Earlier this month I was honored to participate as a guest judge at a Grill Master Cook Off competition held by the West 94th Street Pub in Durham. The event featured 7 backyard chefs in a friendly competition to see who could make the most creative and tastiest barbecue chicken and corn on the cob. Competitors also had the option of creating a specialty item for judging as well. At stake was a free trip to Las Vegas for the winner and the eternal glory that comes with winning the title of “Grill Master”!
The public was invited to come taste each competitors creations and earned the right to do so by helping a great cause – feeding the hungry. To get a sample of the grilled food, those attending could make a monetary donation or donate food to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. The event ended up raising over $450 in monetary donations and more than 1,800 pounds in food donations.
I was one of four judges for the event. Joining me in the enviable task of eating all this wonderful food was Kathy Hanrahan of WRAL “Out & About,” Durham Magazine Editor Matt Dees, and Nancy Wykle of the Durham Herald Sun. When we first arrived all four of us walked around and got a feel for what each grill station was creating. Given there was a hungry crowd waiting to sample we quickly go down to business trying each of the seven dishes created and recorded our scores.
Judging was extremely difficult because all of the competitors did a really great job and I found something I liked about each dish. It was amazing how seven people could make such different and yet wonderfully delicious barbecue chicken using there different techniques, spices and rubs. While I enjoyed everything I tried, there were two competitors that really “made it work” for me when it came to flavor, tenderness, and creativity.
When the judging was done I had these two competitors ranked almost exactly the same. I was curious to hear the final results and whether or not my fellow judges ranked them in a similar fashion. While we waited for the votes to be tallied I enjoyed a cold beer and watched a good old fashioned watermelon eating contest.
In the end, the winning chef and “Grill Master” of the day was Jay Adams. He was one of the two competitors I had ranked at the top and I was very happy to see him to take home the well deserved win. He had crafted a great sauce to marinated his chicken with that was a combination of some secret spices, molasses, and sea salt. It really made for a delicious and tender piece of barbecue grilled chicken. He also did a great job with the corn on the cob by keeping it simple but adding some unique flavoring with a peppering of spices.
While talking with Jay during the competition he mentioned he is working on launching his own sauce business and it is in the early stages of development. You can check out his website for future updates on his sauces and events. I look forward to trying some more of his great food in the future and hope he enjoys his well deserved trip to Vegas!
I love competitions like this, because they raise money for a good cause and it brings local amateur chefs together. During the contest I even saw a few of the chefs visiting each others grill stations to try their different dishes and compare notes. It was nice to see such comradery among the competitors. The folks at West 94th Street Pub did a great job organizing the event and helping to raise money for a great cause. Check out their website below for more info about the pub, their menu, and future events. I plan to go back soon to try their famous fish ‘n’ chips!
West 94th Street Pub
4711 Hope Valley Road
Durham, NC 27707 (Map)