HomeFood & DiningWhere There’s Smoke, There’s a Crowd

Where There’s Smoke, There’s a Crowd

Despite blustery weather that overturned tarps and soaked competing teams, about 350 guests savored baby back ribs from 21 teams at the 15th annual Key Biscayne Rib Off Saturday. Organizer York Flik said while the attendance wasn’t a record, it was not off much from prior years. 

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“I was very worried. Not about the teams, they’re die-hards. I was worried about the turnout. But everyone thought it was awesome,” Flik said. Winds were frequently over 20 miles-per-hour, as teams hunkered down during squalls that crossed the Key Biscayne Yacht Club property. 

The charity competition is in honor of Dr. Robert Kemper, a beloved family physician, and proceeds fund a medical scholarship under the auspices of the Key Biscayne Community Foundation. 

Miami Metrozoo spokesman Ron Magill was one of the judges for the contest. He said he needed no convincing to sign up for hours of evaluating smoked meat on appearance, flavor, and texture. 

“When I got the phone call, I thought somebody was punking me,” Magill said. “Ribs are my favorite food on the planet.” (You can hear his take on the event and other news on the Anti-Social podcast).

Fico Sanchez and Roberta Veiga Sanchez pose at 2021 KB Riboff, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Sanchez was team captain of the winning Galen Smokers (KBI photo via Fico Sanchez)

The top spot went to a new team, Galen Smokers, a group that used a sous vide technique to do most of the cooking before finishing them off with a grill and a searing torch. Team leaders decided on the sous vide approach —in which food is sealed in a plastic bag and then cooked in an electronically-controlled water bath— after a lot of practice. 

“During the pandemic, we ended up doing a lot of ribs in-house, said team captain Fico Sanchez. “We kind of perfected it.”

But the sous vide technique is not without critics, who questioned whether it should be allowed in the future. Flik said two winners in the past three years have used sous vide, which can deliver very precise results. 

“I am getting complaints,” Flik said. “There’s a push to use just natural wood, maybe St. Louis style.” He said the committee is also thinking of another competition earlier in the year in 2022.

Sanchez dismissed the complaints about sous vide as sour grapes, saying his team was on site at 5:15 a.m. to immerse their ribs in specially-constructed water containers. “There is a technique to it,” he said. 

Of getting up early, Sanchez said it was “100 percent worth it. We put the time and effort in to be the best.”

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Team NamePoints  Place
Galen Smokers751st
Rib Rubbers712nd
TJ Sound Machine703rd (TIE)
Porkque – no703rd (TIE)
The Ribbones703rd (TIE)
Meat the Press 69
Slab Dat69
Stony Bromas69
Team Rude boy68
Notorious PIG68
Smoke Trail68
Team Whatapig67
1791 smokers67
Ribbed for her Pleasure67
Village People66
QT Cooking64
Rib Rats63
Rib & Dip61
Bad to the Bone61
The Embers58
KB Smokin Bubbas57
Dan Winton, captain of the Meat The Press team, takes photo of ribs on grill, with Thom Mozloom, left. Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 (KBI Photo Tony/Winton)

Editor’s Note – the author was a member of the Meat The Press team.


Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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