Perry Bax burns for competition, and does so successfully as long as he doesn’t over cook the meat.
Bax is a barbecue enthusiast and one of 20 contestants to participate in Saturday’s inaugural “Rib Off” at the Forest Park Picnic Grove. As a member of the The Chi-town Smokers, Bax joined other amateur cookers in setting the contest ablaze with serious and spirited barbecue.
“We go into these competitions with no expectations, mainly because we don’t know anything about the judges,” Bax said. “You just have to go in there and cook the best you can.”
All puns aside, the village’s Community Center Director Betty Thompson said Forest Park is hot right now. Contest organizers wanted to host an event that was different for Chicago’s suburbs and the idea caught on like wild fire.
“Our main goal was to get as many ribbers as possible,” Thompson said. “Before advertising for registration we already had the 20 [ribbers] signed up and a waiting list. It spread quickly by word of mouth and we are thrilled.”
Bax, 49, is a music-producing podcaster by day and a food pyrotechnic by night. Bax said he craves these friendly competitions.
“These cooking and barbecue contests are a lot of fun,” Bax said. “[Our team] wants to put our stuff against the big dogs.”
Participants in the Rib Off used only pork ribs and had to supply their own cooking equipment and instruments-electric grills were forbidden. Judges ranked the entries in three different categories; taste, originality, and visual presentation. The winner took home $500, second went away with $300, third picked up $200, and the crowd favorite captured $100.
Contestants also prepared smaller samples to sell to the public. Live music and children’s activities added to the attraction.
“I love ribs,” John Osga of River Forest said. “Whenever there is a place where you can get 20 different kinds of ribs, drinks and music, I am ecstatic.”
Though the competitive drive to out-rib others was evident Saturday, Rib Off contestants also found their own community of gas-grill and marinade fanatics.
Bill Mehilos, a 49-year-old senior technical analyst moonlights as a griller. Mehilos said he has found a kinship in grilling that makes these events truly appealing.
“There is a whole camaraderie surrounding the competition circuit,” Mehilos said. “We often run into the same teams from contest to contest, and although we compete against each other, we are friends as well.”