Barbeque experts and famous vendors staked claim to Rib Village on Tuesday as the setup for the 24th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off commenced. The event, beginning today, is an annual stop for some of the best rib cookers in the country.
Banners and trophies were already on display as racks of ribs were being seasoned and prepared to enter the smokers of award-winning grill masters. Andrew Mackay, of Aussom Aussie Australian BBQ, has been coming to the event for more than 10 years and the Aussom Aussie barbeque team has attended Best in the West for 20 years.
“We love coming to Sparks. It transforms into this enormous, fantastic event with 500,000 people and thousands of pounds of ribs,” Mackay said.
Mackay and many of his team members hail from Sydney, Australia and participate in rib cook-offs around the country throughout the year. He said the Best in the West is one they never miss because of the environment and competition.
“This is the largest show in the country, in our opinion, the largest in the world. So it’s definitely worth the trip,” he said. “We were here last week getting used to the climate, getting supplies ordered and we set up (Tuesday) and are prepared for six days of cooking.”
Aussom Aussie has placed first at Best in the West once and placed second and third in 2002 and 2004, respectively. Mackay said they have received compliments on many of their sauces and specialty creations, including their raspberry chipotle and blue flame sauces.
“Our raspberry chipotle has a little bit of heat, just on the back of the tongue, and the blue flame hot sauce is hotter than a, yeah, it’s quite warm,” Mackay said. They also will be crafting some “real cornbread” for visitors to Victorian Square today.
Paul St Claire, a cook for Uncle Bub’s BBQ of Westmont, Ill., was busy sprinkling dry rub on a rack of ribs about to be placed in the smoker. He said this is Uncle Bub’s second year at Best in the West and they are looking to improve upon last year’s success.
“We won best sauce last year, but this year we are focusing on the ribs,” St Claire said.
Last year’s first place winner, Back Forty Texas Barbeque, took home $7,500. Second and third place winners received $3,000 and $2,000 and fourth and fifth places took home $1,000 and $500, respectively. Best in the West also holds the Best Sauce and People’s Choice competition, with Best Sauce winner pocketing $500.
Returning to the Best in the West for its 7th year is the annual Nugget World Rib Eating Championship (NWREC), a contest sanctioned by Major League Eating that challenges contestants to consume as many pounds of ribs as possible in 12 minutes.
World-record holder Joey Chestnut, a five-time NWREC champion and professional competitive eater, is expected to defend his title today at 6 p.m. and challenge his world record of 9.8 lbs of ribs.
The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off is a five-day event filled with an arts and crafts fair, kids attractions and play areas, live entertainment throughout the event and hundreds of rib recipes for the tasting. Events kick off today at 11 a.m. in downtown Sparks.