After three annual attempts, a change of venue, buckets of sweat and hundreds of slabs of grilled livestock, a South County team led by the Hollman family took home the Grand Champion prize at the No-Bull BBQ Cook-Off in Morgan Hill Saturday.
Huminie’s Hogalicious, based in Gilroy, was awarded the grand prize for the best overall barbecue presentation, taste and texture by a panel of 36 judges.
Sherry Hollman, wife of Huminie’s pitmaster Adam Hollman, couldn’t hold back her tears after the team was announced as the winner. “A lot of hard work” was what she figured led the judges to their decision, she said.
“It will help us continue our barbecue dream,” Sherry said of the cash prize.
Huminie’s also won in the locals-only “side bet,” in which three judges from the community – Mayor Steve Tate, Morgan Hill Unified school superintendent Wes Smith and Morgan Hill Times editor Robert Airoldi – voted on the best barbecued ribs among six South County teams, some of whom participated only in the local contest.
The third annual cook-off was held at the Outdoor Sports Complex on Condit Road. The contest, which draws thousands of people from the general public each year, featured 43 competitive barbecue teams, a full day of live music, and a “kick-off to the cook-off” on Friday night which featured the Shane Dwight Band.
Some attendees complained the barbecuers ran out of food available to non-competing spectators through the “people’s choice” competition, and even that vendors seemed to run out of food for sale.
But they still enjoyed the sunny afternoon, and the competitors preferred the grassy surface at the OSC to the asphalt they competed on last year and the year before at the downtown Community and Cultural Center.
“They could have done better at ensuring the expected attendance was communicated to the barbecuers,” said Morgan Hill resident Larissa Overbey.
Last year’s cook-off drew an estimated 18,000 spectators and barbecue team members. The event organizer, the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, moved the contest to the OSC this year to accommodate bigger crowds and keep traffic out of the downtown area.
Gilbert Roman, also of Morgan Hill, attended the cook-off to eat, just like thousands of spectators, but he and his friends were disappointed to learn most of the people’s choice vendors had run out of meat before they arrived Saturday afternoon.
“We came here for the food, and I’m starving,” Roman said. “If you want to make (the event) great, bring in more vendors.”
But Roman noted, “We’re still having a good time,” as he held a cold beer in each hand. “It’s a great event. It brings everybody out.”
He said last year’s cook-off was better.
Another spectator, a self-described “pitmaster” from Fremont who cooks for her friends and hopes to hit the road to compete in No Bull and similar events in a few years, said she came to do her own judging.
“I learned that I’m pretty good,” laughed Valerie Draeseke, originally from New Orleans, who said her specialty is barbecued pork ribs. “I like checking out their equipment. The competitors are really focused, so they’re not so open to sharing their techniques.”
The competitors’ list was thinner this year than last year, with 43 teams competing in the official contest sanctioned by the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association. Last year, 66 teams competed, and the contest was the largest ever on the West Coast up to that date.
Competitors were judged in four categories – best chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket – and for the best meat overall. The people’s choice contest allowed attendees to purchase five tickets which they could redeem for a barbecue sample from teams who entered that part of the contest, and a ballot to vote on their favorite.
Judge Dick Good, a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge, said the competition was still impressive despite the lower turnout of teams.
“About 50 percent of the teams were new, but if we had any teams that didn’t know what they were doing, they weren’t here,” Good said.
Good is from Sacramento, and spends his summers judging similar contests all over Northern California. He has been a judge three years running in the No Bull competition.
It was also the first non-sports related event held at the OSC since the city-owned facility opened decades ago. Soccer players and their families competing in a tournament in adjacent fields didn’t seem to mind, except for the unexpectedly crowded parking areas they found on their arrival Saturday morning.
“I didn’t know the event was going on, but it seemed like there was enough parking (overall),” said Norm Bumgarner, whose 16-year-old son was competing in the tournament on the Santa Clara Sporting team. They have been to the OSC “numerous times” for similar tournaments.
“It seems like they’re just using the north fields for soccer, so it’s not that big a problem,” Bumgarner said.
Check back Monday for more photos, commentary from competitors and spectators, and a complete list of No Bull winners.
For each category (x4)
10th place – $100
9 – $125
8 – $150
7 – $175
6 – $200
5 – $250
4 – $300
3 – $350
2 – $400
1 – $450
Total: $2,500 (x4)
5th place – $100
4 – $200
3 – $300
2 – $500
1 – $900
Grand Champion: Huminie’s Hogalicious, Gilroy
Reserve Grand Champion: Dads Doing What They Love, Morgan Hill
People’s Choice winner: Big Ed’s Buzzard BBQ, San Jose
Locals contest winner: Huminie’s Hogalicious, Gilroy
Best pulled pork
1. OG BBQ
2. Too Ashamed to Name BBQ
3. Casual Smokers
1. 155 South Bar-B-Q
2. Too Ashamed to Name BBQ
3. Smokey’s Bar-B-Que
1. Dads Doing What They Love
2. Chain Smokers
3. Royal Smokin’ Hot BBQ
1. Bad S. BBQ
2. 155 South Bar-B-Q
3. Cecil’s Smok’n BBQ