The BBQ Battle of Lalique Pointe will officially go down as a draw, but thanks to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush, the Breast Cancer Foundation was the real winner.
In a charity barbecue throw-down between the two civil service titans on Sunday, Gumbo the dog decided which of the two competitors would take the first-place trophy home when he chose Mr. Bush’s barbecued rib over Mr. Manderson’s.
The competition came about during the Breast Cancer Gala Dinner on Oct. 4 when, after the live auction portion, Dale Crighton noticed that the audience had an appetite for more bidding, so he suggested a barbecue cook-off between the two senior civil servants.
The announcement caught both of the competitors by surprise.
“All I know is Dale went up to [emcee] Vicki Wheaton, and then she said, ‘We have another item for the auction, as long as the governor will agree to be a judge,’” Mr. Manderson said.
“I was sitting next to Dale and I smacked him when he did it,” laughed Mr. Bush.
The impromptu auction item eventually sold for US$10,000 to local businessman Stephen Trench, who, according to Mr. Bush, was at one point bidding for the item against his wife Wanda Ebanks.
Being a good sport, Mr. Crighton ended up providing the Lalique Point venue and sponsoring the food and wine for the event.
Wanting to share the experience, Mr. Trench and Mr. Crighton invited a number of guests to the BBQ challenge.
“We started out with 14 people, but I think we have around 40 now,” Mr. Trench said, adding that there was probably enough food for at least twice that many.
Mr. Trench said he thought the concept for the auction item was received well enough that it could become an annual way of raising money for the Breast Cancer Foundation.
“I think it will go on,” he said.
Both competitors took the cook-off seriously, with Mr. Bush starting his pulled pork dish 24 hours before the event and Mr. Manderson getting up at 5 a.m. on cook-off day to put his beef brisket on the grill. During the course of the day, the two bantered back and forth on a group messenger chat and Mr. Manderson was still in bantering mode as the food was heading to the tables.
“I love to barbecue, but I never did it in a competition. I’ve never won a competition like this before,” he said confidently, adding that he enjoyed competing. “It’s good for the soul.”
At stake was a “BBQ King” trophy and bragging rights for the year, but beyond that, the loser would have to accept the shame of the second place trophy: A banana with the words, “Not the BBQ King.”
In addition to slow-cooked beef brisket, Mr. Manderson prepared West Bay-style barbecued pork ribs and barbecued chicken. To go with his Niman Ranch pork butt roasts, Mr. Bush prepared barbecued ribs and thick-cut, bone-in rib eye steaks. A variety of side dishes were also served.
The judging panel, which comprised Mr. Crighton, Mr. Trench and Governor Helen Kilpatrick, tasted two dishes from each competitor, the ribs and beef dishes from both.
Governor Kilpatrick said that Mr. Manderson’s ribs were decidedly better than Mr. Bush’s, but that Mr. Bush’s beef was better than Mr. Manderson’s.
“Numerically, it is a tie,” she said.
However, the crowd wanted a more decisive outcome and there was some confusion as to how to choose the winner. First, Mr. Crighton tried to convince Premier Alden McLaughlin to cast the deciding vote, but, being a good politician, he declined.
“I have to work with both of these guys. Tomorrow,” he said, noting that one of them wasn’t going to be happy if he lost. “But at least he won’t be unhappy with me!”
Eventually a solution was found: Gumbo, a dog that accompanied his owner to the event, would be offered a rib from each competitor. The chef of the rib he went to first would take home the first-place trophy, and neither would have the shame of accepting the runner-up banana trophy.
Gumbo chose Mr. Bush’s rib, which Mr. Manderson said was fine with him because he didn’t cook dog food.
Mr. Manderson said he was going to look into rumors that Gumbo had been promised permanent residence and naturalization as a reward for his decision.