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Feats of Smoke (2)

Enter the Certified Barbeque Judges — trained by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) and known in pitmaster parlance as CBJs — who bring knowledge, skill, and stamina to each competition, cutting through the smoke and sauce in order to set the record straight.

Rock Stars

If seemingly ordinary Iowans transform into superheroes at competitive Iowa barbeque events, then the folks who cook the meat certainly approach rock star status.

Arriving Friday evening before judging on Saturday afternoon, they haul huge trailers festooned with brazen paint jobs and distinctive logos.

Team names often feature hogs and menace (Swine Assassins, Wicked Pig, R Butts R Smokin’). The rigs they tow range from the outlandish to downright posh. Some are air-conditioned, featuring full kitchens with running water, sound systems, and sleeping quarters.

For most regular competitors, each weekend during the season means another road trip to another barbeque showdown. 

And, like a touring band, they are in it for fun and a love of their craft. Of course, money and everlasting barbeque glory are also on the line.

“Set it and forget it,” says Steve Bryant. His broad smile and friendly manner cut through the fragrant haze generated by his smoker after he puts his first meat — brisket — into his cooker at 9:00 p.m. on Friday.

Steve is the patriarch of Meadow Valley BBQ, a team from Ames that has been competing for more than 12 years.

For him, cooking and enjoying food is best accomplished with friends and family.

He cooks with his wife, Penny, and Josh and Liz, his son and daughter-in-law. His earliest gastronomic memories are the farm meals shared with his family and hired hands during harvest.

Overnight and through the following morning additional mantras will guide Meadow Valley’s culinary efforts.

(Read more about Feats of Smoke)

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