WACO, Texas — If you're from Texas, you know the Lone Star State takes its BBQ very seriously, and local high school students are heating up the competition by putting a team of their own behind the grill.
"Definitely when it comes to judging BBQ, you don’t want to go light on seasoning," Gabriel Alonso, pork chop master and senior at James Madison High School, said. "They only get one bite, so you want to impress them with that one bite.”
It's one bite full of flavor and cooked by high school students.
"We get to cook what we eat. So, we do all the categories in practice," Steven Carter, Connally Cadet Q's BBQ coach, said. "We’ll come up here after school so they can start preparing. During that time when it’s done, guess what? You get to eat your homework.”
You know what they say, everything’s bigger in Texas, even their BBQ.
"Texas is just so different from everyone else," Alonso said. "We’re known for high school football and stuff like that. We’re known for our agriculture."
Now, they’re know for high school BBQ teams.
On Friday, April 21, 14 schools from around Central Texas fired up their smokers and assembled their meats to compete in the Regional BBQ Competition.
"They do a Dutch oven dessert, pork chop, chicken, half chicken, ribs and skirt steak street tacos," Carter said.
Are you hungry yet?
The contestants cook five dishes, with a table of judges waiting to take that first bite.
"We have a turn in time and we have 10 minutes before and 10 after," Cameron Deroon, Cadet Q's Executive Chef and junior at Connally High School, said. "Sometimes, if there's five minutes left and you don’t have your dish in yet, you get stressed. Really stressed. On ribs, you have to cut straight you can't have crooked bones. There’s a lot to it.”
Manning the "cue" takes time and practice.
"You don’t want to rub it in you just kind of want to pat it. That way you get the layers of seasoning and the flavor," Alonso said.
For some, this is their first rodeo.
"A lot of these have never touched a grill before or a smoker. And so, it's an opportunity for them to be able to," Carter said. "The schools provided the smokers, so it’s a huge financial offset that the school has actually helped these kids get.”
It's easy to get lost in the meats, but this brisket is about more than BBQ.
"I love getting to work with your team to build the best and come out with the best outcome and giving the judges your best," Alonso said. "That team work is kind of the best part of getting to work together and get it done.”
It was a parking lot full of new chefs, state title crowns and former grand champions.
"We won grand champion here last year, so we want to repeat that if possible," Carter said. "These kids are passionate about what they are doing and they want to learn and succeed."
The Cadet Q’s took home the crown for a second straight year, and head to the state title feeling and smelling like a champion.
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