The fourth annual Butts-N-Clucks cook-off to benefit Weems Memorial Hospital was a sell-out event Saturday.
Last year’s Butts-N-Clucks had its challenges not the least of which was stormy weather, but the morning of May 10 was breezy and cool and, although a few clouds dotted the blue sky, the Eastpoint Fire Department’s cooking team had enough faith to set up without the cover of a tent.
Their confidence was justified.
Participants said the Butts N Clucks Cook-off was a walk in the park, literally.
“This was the perfect setting,” Organizer Jody Fortunas-Wilson said. “If we had been in Riverside Park, like last year, we would have roasted in the sun. Battery Park is much better.”
Chef extraordinaire John Solomon served up 40 Boston butts. The pork went on sale at 11 a.m. and was gone before noon. Volunteers dished up 130 dinners and 50 sandwiches. The pork sale raised over $7000.
“We could have sold 25 more if I had had them,” said Solomon.
The new Battery Park gazebo provided a great stage for this year’s auction, once again emceed by quipster Chuck Spicer and silver-tongued Harry Arnold.
Hard-working Liz Sisung assembled more than 100 items for the block and when the money was counted there was over $3,600 in the till. Among the items offered were two pecan pies baked by Solomon’s mother.
Sisung said she also raised $2,000 in sponsorships.
Six teams competed in the cook-off portion of the days events. Danny Itzkovitz and family took time off from a busy schedule at Tamara’s Café and the Tapas Bar to attend. Team Retsyo was there. The Eastpoint volunteer fire department sent their esteemed cooking crew to join the fun. Competing for the first time were Bert Hicks and Ty Gillikin. Team Big Top were resplendent in neon yellow t-shirts. Last but not least, the Pogy Road Porkers captained by Joel Norred brought along an elaborate rig to support their culinary efforts.
The competition was very close, as three teams took the top honors on Saturday.
Team Restsyo took second place for both pork and chicken. Newcomers Hicks and Gillikin took third place for chicken, and first place for pork with a cumulative score of 86 points in that category. Gillikin attributed some of their success to a home-built cooker he constructed from stainless steel 14 years ago. “It maintains a temperature of about 250,” he said.
The pork that came out of Gillikin’s cooker was tender and moist with a mild smoky after taste.
The biggest winners were Team Big Top who won the coveted golden apron for best in show. They also took third place for pork and first place for chicken with a remarkable 89 points.
“That is something you just don’t see. It’s a very high score. They are up there with the best of the best,” said Solomon.
“Hairs are standing up on the back of my neck,” said Richard Wade after donning golden the apron.
The Big Top chicken, served with a choice of four sauces was smoky and so tender it literally fell off the bone.
Norred and the Pogy Road Porkers walked away with the award for best display.
All of the competitors sold out of food by closing at 4 p.m. They earned a grand total of $1,150.Team Big Top sold almost $1,000 worth of dinners and sandwiches.
“I was shocked,” said Karl Lucy. “We counted it three times to be sure we were right.”
Solomon said he wanted to thank everyone who participated in the event and was thrilled with the final tally.
He said, “I’m really proud. The event has raised more each year.”
Sisung said she has begun planning for next year, with hopes to include a silent auction and perhaps other attractions. She said, next year, plans are for the Eastpoint Fire Department to use its equipment to prepare even more whole pork butts for sale whole.
The cook-off raised more than $13,000 to benefit the hospital and a good time was had by all.