Judging The Best Barbecue

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 13, 2005
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All Henry Louis Chef Alan Ballesteros will
reveal about his barbecue sauce recipe is
that it’s ‘a mixture of Asian and Texas
influences’

Usually by this time of year the major food festivals are over and the foodie world is gearing up for the arrival of the main eating season — Thanksgiving and Christmas. But while Honolulu certainly has its share of excellent events, it’s always been my opinion that one food festival is conspicuous by its absence. In a city where the backyard grill is king and where homemade recipes are handed down through generations, there’s been one delicious finger licking meat missing in action from the grills of Honolulu.

The barbecued rib.

Is there anyone who doesn’t drool at the sight of a perfectly presented plate of ribs? And is there any smell more pleasing than the aroma of ribs slowly cooking on the grill?

Until now, almost anyone has been able to state they have the best ribs in town. Restaurants proudly boast recipes that are family secrets with sauces that are more prized than small fortunes. But no one has officially judged competitors side by side in a single day.

If you’re an aficionado or someone who just loves the taste of a well-seasoned wet sauce or the spiciness of a dry rub, then head over to Nuuanu Avenue Saturday where the inaugural Great Honolulu Rib Cook Off will take place.

Some of the top rib roasters in town will battle for the title of the best ribs in Honolulu, and the winning team will receive a prestigious plaque to display in their restaurant.


Restaurateur Ron Locar, owner of Henry Louis in Mapunapuna (home of the “best suckin ribs” in town), is looking forward to the challenge and is quietly confident of success. But what makes his ribs so special?

“Our ribs are not the run-ofthe- mill ribs,” he says, seriously. Pressed a little further, he admits to the ribs being “truly unique.” That’s the thing about these rib guys, try to get the secret from them and they act like you’re trying to, well, get a secret from them. Customers of Henry Louis need no convincing that the ribs are great; they suck and chew their way through 140 pounds a week. Chef Alan Ballesteros says that the sauce is a mixture of “Asian and Texas influences,” but that’s about as close to a recipe as I can get.

Stu Schroeder, general manager of Sunset Grill, is equally proud of the kiawe-grilled ribs they serve over at Restaurant Row, and equally protective of their recipe.

“We’re ready to go,” he told me when we met at Roy’s last week, “and our new chef, Robert Miller is ready for the challenge.” Sunset is coincidentally offering summer barbecue plates of kiawe-grilled ribs and chicken this month — who knows, next week it may be offering the “best barbecue plate in town.”

Celebrity judges (including Kim Gennaula, Guy Hagi, (KGMB 9) Robert Kekaula (KITV 4) and Bobby Curran (KKEA 1420AM) will choose their favorite rib, and there’s a people’s choice award for everyone else. A sampling of all the ribs will be available for just $15 — a portion of proceeds from the event will go to The Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Come down and judge for yourselves — it should be fun to have the sizzle of ribs on the barbie and the smell of barbecue sauce fill the air. Music and other food booths will be on Nuuanu Avenue and the barbecue festival will run from 5.30 until 10.30 p.m.

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