Don Litchfield and Carolee Ornbaun of Rocco’s Bar & Grill hosted the second annual Rocco’s on the River Rib and Chili Cook-off on Saturday. Entrants started around 6 AM so that the meats could be ready by the afternoon.
A total of 11 groups, comprised of local catering businesses and barbecue enthusiasts, vied for the prize of money, a trophy, and bragging rights.
Judges were carefully selected to make it fair. Judges considered appearance, taste, and tenderness. After the seven judges received the entries, the booths started serving everyone else. All voters were armed with two wooden tokens to be given to their choices of best chili and best ribs.
Concerns of weather caused the event to perhaps be a bit calmer than expected, but that did not detract from the collective mood. Music and a beer truck were cancelled due to the threat of rain. The weather remained mild and was perfect for chili.
Across-the-board racks of ribs were provided by Rocco’s. The turnout was significant enough to be considered a success. Each of the eleven teams received 20 racks of ribs and they were all nearly consumed by the time the results were announced.
Ample time was given for voters to make up their minds. Finally, the much anticipated moment arrived when the winners were announced:
People’s choice chili winner was the Colusa Rural Firefighters with their incredibly spicy recipe.
People’s choice rib winner was Lock’d N Smoke BBQ, with Carson Lock manning the meat.
Judge’s second place rib winner of $500 was Big O and Mo, with Alan Odor presenting his award-winning spice combination.
Judge’s first place rib winner with bragging rights and $1,000 went to the Colusa County Sheriff’s team Thin Blue Line, with Jim Saso at the smoker.
“It’s good for the community,” Don Litchfield, head chef at Rocco’s said. “Community events are great to do. We really enjoy doing stuff for the community and donating back to the animal shelter.”
The event honored their mascot, Rocco, a bulldog that unfortunately passed away last year.
Litchfield, who said barbecuing is a labor of love, has been grilling for 20 years.
“I read a lot,” he said. “A lot of my knowledge is from the school of hard knocks. Barbecue is my passion.” ■