KCBS Pro Cooking Contest

Bark Brothers BBQ say consistency gives them an edge

The Columbus, Ohio, team
returns to defend title in 2016

(Aug. 12, 2016) – Even though he had dabbled in grilling in his own backyard, Todd Wernicke never thought about taking it any farther until four years ago. Now with some pro barbecue championship wins under his belt, he’s definitely fallen hard under the spell of competition.
He got hooked on serious grilling because “a college friend who lived on Long Island invited me to a contest,” said Wernicke, 45. He went to see his friend’s team, Out of the Ashes, compete and enjoyed it so much he now has taken up the same hobby.
Wernicke’s team is known as Bark Brothers BBQ. He checked out the Kansas City Barbeque Society website when searching for names. He said the team name was partly derived from “the crust on the meat when it’s cooked.”

Photo courtesy of Ken Schneider

Madison Ribberfest 2015 Grand Champion Bark Brothers BBQ from Columbus, Ohio, is pictured following the awards ceremony. They are from left Todd Bushbaum, head cook; Todd Wernicke, team captain; Angi Bushmaum, Madison Bushbaum, Jeff Burgmeier, Mark Burgmeier and Janice Burgmeier.

The rest of his Columbus, Ohio-based team is made up of brothers Mark and Jeff Burgmeier. “They were old neighbors of mine who were into grilling,” said Wernicke.
Bark Brother BBQ competes in about eight to 10 competitions annually throughout Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Wernicke, who is a graphic designer and caterer, said he would like to pursue the barbecue competition circuit more.
At last year’s Madison Ribberfest KCBS pro cooking competition in Madison, Ind., Bark Brother BBQ beat out 63 other teams in points to take home the Grand Champion trophy. The team placed five points ahead of second-place finisher, Eat Mor Butt BBQ of Ferdinand, Ind.
Bark Brothers BBQ won the 14th annual Indiana State Championship BBQ title at Madison by placing seventh in chicken, 10th in pork ribs, 14th in pork and 11th in brisket.
Wernicke chalked up their win to “consistency. We were consistent across the board.”
This year, the Bark Brothers BBQ team is returning to Madison and “looking forward to defending our Grand Champion-ship title,” said Wernicke. Last year was the first time the team was able to compete in Ribberfest.
“We tried to get in before but were not able to,” Wernicke said. “We loved the venue, the hospitality. It’s one of our favorite events.”

Photo courtesy of Ken Schneider

KCBS chairman Drew Garrett (far left) poses with last year’s Reserve Grand Champion, Eat Mor Butt BBQ teammates (holding plaques). Representing KCBS contest sponsor Arvin Sango Inc. are Dan Baughman (second from right) and Tom Hasegawa (second from left).

He said the team has competed in events “down by the river in Cincinnati,” but nothing comparable to Ribberfest. “It’s the bands, the people, the whole experience” that he loves and what sets Ribberfest apart from other barbecue competitions.
Teams compete in seven categories: Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork, Beef Brisket, Sauce, Anything Butt and Dessert. 
“Everything is the same this year; there are not a lot of changes,” said Drew Garrett, the Madison Ribberfest KCBS pro cooking contest chairman. “Cash prizes are still awarded for Grand Champion.” The amount is based on sponsorships and fees paid by competing teams.
Of course, the winner “gets bragging rights,” said Garrett. Many competitors come here for a chance to get a nice cutting board trophy made by local wood “It’s a chance to go on to the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn.”
For Indiana teams, it’s a stop on the Hoosier BBQ Cup, which is made up of nine different festivals, Garrett said. To qualify for the Hoosier Cup, a team needs to compete in at least three Indiana competitions.
“We have 15 to 20 new teams every year,” Garrett said. Sometimes, teams are even turned away. “We were full before June for the last few years.”

Photo by Don Ward

KCBS-trained judges spend much of Saturday sampling entries from 60-plus teams during the Madison Ribberfest. The judges have the last word on who wins the cash and coveted trophies.

This year’s roster contains 65 teams and two on the waiting list. Garrett said all teams currently entered will be allowed to compete, since he usually has one or two no-shows each year. Teams come from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, New York and North Carolina, “literally from all over,” he said.
“We have the premier barbecue festival in the world. We have a great landscape and promote a friendly competition.” 
Garrett’s father, the late Jeff Garrett, founded the Madison Ribberfest in 2002. “He ran it the first two years then turned it over to someone else,” the younger Garrett explained. Garrett said his father did a lot of research into the history of Madison and the fact that the pork industry was so important to the town.
Garrett said he just sort of “stepped into the role” of KCBS pro cooking contest chairman. He always supported the former chairman, Ken Schneider, who retired as chairman after last year’s event but remains on the board. In the early stages of Ribberfest, Garrett said he was involved mostly in just the weekend event. Now he has taken on a role throughout the entire year, not just one weekend out of the year.
“In some capacity, I’ve always been a part of it,” he said.

Overall, Garrett said he is excited about the event, especially the addition of a mobile zip line, which was his idea. “It will be something new and different that people haven’t seen in this area before.”

Back to 2016 Madison Ribberfest Articles.



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