Steamboat Springs Aspiring kings and queens of the grill have their work cut out for them today.
Thirteen men and women in the Steamboat True Value Grill Crazy Cook Off will try to convince discerning palates their grilled fare is the best.
The contest begins at noon, and store manager Doug Post hopes people take advantage of some good barbecue and an easy way to support a good cause.
Steamboat True Value previously used drawings to give away grills, but Post decided to make contestants work a little harder for their prize this year and benefit an organization at the same time.
All proceeds from the Steamboat True Value Grill Crazy Cook Off benefit the Routt County Cattlewomen's Scholarship Fund.
"We wanted to figure out a way to help the ranching community," he said. "Rest assured that every dime you pay for barbecue is going straight to the Cattlewomen's Association."
A $5 ticket nets onlookers a plate of ribs, beef barbecue and bread, as well as an exciting display of culinary craft.
Contestants get their choice of chicken, pork or beef ribs to grill but must bring their own sauces, marinades and grill. No steaks or burgers are allowed.
"All we're providing is the space, the meat and the chance to win a Weber," Post said.
The winner of the cook off wins a three-burner Weber Silver B Grill.
Contestants can also vie for other prizes awarded to the nastiest grill and best costumes.
Judging begins at 2 p.m., but the event does not end until the food runs out, Post said.
Judges may bring diverse backgrounds in grilling to the table, but they all share an appreciation for good food.
"They're not getting anything out of it," Post said. "They're just doing it for the fun."
Bystanders can also vote for their own favorites.
A $1 ticket buys a taste-test of one contestant's cuisine and a chance to participate in a people's choice contest of sorts.
Post said he has been pleasantly surprised with community response to a cook off.
Today he expects "the west end of Steamboat will be rockin'."
The judges understand how seriously contestants take their grilled masterpieces.
Pam Albrecht, owner of Albrecht's Bakery and Cafhails from the Midwest, where people take barbecuing very seriously.
One of the five judges, Albrecht said she looks for meat that is pleasing to the eye and not overly tangy.
Despite the different tastes of judges, she said she was confident consensus could be reached.
Fritz Aurin, owner of the Smokehouse, remembers judging the biggest and most famous barbecue in the world.
He was invited in 1994 to help judge the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which featured 275 teams vying for the judges' approval.
Aurin said he weighed such things as presentation, tenderness, flavor, the sauce, appearance and overall impression.
Teams in Memphis took their entries so seriously they spent the previous weekends refining and honing their products at barbecue contests, he said.
While he expects the competition will be less fierce today, he still looks forward to judging local entries. He will be on the lookout for meat that is tender, flavorful and aesthetically pleasing.
"The first bite is with the eye," he said.