Chris Allen, Mission Command Training Program, takes a photo of his “The Loop” team members Lt. Col. Dallas Cheatham, Combat Training Center Directorate, Combined Arms Center- Training, and Maj. Chris Blom, Global Simulation Capability, CAC-T, as they build a bacon weave during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Charlotte Richter/Staff Writer

Eight teams competed for the best barbecue titles in chicken, beef and overall grand champion categories during the 2022 Firefest BBQ Blaze competition, in conjunction with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, April 8 at the Frontier Conference Center.

“The Loop” team members Maj. Chris Blom, Global Simulation Capability, Combined Arms Center- Training, and Lt. Col. Dallas Cheatham, Combat Training Center Directorate, CAC-T, build a bacon weave during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. The Loop also included Chris Allen, Mission Command Training Program. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Firefest CEO Bradley Ball said the purpose of the event is to boost morale and thank troops while teaching life skills through friendly competition. He said Firefest and its sponsors provide everything needed to conduct the event.

“Flying Pig” team member Marc Kane, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, divides his team’s chicken entry into seven parts for judging during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Team Flying Pig was named the grand champion of the competition, as well as took first place in the beef category. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

The competition was free to enter, and Firefest provided barbecue tools, rubs, sauces, chicken and beef. Teams first cooked and presented chicken, then burgers before a final evaluation. The Garrison Command Team and other guest judges evaluated submissions on a five-point scale measuring appearance, taste, and tenderness.

Firefest Barbecue Ambassador Jim Johnson presented rules before the competition and gave tips to team members during an hour-long chef’s meeting/master class. Johnson has earned 78 grand championship barbecue titles and has more than 30 years of barbecue experience that he attempted to share with participants.

“(In) my class, I teach them enough that they’ll at least be up in the middle of the pack (during a competition), so they don’t have to go through that three-year learning curve that I had to go through,” Johnson said. “It took me three years before I started getting good at what I was doing, but it’s an expensive lesson.”

Johnson offered guidance to competitors during each round. He said he enjoys teaching young soldiers life skills and helping instill camaraderie between competitors. He said he also enjoys touring the installations between competitions.

The chicken entry by the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition team “The Loop” awaits sampling April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“For us to be able to come in and give back… that is the most important thing for me is to be able to get back to the military, and it’s an honor for me to be here. I love being with soldiers; it’s a great thing, and it’s great companionship,” Johnson said.

“Simulated BBQ” team member Curt Pangracs, Directorate of Simulation Education, Army University, divides his chicken entry into seven parts for judging during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Most teams entered the competition with no prior experience or with one team member who had previously competed.

“I’ve always wanted to do barbecue competitions, but I guess it is a little intimidating, maybe especially being here in Kansas City, but having it all provided and having (Johnson’s) instructions like that, I learned more in that hour than in the past 10 years smoking in my backyard,” said “The Loop” team member Maj. Chris Blom, Global Simulation Capability, Combined Arms Center- Training, who entered the competition with two of his neighbors, Chris Allen, Mission Command Training Program, and Lt. Col. Dallas Cheatham, Combat Training Center Directorate, CAC-T.

“Simulated BBQ” team member Curt Pangracs, Directorate of Simulation Education, Army University, who entered the competition with co-worker John Lord, said he had learned the importance of time management during previous competitions, as well as how to adjust his taste for judges.

“Flying Pig” team members Marc Kane, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and Joe Keck, Command and General Staff College student, divide their chicken entry into seven parts for judging during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Team Flying Pig, which also included teammate Fred Schmeckel, FMWR, was named the grand champion of the competition, as well as took first place in the beef category. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“It’s something you learn just cooking — it’s part science, part time management; it’s more science than anything else. I just go with what tastes good to me,” Pangracs said.

“Simulated BBQ” team member Curt Pangracs, Directorate of Simulation Education, Army University, divides his chicken entry into seven parts for judging during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

For more information about Firefest, visit https://www.firefest.net/about.

Firefest Results
Firefest BBQ Blaze judges sample chicken entries during the competition April 8 at the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Grand Champion:

Flying Pig

(Marc Kane, Joe Keck, Fred Schmeckel)

Chicken:

1. Water Boys

(Scott Johnson, Todd Johnson, Josh Wright)

2. KC Recruiting Battalion

(Staff Sgt. Jesse Brown, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Bussart)

3. I Like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie

(Staff Sgt. Blake Laughlin, Mike Manz, Sgt. Jason Shaw)

Beef:

1. Flying Pig

2. Simulated BBQ

(John Lord, Curt Pangracs)

3. Water Boys

“Flying Pig” team members Marc Kane, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and Joe Keck, Command and General Staff College student, divide their chicken entry into seven parts for judging during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Team Flying Pig, which also included teammate Fred Schmeckel, FMWR, was named the grand champion of the competition, as well as took first place in the beef category. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp
“Simulated BBQ” team members Curt Pangracs and John Lord, both of the Directorate of Simulation Education, Army University, move their chicken entry from grill to cutting board during the Firefest BBQ Blaze competition April 8 outside the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp
Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Director John Hughes, left, Garrison Executive Officer Tom Reitmeier, right, and other Firefest BBQ Blaze judges sample chicken entries during the competition April 8 at the Frontier Conference Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp
Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

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