A team of avid cooks have their sights set on the world stage of competitive barbecue after smoking the opposition at a hotly contested competition over the weekend.
Ken Van Mackelbergh, owner of Barbecue BOI in Kerikeri, along with teammates Jamie Urwin from Kerikeri and Nick Borland of Auckland, claimed the prestigious title of overall grand champions at a two-day American barbecue competition held at the Kumeu Classic Car & Hot Rod Festival.
Their major win in the biggest competition of the year has earned them a spot in The American Royal World Series of Barbecue - dubbed The Royal - set to take place in Kansas City in the United States this October.
Van Mackelbergh said the competition was the first New Zealand BBQ Alliance grand championship the trio have won together since they began cooking under their team name, BBQ BOIs, three years ago.
“It’s just been a real blessing, winning on the weekend, as we don’t have expectations going into these things.”
The team do things a little differently as they cook using outdoor ovens created by grassroot company, The Kiwi Outdoor.
Van Mackelbergh said the competition was demanding as the team arrived the day before to set up and have their food plus cooking station inspected.
Then it was time for the “magic”. Out came the marinades and seasoning for their four required types of meat - chicken, pork shoulder, ribs, and brisket.
On the hour over four hours, competitors have to submit one cooked meat for blind judging. The six judges then deliver marks out of 10 each for texture, flavour, and appearance.
“When you attend a competition, it’s a real cool community and culture,” Van Mackelbergh said.
“You want to do well yourself but everybody is there to help others out.”
Van Mackelbergh, a chef by trade, was drawn into the competitive world of barbecue after moving from Canada to Kerikeri seven years ago.
“I’ve always had a passion for barbecue and I was looking for something more to take on,” he said.
Friend and barbecue competitor Matt Fulton encouraged Van Mackelbergh to give the competitive side a try. At the same time as Van Mackelbergh opened his business, Barbecue BOI.
And now he is the BBQ BOI pit master - the team captain to those still learning the competitive barbecuing jargon.
Van Mackelbergh said the team would be deciding how to raise the money to afford flights and other expenses involved in attending the world championship.
“We’re excited because there are over 500 teams that compete there from around the world.”