We made a flash decision on Thursday night to go to the KCBS BARDO Q championship in Bardonecchia at the weekend.  I had no idea what to expect, but it would turn out to be a wonderful experience.

Craig and I arrived in the beautiful little town that was hosting the competition about 1pm, having made great time and taken in some breathe taking views of the Alps along the way.  We arrived at a lovely place called hotel Bucaneve.  The owners were so kind and helpful towards us.  The gave us a map of the local area and upgraded our room to a suite which was very nice.  After we checked in we made our way to the competition site which was within easy walking distance.  It was situated at the base of a ski slope which afforded some more beautiful scenery.

We had not been there five minutes before we were being shown around and offered food.  It would appear we would certainly not go hungry in the next couple of days.  As we wandered around chatting to everyone, talking about BBQ and asking questions it was clear to us straight away that although these teams are competing against each other they are also good friends.  Most of the teams at this event were Italian with just a couple being from Germany.  Marco Agostini from The Barktenders is a member of the BBQ and Smokers News editorial team and it was his idea that we come along.  We spent quite some time talking to them and watching their preparations with awe.  Whilst we were all chatting we met our first judge.  An Englishman by the name of Roger Sanderson who had only just arrived.  Roger was very generous with his knowledge of the competition and judging processes.  The criteria are very strict and the standards extremely high.  All of the entries are blind tasted so there can be no chance at all of any impropriety.  Before Roger left to attend to his duties and mingle I was very touched to be given some cheese made by his company ‘The Coton Foundry Smokehouse’ in Warwickshire.

The first competition was to be held that day.  The SCA steak challenge.  This has two categories, steak and chicken wings.

Whilst this was being judged we went to chat with another member of the BBQ and Smokers News team.  Micheal Koepf from Dragon BBQ.  It was great to catch up and talk about their approach to the contest.  They produce their own BBQ rubs and I can’t wait to try the one for brisket!  Micheal also introduced us to the owner of Mc’Brikett, Kasper Damkier.

He sponsors Dragon BBQ and Sticky fingers BBQ teams with his slow burning coals made of coconut. An original concept and one I can’t wait to try.

By now we were quite thirsty and we made our way over to the Birrificio Grado Plato tent to buy a beer or two.  Mad for BBQ were catering at the event and we had some excellent pulled pork from their stand.  Mine was in a bun and Craig’s in a wrap.  Despite being busy they were happy to talk to us and we learned that the used to compete but now catered professionally after growing their business so much.

Later that afternoon the first competition  results were announced, with Torino Ribs Italy placing 1st in the steak cook off and Sticky Fingers BBQ receiving 1st in the chicken wings.  After this point the serious work began.  Although preparations for the next day’s events had already been going on all day it seemed to go up a notch.  There were more team meetings and a renewed focus on the preparation of the various meats ready to be cooked that evening on the teams chosen BBQs.  The categories for the KCBS championship are chicken, ribs, pork, brisket and the mystery box.  For this category all the teams are given a bag with the same ingredients and challenged to create something.

Whilst we were taking pictures of the teams and walking around we met another one of the KCBS judges called Carlo Sensi who was more than happy to chat to us.  He told us about a gentleman there that is the butcher for all the Italian teams.  Carlo kindly offered to introduce us and translate.  It was wonderful to talk to Federico Dal Lago.  He told us that all of the teams have their own individual requirements and he showed us some of the meat he had brought with him.  Including Boston butts, ribs, briskets, baby back ribs and St Louis cut ribs.  Federico explained that although a lot of the pork was Italian farmed the beef was almost all from Australia or the USA.  This is because it is the best for low and slow BBQ.  He is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his craft and is one of the only butchers in the whole of Italy who specialise in BBQ cuts.  He goes to many of the events and is on hand twenty- four seven to provide expertise and back up meat.

