A local fundraiser has blossomed into a national cooking competition.
Butts and Clucks, begun eight years ago as a fundraiser for the Weems Memorial Hospital foundation, was an initial success, but in 2017, after no one stepped up to organize the event, there was no Butts and Clucks.
This year, John Solomon, an avid competitive cook, , resurrected Butts and Clucks but as a barbeque competition, rather than a fundraiser. After learning that a Bay County barbeque event, sanctioned by the Florida Barbeque Association (FBA), had been cancelled, he sprang into action. The day after the announced change, Solomon called the FBA offices and petitioned to have a sanctioned event here.
Before accepting a petition, FBA must inspect the proposed site and the petitioning organization, and meet with the organizer to explain the FBA rules and requirements. Following that, the organizer appears before an assembly of FBA officials to answer questions before the final decision is made whether to sanction the proposed event.
This process normally takes about six months, but Solomon managed to jump through all the hoops in less than two months so he could meet his proposed date.
On Saturday, Jan. 27, 25 teams arrived in Apalachicola to ready to prepare some meat to remember. The cost of entry was $300, which included the competition, and a space for an RV if needed. Several of the competing cooks stayed in local hotels, and on the Friday night before the competition, they made their presence known in some of the local restaurants. “Hole in the Wall” reached capacity and closed its doors.
Entrants came from as far away as Port Charlotte, Apopka and Ashburn, Georgia. Solomon was not allowed to compete as organizer but was still on-site cooking ribs and more, to benefit the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Team Pig-Chicka-Cow-Cow from Thomasville, Georgia took the $2,000 grand prize for the event, as well as $400 for first place for chicken, $150 for fourth place for ribs, $300 for second place for pork, and $150 for fourth place for brisket.
First place for ribs went to Team Pork Rindz from Tallahassee. Nice Racks BBQ from Englewood, took first in both pork and brisket.
A total of $10,000 in prize money was awarded. Prizes were funded by the fees paid by competitive cooks and 30 local sponsors.
As an incentive to locals to participate in the event, Solomon included an ancillary competition for deviled eggs. Two Apalachicola women captured first and second place in the hen fruit competition, Kristen Anderson and Susan Schmidt.
“I was stunned when they called my name. I just made my after-church recipe,” Anderson said.
Third place was captured by Team Winks BBQ, in town for the competition.
The competition was an outstanding event according to participants.
“We are amazed at how wonderfully organized and well ran this contest has been, wrote Steve and Lorne Brumm of the Florida BBQ Association. John (Solomon), Sam (Gilbert) and Nancy (Hodgson) have done an outstanding job in such a short time. This certainly has the potential to become one of the Florida Barbeque Association main events moving forward.”
“I judged the Butts & Clucks event in Apalachicola and it was one of the best I've done in a very long time. You were well organized and your staff was spot on. The response from the locals made you feel like you were at home. Every restaurant we ate in welcomed us with open arms, even the hotel we stayed at (Best Western) had event flyers at the front desk,” wrote judge Steven J. Carrington.
Solomon said he expects entries for next year’s Butts and Clucks to more than double. He said there will be more samples of the competition barbeque on sale and next year the cook-off will feature a “swine tasting,” allowing visitors to buy an armband and sample barbeque all day long.