Burnet hosts third state High School BBQ Cook Off

Burnet Iron Dawgs member Preston Reeves wraps up his brisket during last year's Texas High School BBQ Cook Off Championship at Burnet High School. The Iron Dawgs finished third in the 2017 competition. Burnet High School's own Kianna Moss of the Jalapeno Hottie team was named grand champion and her team won first place overall last year. The Red Hot Raiders of Taft High School came in second. This year's Cook Off will be held Saturday, May 5 at Burnet High School.

By Savanna Gregg

Burnet Bulletin

Texas is known for many things, but many Texans agree barbecue is at the top of that list. This Friday, high school barbecue teams from all across the state will fire up their pits for the third annual State of Texas High School BBQ Cook Off at Burnet High School.

Started by Burnet CISD in 2016, this event was created for students in the Career Technical Education programs – including Culinary Arts, Agriculture, Welding, Foods, and Food Science – and has grown exponentially every year, continuing to provide learning experiences for students through friendly competition and delicious food.

Burnet High School CTE instructors have been preparing their students for this competition by teaching them the ins and outs of creating award-winning barbecue, perfecting knife skills and cooking techniques, as well as studying consumer science and creating certain flavors.

“We call it a capstone project, in which students in CTE courses take everything they have learned about theory and the hands on aspect and develop it into a final product that they are able to present to the community,” BHS Culinary Arts instructor Chef Mike Erickson said. “It gives them a sense of pride, showing what they learned and receiving feedback from people who aren't their age.”

Not only do students come up with recipes and create the food for the competition, but some of the barbecue pits are created by students in the hands-on Ag Mechanics program.

“The kids will start with a piece of metal and a dream in their mind, and learn to combine the two to create the pit,” Ag Mechanics instructor Brandon Evans said. “Some of these pits are amazing, with the different technologies and machinery used to make them.”

From old fashioned to modern, these barbecue pits give students a chance to explore their creative side and contribute to the success and pride experienced in the BBQ Cook Off. Students must grasp the concept of barbecue to ensure their pits are effective in the competition.

“They have to understand how wood burns, and how to create air flow to get the wood to burn,” Evans said. “And it all depends on size and how much they want to cook.”

With a capstone project such as the High School BBQ Cook Off, students have the chance to show the community their ability to take all aspects of the barbecue world and combine it into something enjoyable for themselves and those supporting them.

“This event focuses on CTE,” Erickson said. “We are focusing on building partnerships with adults in the industry. It is important for students to interact with the community, adults, and local businesses that can give back.”

The secret to ensuring a winning piece of meat is capturing a mix of flavors throughout the cut, of which judges may get a taste in just a small portion.

“All the judges get is one bite,” Evans said. “They're looking for a little bit of sweet and a little heat, so the students have to make sure they get all flavors, and something that stands out, in that one bite.”

The teamwork between the Culinary Arts and Ag Mechanics students is evident in their past success.

“We have blended both Culinary Arts and Ag Mechanics together,” Evans said. “It is a together thing; we are trying to get it going and keep it going.”

The event begins Friday, May 4, at 11 a.m. as 48 teams will arrive and begin to set up their stations and attend educational workshops presented by well-known barbecue experts, including Cowboy Chef Mike Newton, who was featured on Season 8 of MasterChef; Curt Sheard of Big Boi's BBQ Amazing Sauces and Ribs; the “King of Chicken” Dr. Smoke BBQ Justin Margist; Ken Reed of Brisket University; “Arnie Tex” Segovia, AKA Mr. Consistent, of Smokin' Lonestar BBQ Competition and Catering; and Mike Gomez of 5G's BBQ.

“Hearing things firsthand from these entrepreneurs and the people in the community brings it full circle for these kids,” Erickson said. “It's nice to have one big event where we can bring speakers and adults in the industry and families together to root them on. It is huge for a child to be able to have the feedback and praise and getting to say 'I'm doing something awesome.'”

Students will begin cooking on Saturday, May 5, at 6 a.m., and dishes will be blind-judged throughout the day by various members of the community. The Cook Off will end with the awards ceremony in the BHS gym at 5 p.m.

The public is invited to attend the family-friendly Cook Off, enjoy the live music, and share the excitement with families and students from across the Lone Star State while supporting Burnet High School.

For more information on the cook off, visit highschoolbbq.com or the Facebook page at facebook.com/HighSchoolBBQ.

There is still a need for judges; those interested in becoming a judge for the State of Texas High School BBQ Cook Off are asked to email Brandon Evans at bevans@burnetcisd.net.

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