For the uninitiated, Meatopia is food writer Josh Ozersky's massive festival dedicated to all things meat, and it has been held exclusively in NYC for the past nine years. This Friday's tasting event in Oakland, featuring local chefs from Haven, Bocanova, and Pizzaiolo, as well as some of the country's best meat chefs, is the first Meatopia event held outside New York. But the weekend also includes something extra: a barbecue competition.
The Bare Bones BBQ contest will feature 10 teams competing for top honors with none of the fancy gadgets and modern enhancements that have taken over modern barbecue competitions, according to Ozersky.
"Competition barbecue has become so corrupted by these gross technical tools," he said, citing, among other things, fancy rigs, the use of tinfoil covers and margarine braises, and Blu-Tooth thermometers so competitors can check the meat's temperature on their iPhones far away from the barbecue action.
So Ozersky decided to act on a long-held dream of a pure barbecue competition, where competitors are given the same meat, wood, and grilling devices, and letting the true talent shine through in the form of their skill and spices. (Read the official rules here.)
"It's going back to an older form of barbecue, about smoke and meat and fire," said Ozersky. "If you couldn't do it in the eighteenth century, you couldn't do it here."
He also dismissed the late practice of letting novice judge the contest. "A lot of these contests, they would give anyone who showed up a three-hour course in barbecue and then let them be the judge," he said. "It's like if you taught someone to read, they passed the GRE, and then you let them judge the National Book Award."
Ozersky compiled a team of expert judges, including himself, Nick Pihakis and Rodney Scott of Southern BBQ chain Jim-n-Nicks and Fatback Collective, a chef from the famous competition team of Ric's Righteous Ribs, Ryan Kraetsch of the Butcher's Guild, and David Duarte from Apple Jack's BBQ.
"[I wanted to] pack the jury with true barbecue experts, preferably those with intimate technical knowledge of the smoky arts," Ozersky said.
While commoners likely won't get a chance to sample the expert cuts, you can head over to the competition and cheer on your favorite team -- and watch true barbecue connoisseurs in action. Judging will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 22.
Buy tickets for Meatopia's opening party online -- $50 gets you two drinks and all the meat you can eat. Admission to the Eat Real Festival itself is free.