BBQ Fest at ilani seeks local contestants


Celebrity chefs are scheduled to appear but organizers also want the best backyard cooks in the area to show off their skills

It’s just about grill season in the Northwest, and Rick Browne and officials at the ilani Casino Resort want to find the best.

Former Clark County resident Rick Browne, the author of more than 60 barbecue cooking books, is organizing the first ilani BBQ Fest in June, and he is looking for backyard cooks to enter the contest. Photo courtesy Rick Browne
Former Clark County resident Rick Browne, the author of more than 60 barbecue cooking books, is organizing the first ilani BBQ Fest in June, and he is looking for backyard cooks to enter the contest. Photo courtesy Rick Browne

Well, they already know a lot of the best in the country will be at ilani from June 24 through 26, but they also want to know if any backyard experts from the region want to showcase their skills.

The ilani BBQ fest will be held on the rooftop of the parking lot. Tickets went on sale this week for those who want to get a taste of the food, take in some drinks, and experience live entertainment.

Besides ticket holders, ilani and Browne are searching for more contestants for the barbecue competition.

Browne, a former Clark County resident, is the author of more than 60 barbecue cooking books. He has been featured on all of the network morning shows and has been a regular on public television, too.

“Event organizers do not want just chefs. We want outdoor barbecue cooks,” Browne said. “Anybody who has a barbecue can cook. No special rules that you have to be a pro or you have to have a restaurant. We want regular people to compete.”

The competition costs $50 to enter. The festival starts on Fri., June 24, but the competition is Saturday and Sunday, June 25-26. Teams only have to cook and provide six “tastes” from each of four items: pork bellies and beef back ribs on Saturday and salmon and whole chicken on Sunday.

The grand prize is $5,000. Top prize in each category is $1,000. In all, the prize pool will be $15,000. Browne said that makes it among the biggest barbecue events on the West Coast. He added this is just the beginning. He hopes to double the size of the event next year.

“It’s a dream I had when I was there,” Browne said. “Before I left Ridgefield, I organized a small barbecue event in Ridgefield. It was a great success.”

Now living in southern Oregon, Browne makes frequent trips north on Interstate 5 to return to Southwest Washington. Partnering with ilani was an easy decision, he said.

To register for the competition, email: info@360mande.com

Browne said organizers will then email cooks the registration form, competition rules, and the waiver. Completed registration is due no later than June 6 at 11:59 p.m.

Beyond the competition, some of the best chefs in the business are expected to showcase their skills at ilani.

Scheduled to appear include Alton Brown, star of “Good Eats” and the host of “Iron Chef”; Robert Irvine, host of “Restaurant: Impossible”; five-time James Beard Award winner and Restaurateur of the Year Todd English; and Kevin Bludso of Netflix’s hit show “American BBQ Showdown.

Chef Lynnae Oxley, owner of Sugar’s Barbecue in Battle Ground, is expected to make a stop on the celebrity stage and show off one of her signature dishes. Browne, the creator, host, and executive producer, will showcase his PB&J pork ribs. 

Erica Blaire Roby, lawyer turned sommelier turned Master of ‘Cue winner from season 2 of the Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl” is also scheduled to appear. So, too, is Stan Hays from Operation BBQ Relief, raising awareness for people in need, including veterans, the houseless, and victims of natural disasters.

There are several events, at different costs, during the BBQ Fest.There is a 50-percent off early-bird discount for all events, including the main events, if purchased by 10 a.m. Friday (May 20). Ticket pricing and a full list of celebrity chefs and event information are available at: ilanibbqfest.com.

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