Martin C. Barry
While it may be not quite a year and a half since Manny Mavroudis started competing as a professional BBQ chef, this week and next the Laval-des-Rapides resident is in Orange Beach, Alabama competing for a six-figure prize purse and the privilege to be called the 2016 World Food Champion in the BBQ category.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you could make BBQ ribs, chicken, pork or brisket so well it would be worth a big payout, that’s exactly what Mavroudis thought before successfully qualifying to be a participant in what the World Food Championships’ organizers claim is “the world’s largest event in Food Sport.”
A shot at the crown
Mavroudis’ team is one of 430 from across the world who are seeking the ultimate food crown. He won the chance to compete by being on one of the top teams from Eastern Canada in the Canadian Food Championships. As a result, he will now have a shot for a major payday at WFC, where $100,000 is awarded for the best dish overall, and $10,000 is awarded in nine different categories: BBQ, Chili, Dessert, Bacon, Sandwich, Seafood, Burger, Steak, and Recipe.
He made the leap to professional this year from amateur food championships he’d been competing in for some time previously. In the former, amateur chefs work primarily with chicken and ribs, while the pro level also tests skills at BBQing pork and brisket.
Ribs are his favourite
“Brisket is difficult,” Mavroudis admitted in an interview, while adding that he loves doing ribs because of the relative simplicity of preparing them before BBQ. He’s less enthusiastic about chicken because preparing it for the smoker is much more complicated. Mavroudis cooks on Weber smokers and BBQs – a mid-priced brand he claims is the best value in a quality/cost ratio.
“In competition, fall-off-the-bone is overdone,” he said regarding a style of serving BBQ’d ribs that’s promoted by at least one prominent Montreal chicken and ribs joint. “In my first competition in Ottawa, I was in last place because I had overdone ribs that were fall-off-the bone.”
Start your smokers
On competition day at the World Food Championship, Mavroudis is lighting up his smokers as early as 3 am. Throughout the day there will be set times for contestants to turn the meat on their grills. In several pro-level competitions he took part in this year, he scored well, although he now anticipates reaching even higher in Orange Beach.
As for where he learned his cooking skills, Mavroudis said he spent five days at a BBQing competition seminar in Kansas City (a major U.S. centre for devotees) this past spring where “I took a lot of notes,” he added. “Do you feel the heat on the ribs?” he asked the Laval News reporter at one point during an interview when some smoked ribs were sampled. When he was told the seasoning was just hot enough to register on the palate, Mavroudis exclaimed “perfect,” obviously satisfied he’d been up to his task.
The fall-off-the-bone debate
Regarding the soaring popularity of BBQ’d rack ribs in both retail food stores and restaurants, Mavroudis said, “Everybody’s used to fall-off-the-bone ribs. All restaurants serve fall-off-the-bone because that’s what people like in Quebec, Canada and most places. But if you visit restaurants in the Kansas City area or in Texas, you’ll find that the ribs are slightly different. They’re not fall-off-the-bone. If you want to eat good BBQ you’ve got to go to Kansas City.”
Follow him on Facebook
Now in its fifth year, The World Food Championships platform ranges from live-event competitions to a robust multimedia platform that helps pro chefs, home cooks, and competition teams achieve food fame and fortune as TV’s next big food stars.
You can cheer on Manny Mavroudis by following him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SKARAoldschoolbbq/or following the results at www.worldfoodchampionships.com. There’s also a good chance that Mavroudis will be seen on TV, as the event is filmed for national cable television. It has previously been seen on the A&E Network as well as the Discovery Network.