HomeIsland LifeAfter sous vide controversy, BBQ team smokes KB Rib Off prize

After sous vide controversy, BBQ team smokes KB Rib Off prize

The lure of smoky aromas from 22 teams filled the skies of Key Biscayne Saturday, attracting an enthusiastic crowd to the 17th Key Biscayne Rib Off, but the news was especially sweet for team members whose favorite cooking method was banned after a prior win. 

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The Galen Smokers made a successful pivot in cooking techniques. In 2021, the team won with a sous vide style. After complaints that the water-bag technique wasn’t authentic, the method was banned for subsequent contests. 

This year, Galen Smokers won again in the traditional way by lighting a fire. Or, more accurately, a pellet grill. 

Team founder Fico Sanchez says he doesn’t feel vindicated, because his group won according to the rules. 

“We know how to cook, and good cooks will always be rewarded,” he said. “Does it quiet the crowd regarding us and sous vide? Probably.” 

Team Captain Ruben Gil said the team made a last-minute recipe change to tailor their taste to the judges, but said the windy conditions played havoc with consistent temperatures. 

Galen Smokers Captain Ruben Gil, holding microphone, thanks judges after winning the 17th Key Biscayne Rib Off, Saturday April 15, 2023 (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

“I am humbled by the fact that we won.” He said half of the $2,100 winners’ purse would be donated to the Key Biscayne Community Foundation. 

The charitable event benefits future doctors in honor of the late Robert Kemper, a beloved island physician. Addison Brown and Allison Lindsey are the winners of this year’s scholarship. Brown, who attended the competition, said she plans to follow in Kemper’s footsteps as a family physician.

“There’s a lot of value in going out into the communities and talking with people, seeing what people want and need from their health care providers, and training people to be able to fill that gap,” said Brown, whose family hails from the Ocala area. She said following in the family practice shoes of Dr. Kemper feels natural, because her father was also a family physician. 

“There’s a ton of need here,” she said, especially in immigrant populations. 

The Key Biscayne Community Foundation was still assessing numbers from the event, hosted by the Key Biscayne Yacht Club.

Scoring Details

The competition to be the best was intense. Organizers have frequently opined that teams with an early submission time tend to perform better than competitors who submit samples after judges have tasted scads of ribs. And indeed, a statistical analysis confirmed this observation this year, finding a strong mathematical correlation between turn-in time (which is assigned randomly) and order of finish.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Reglado shares laugh while watching over her staff’s entry for the District 7 team, Saturday April 15, 2023. Regalado’s team was part of a five-way tie for 8th place (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

However, there were also some interesting patterns, as judges sometimes had very different ratings of the same entry. In several cases, there were gaps of 10 or more points for the same rib from judge to judge. 

Here is the full order of finish:

Team NameTotalJudge 1Judge 2Judge 3
Galen Smokers75252426
Ribbed for her Pleasure74252524
KB Smokin Bubbas72222525
Team Asterisk72272223
Saucy Swine Smokers69222225
Slab Dat67222223
The Ribbones66232023
Team Woodchuck65162623
Rib Rubbers62211823
Stony Bromas62262016
Bad to the Bone62212120
Meat the Press62222020
Holy Smokes58242212
Notorious PIG58112324
You Only Rib Once55171919
Salt N Pepper54102321
Smoke Trail48181812
Team Rude Boy50211712
TJ Sound Machine38111116
Joey Flechas, a Miami Herald reporter, applies a last saucing to the Meat The Press team entry at the 17th Key Biscayne Rib Off, Saturday, April 15, 2023. The team was part of a five-way tie for 8th place (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

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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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