Smoke by the Water: BBQ competition heats up Jacksonville riverfront

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The River City smelled like the city of barbecue on Saturday as sizzlin’ smoke filled the air in Downtown Jacksonville.

That’s because 80 teams came together to compete in the inaugural Boss of the Sauce BBQ Festival at Riverfront Plaza, the former site of The Jacksonville Landing.

The competition attracted 45 professional teams and 35 amateur teams all barbecuing thousands of pounds of meat as they vied for the title -- and the grand prize.

The competition prize ceremony was cut a little short because of severe weather Saturday evening, but that didn’t stop The Pit Crew from claiming the crown and the $2,000 top prize. Smoking Butt Heads was named Reserve Champion (2nd place overall).

A competitor shows off his barbecue for the Boss of the Sauce BBQ Festival. (WJXT)

Brandon Wright of BnB Gourmet & Grill Saus and Gary Park of G Slow Smoke BBQ in Orange Park were among many local hopefuls on Saturday.

“There are top teams in the nation cooking,” Park said, adding that he was born and raised in Jacksonville and now lives in Clay County. “We probably sell about 140 (pork butts) a week. And that’s just us being a brand-new restaurant, we go through about 180 pounds of wings, because I do smoked wings, and we also have ribs that we do and that’s every day of the week, and I probably sell four cases a week.”

Wright, who is co-owner and gourmet saucier of his Jacksonville company, said the key is the ingredients.

“These are all homemade. We use fresh ingredients, gluten-free. We ship all over the U.S.” Wright said.

The Boss of the Sauce BBQ Festival started off as a fun idea to get some friends together for a one-day amateur BBQ competition.

From there, the idea caught on fire, so to speak.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Visit Jacksonville, Downtown Jacksonville, and city of Jacksonville got excited and wanted to support the event, which was eventually sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the world’s largest association of its kind.

The designation made the event the first World Championship Qualifying BBQ Competition to be held in Northeast Florida.

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