Tom and Bill Price have been barbecuing for a long time. Four years ago, they decided to take that love of barbecue and form their own team, Smell of Love Barbeque, to compete at the Blue Springs Barbeque Blaze-Off.
Originally from Blue Springs, Bill Price now lives in Frisco, Texas, but still returns every year for some barbecue.
"I think we both love to cook," he said. "We both love barbecue."
The 2013 Blue Springs Barbeque Blaze-Off kicked off Friday at the Hidden Valley Sports Complex with 73 teams. This is the 30th year for the Blaze-Off, which continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the sports complex, 6500 N.W. Valley View Road.
The competition, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, is one of the oldest in the four-state region, behind only the American Royal and the Great Lenexa BBQ contests. The last 14 contests have been large enough to qualify the grand champion for the International Invitational Contest.
"This is a great community event," said Pam Gieseke, chairman of the Blaze-Off. "Everyone wants to be a pit master in their own backyard. Barbecue has gotten really sophisticated with all the rubs, injectors, seasonings. It is a great opportunity for people to barbecue."
The competition has six categories, but only brisket, pork, chicken and pork ribs count toward the overall grand champion. There is also Kid-Q, which has two divisions - 5- to 10-year-olds and 11- to 15-year-olds. A new event is the People’s Choice category, sponsored by Hy-Vee. The store gave each team two whole chickens. After each team prepares the chicken, the public had the opportunity to try a sample and vote for their favorite. The winning team receives the People’s Choice Award.
"Who doesn't want to be a barbecue judge," Gieseke said. "It is something fun for the public, and people always want to eat barbecue."
Kevin Freeman is part of a three-man Eastern Jackson County team, Smoke Masters Mafia. He said the team began four years ago with his brother-in-law Richard Stomboli. Two years ago, his son-in-law, Sean Pruitt, came aboard. Freeman said each one of them picks their favorite meat to cook, and then focuses on that during the competition.
The secret to cooking any meat - love.
"You have to love what you're doing," he said. "You have to enjoy it beginning to end, from the spices to the injections, everything. That is the secret to cooking good meat."
When asked about Smell the Love Barbeque's speciality, Bill Price was quick to say it was not chicken.
"We have stumbled a few times. It's not chicken," he said. "It is probably our brisket. That's what we cook most of the time, so I think it is definitely our best."
Freeman said what he likes most about the Blaze-Off his the camaraderie among the competitors. He said at some of the bigger competitions, such as the American Royal, everyone is very secretive and less likely to offer assistance. The Blaze-Off, he said, is far different.
"It is not about the competition here, it is about the camaraderie. The friends you make," he said. "We come here for the people. It is not about who wins, but about the friends that you make while competing."