Happening on Sunday, October 21st, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth (ASBEE) Synagogue, is the 30th Annual Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival
. This is where cooks flex their barbecue muscles while keeping it 100 percent kosher — no pork up in this joint.
This is one fun event, garnering national attention for its Jewish approach to barbecue in this pork-barbecue-manic city. The event features its popular three-on-three basketball contest and stuff for the kids.
One competitor is Marisa Baggett, who is known around town for her astounding sushi creations. Her team, Adam's Ribs, took home three trophies last year — 1st Place Ribs, 4th Place Chicken Wings, and 2nd Place Beans — so she's definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Baggett took time to answer some questions on how this sushi chef came to conquer kosher barbecue.
You're known for your mad sushi skills. What interests you about this contest?
The ASBEE Kosher BBQ contest first appealed to me because I don't eat pork. (I actually keep kosher.) And living in Memphis, it was the idea that I could walk into a barbecue competition and enjoy anything that was being prepared that blew my mind. I was a little hesitant to compete at first. I'm a sushi maven and manning a grill was out of my comfort zone. But I joined a team anyway and we ended up taking two trophies that year! It was a lot of fun.
Do you use the same skills for sushi as you do beef barbecue?
I think there is a patience and tolerance for tedium that I carry over from sushi. With sushi, you can't hurry the process of the rice and you have to do several hands-on things with just a few ingredients. For this contest, you have to work within limits regarding ingredients and use a charcoal grill. It makes you very aware of the entire process and you stay in the moment. I'm very comfortable working like that.
How do you approach the competition?
Strictly fun..unless someone talks smack. Last year, someone from another team mercilessly made fun of the way I boiled the ribs first. I took it in stride but I was so determined to get the ribs perfect. Coincidentally, we took home 1st place in Ribs last year.
Any other surprising culinary skills?
I'm not much for entering contests. But I think people would be surprised given my sushi background what my latest obsession is — classic Jewish deli fare. I make and cure my own pastrami (and turkey pastrami) and I bake knishes and babkas. My kitchen is very lab-like these days with containers of custom spice blends, tubs of meats in the fridge constantly being brined, and bags of baked goods everywhere. I'm having alot of fun.
What's next with you?
I actually have a concept in the works. It's a little too early to discuss, but there are sometimes little hints and clues on my social media.