungry public.


"Ain't nothin' but a hounddog...q'in all the time."


A couple of saucy ribs from one of the vendors.


Team Woodshed was on-hand to get a 4th place call in ribs on Saturday, 3rd place call in ribs on Sunday, 7th place call in pork on Sunday, and 4th overall on Sunday. That's some stiff competition!


After the final horse race at 6:30pm, teams gathered for the Saturday awards ceremony.


The plaques were unpacked and ready for the winners.


And here's your big-big, two-day, winner-winner, hold-the-chicken-dinner: Jerry Aguilar of Burnin and Lootin BBQ (in the JD t-shirt). He took home the big money, the big trophies, a bunch of SRF Challenge prize money for winning using Snake River Farms briskets, a shiny new SRF Challenge Gateway drum smoker, a couple of 180 pins, and membership in the KCBS 700 Club for his Saturday performance. Left to right: SRF representative Annella, Ric Gilbert and Ben Lobenstein, contest organizers from Fire It Up! BBQ Events, Jerry, and KCBS contest rep Ian Schmidt. Photo Credit: Fire It Up! BBQ Events.


Jerry gets a meet-and-greet with Miss California MacKenzie Freed. What an outstanding performance by Jerry. Commanding! Dominating! Very Strong and Powerful! Congrats to him! Photo Credit and Copyright: Fire It Up! BBQ Events live FB stream.

Continued...
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member

And finally, my greatest photographic masterpiece and the only photo I took on Sunday during Day 2 of the event. It's titled, "Clean Rib Bone On A Bed Of Garnish". That's a garbage can filled to the top with discarded garnish from turn-in boxes with a single rib bone placed on top by a hungry volunteer. A couple of stray forks are visible to the astute viewer.

Until next time...later!
 

JerryA

TVWBB Member
Thanks Chris, it was great seeing you this past weekend. I actually added 2 WSM's back into the mix. I stopped taking them when I started cooking chicken on a GMG. I have a small trailer so I figured I'd downsize from taking 6 smokers to just 3 drums and a GMG. Cooking ribs on a drum was great at some comps and real bad at others since the drum can get carried away, too hot, and hard to bring back down. That resulted in a rib slump, so I gave up and figured that I'd go back to what I know. The trusty WSM's got my rib scores back up and took a walk in Ribs both days.
Surreal experience for sure.

See you @ Lodi

Jerry
 

JerryA

TVWBB Member
I went on Saturday and was sad to see they changed the layout and there were noticeably less teams this year; I count only 7 or 8 teams. Were there more teams on Sunday? We still had fun but entries were way down, unless there was a section where all the other teams were and I missed it. hahaha


Congrats Jerry Aguilar BTW!!! Whoot whoot!!!
Thanks! ....
 

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