OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A BBQ competition with no pork?!?! There are only a handful of kosher BBQ’s around the country, but of course Kansas City has the first sanctioned kosher BBQ contest. Jewish and non-Jewish BBQ teams faced off in overland park on Sunday for first place and some bragging rights. Jimmy Nickel's 'Full House BBQ' team took those bragging rights, but all competitors got to sample a different flavor of BBQ competition.
On the surface, it's a sight familiar to summertime competitions in Kansas City. But this one is so much different.
“They provide meat smokers and utensils. The only thing we provide is wood and charcoal,” Scott Fraley with ‘Smoked to Perfection’ said.
Everything at the competition had to be provided to insure that it met Old Testament standards.
“The differences are they all the meat, chicken, and every ingredient used in any of the food process is certified kosher from beginning to end,” Rabbi Mendel Segal said.
So if it isn’t certified as kosher, it’s nowhere in sight.
“It’s based on the Bible, the way the kosher rules are stated,” Rabbi Segal said.
Even the smokers themselves, the utensils and meat thermometers have to be kosher.
“Sometimes when you go to competitions people have their huge smokers and their own expensive equipment. Now it’s a level playing field and it’s gonna come down to how skillful they are as BBQers. I really like that idea," judge Simon Majumdal said.
It’s a challenge that makes Jewish and non-Jewish competitors alike say, ‘Game on!’
Two brothers- in-law are both Jewish, both BBQ lovers, but Jay Goodbinder keeps the kosher food laws, Jason Kerschner, not so much.
“I really like pork and bacon and pork butt,” Kerschner said.
There is obviously no pork here and rabbinical law limits secret concoctions that are standard everywhere else.
"I can't inject butter into my brisket, but we get creative and do other things," Kerschner said.
But in the spirit of competition, it’s all good, because Goodbinder has his own completely kosher strategy.
“Pray hard,” Goodbinder said.
Because kosher BBQ competitions are so rare...there are many orthodox Kansas City Jews who have never even tried it.
“It was strange having someone 50 or 60 years old saying this is the first time I’ve ever had BBQ,” Fraley said.
“It’s heaven to them. In the non- Jewish world it would be like Christmas Day. You come here and eat BBQ to your heart’s content,” Kerschner said.
Many discovered that infusing ancient Jewish culture with a little Kansas City tradition is like a well-blended BBQ sauce, certified kosher for everyone.