There are plenty of things going on each year at the once again annual Westford Rotary Pig’n’Pepper, and the New England Barbecue Society’s annual contest is no exception. And yes, there were a few changes between this year and last year, even if most people visiting the festival may not have seen them.
The event, one of six this month held by the New England Barbecue Society, also known as NEBS, was held on the far end of the Nashoba Valley Ski Area; beyond the likely interest of many members of the public and the event’s home last year at the Ski Area, which this year held the festival’s “food-on-a-stick pavilion.”
Between that change and an added fourth grilling category that required judging during Saturday as well as Sunday, NEBS contest official Sandra Schmucki was pleased with how things went, and thought there could have been even more entries with added communication.
“Where they have it set up, it’s more level, and the teams enjoyed it (on Sunday and Saturday), I think it may have even been better,” said Schmucki. “There’s less public down here, but that doesn’t really take away from what we do, sometimes the public thinks they can get food here when they’re really looking for the vendors, which is where they mainly were this year.”
However, despite the changes, this year’s event still held a competitive spirit that Schmucki believes is far beyond what one might find in what most folks think of as a barbecue, with 18 competitors over the two days of judging.
“You have to put your best of your best in there, and there’s money involved along with a trophy, something you won’t find just grilling in a backyard,” she said. “So when you’re among your peers, and there’s a winner, you’re not just pleasing your friends and family, you’re validated among judges (and it’s) in a blind competition, in a backyard people might enjoy your food just because they know you.”
Canton resident Brendan Burek, head chef for the Transformers BBQ team and co-founder of New England BBQ and Catering in Canton, was one of the three competitors on Sunday.
At one point attended nearly 20 competitions like this one per year, including past Rotary events here at Nashoba, but this weekend it was all about the barbecue for him.
“It’s more fun, there’s a little less pressure here than doing someone’s wedding, if we screw up it’s just our money and our day,” he said.
More information on NEBS is available on their website.