KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The grand prize for a new barbecue contest announced Tuesday goes well beyond the average prize money and bragging rights.
The winner of the “Made For Kansas City BBQ Championship” will decide the menu at an all-new restaurant inside Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal.
This competition is not open to everyone. It is intended for pitmasters registered with the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) who have competed regularly within the past three years.
Here’s another key thing: This pitmaster must be located within 60 miles of the airport.
Richard Fergola, owner of KC Grilling Company in Olathe and pitmaster for Fergolicious BBA, said he usually travels to out-of-town competitions but has flown before.
“Really, I have a Yeti soft cooler, and I just put all my meat in it and put it in overhead,” Fergola said.
Last November, Fergola was named Grand Champion at the KCBS World Invitational. It is now looking to competition that could bring its food to a wider audience at the new KCI terminal, which is due to open in 2023.
But the competition will be fierce, involving serious competitors with silly names.
“’Meat Rushmore.’ We have ‘All Forked Up for ‘Cue’. We have ‘Boom Chicka Cow Cow.’ We had ‘Happy Grill-more,’” he said, listing the names of naked teams that his commercial sponsors – but who he thinks could also be competitive contenders.
“I think this is a very unique opportunity. I think you could do some cool stuff with it. There will be a lot of media around this,” Fergola said.
“We anticipate that we will have $6-8 million in food sales revenue for the restaurant. And they will receive a 1% royalty on food sales,” said Amy Jungk, executive vice president of strategic relationships at Old World Spices.
Jungk, who helps coordinate the competition, said the royalty could be $60,000 to $80,000 on top of the $25,000 prize.
The winner’s food – beef brisket, pork, ribs and chicken – will dictate the recipes used at the restaurant. Pitmasters, however, will not have to manage the restaurant.
“Well, a lot of competitive pitmasters, you have to understand, have day jobs,” Jungk said.
“Some of them own restaurants, but a lot of them have that as a hobby and their passion. And maybe they don’t know how to start or take the first step to start a business. So , whether it’s a catalyst for them to open their own restaurant or have a food truck, maybe it’s a way for them to get their own brand of barbecue sauce and hit the market,” Jungk said.
But, focusing on food, Fergola said the menu could really expose people to something different.
“In competitive barbecue, unlike restaurant barbecue, the competition judge will take a bite and write down a score. Whereas if I’m at the restaurant, I’ll continue to eat, you know what I mean? said Fergola.
“And then I’ll make my judgment call in my head: ‘This place is great’ or ‘It’s not,'” Fergola said.
Entries for this competition will be drawn from the likely long list of people who register online. From there, 36 pitmasters will be competing near Worth Harley-Davidson Airport on June 10-11.
As the contest is intended to be an annual event, the menu will most likely be replaced each year with a new winner’s menu.
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