As the evening drew in we were treated to a traditional Carbonara made by The Italian Style BBQ team for everyone on site to share.  And it was fantastic!  We continued to mull around talking to everyone and to try and learn more about the individual teams.  Burros BBQ are new to the KCBS scene and were really enjoying their experience.  They let us try some of their sauce which were delicious.

All the teams are very social and spend a lot of time together in the evening.  Smoking Bad BBQ gave us some aged steak to try, Torino Ribs Italy cooked pizzas for everyone on a portable pizza oven called an Uni.  The Barktenders gave us some of the best ribs I have tasted in my life and everyone shared drinks and brought over different liquors from their own regions.  Grappa was a favourite and with the evening rapidly cooling it helped to warm me up.  A few days before the competition it had been Marco’s birthday and he was serenaded and presented with a Birthday cake.  By the end of the evening I was definitely feeling the Grappa and amazing Italian hospitality,  so we retired to our hotel room.  Although we went to bed the teams stayed up most of the night next to there BBQs tending to their briskets.

The next day we arrived at BARDO Q at about 10.30am.  The teams had started to tend to their ribs and chicken dishes.  The first judging was to be at 12 noon.  It was interesting to see all the different choices of rubs and sauces used by the teams and their different presentation styles and tricks.  Popular choices for sauces used by the competitors included Texas Pepper Jelly Rib Candy, Kosmos and Blues Hog ranges.  In the rub ranges Oakridge and Sucklebusters made frequent appearances.

After talking again with Carlo he introduced us to the organiser of the event Vittorio and to Haymo Gutweiger a KCBS international rep and judge.  They allowed us to come into the judging tent and film some of the judging.  We felt very lucky to be some of privileged few to witness their process.  We were very careful not to post anything on social media until after the judging had finished.  Or to show any of the numbers on the boxes.

When cooking for competition a lot of meat is cooked that is not submitted for the judging, with the teams choosing only the best pieces.  This allows them to get as close to perfection as possible.  This also means that there is a lot of leftovers.  I was so pleased to learn that these are donated by the teams and sold to the public.  The money from this is then donated to the small steps charity for premature babies.  This year a staggering 2860 Euros was a raised.  Fantastic!

By 1.30pm the judging was finished and the clean- up began as the results were awaited.  By now many of the teams were looking very tired.  Craig and I went to sit in our truck for a while to make some notes.  Whilst we were sat there Federico turned up and surprised with a gift of some baby back ribs, with which we were thrilled.

At 3.30pm everyone had finished cleaning down their equipment and was packing up when the judging was announced.  We all stood around with beer in hands and fingers crossed.  The mystery box was won by Sticky Fingers BBQ most impressively with a perfect score.  First place in chicken was taken by Dragon BBQ.  They were very happy with that result as Micheal confessed earlier to hating cooking the chicken.  Ribs was won by Smoking Bad BBQ, Torino Ribs took first in the pork box and Smoking Bad BBQ got the heavily sought after brisket win.

Overall placing was Smoking Bad BBQ coming in 1st, The Barktenders 2nd and Torino Ribs Italy in 3rd place.  Everyone seemed quite happy with their positions especially those who had been very critical of their performance.

Unfortunately it was now time to leave as a long drive awaited us.  We said our congratulations and goodbyes and got underway.  I will take away so much from my first KCBS experience.  The level of expertise and skill is incredible and I have learnt so much.  The food was unbelievable.  But most of all I would like to say how grateful we are to all the teams, organisers, sponsors and judges for welcoming us, taking the time to speak with us, and making us feel like part of the family.  We will definitely be at more KCBS events in the future!  We had so much fun!  Congratulations to you all on an excellent event.


Europe Team Standings


1 BBQ+ 869
4 BROS HOG 720
1 BROS HOG 905

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See All Teams >


1 BBQ+ 969
3 BROS HOG 795

See All Teams >


1 BBQ+ 769

See All Teams >


1 BROS HOG 905

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