I know, you’re used to seeing the words “chicken dinner” in this phrase, but last week it was the brisket that put my friend, Chef Shannon Kinsella, over the top. She earned three wins at the San Francisco Professional Food Society’s annual BBQ! She tied for pulled pork, won for best brisket, and was named the Champion BBQ Chef for year! Woot Woot!!
Held at the Tiburon Yacht Club, right on the San Francisco bay, it was a beautiful day with great food, wine, entertainment, and camaraderie. Whenever you have a barbecue competition you hope for great fire, smoke and fun and we had all three. I had the distinct honor of assisting Chef Shannon, watching her work her magic as she taught tricks to the culinary students assigned to assist us from the Contra Costa Culinary Arts Management program. (Thanks for the great help Vera, Deirdre and Krishna!!) Even The Artist stepped in to lend us a hand. It was a family affair. 🙂
There were four chefs on hand to feed the 200 attendees; John Ruloph with Viking, Larry Gaian of Peppered Pig Media, Robbyn Nicola from Primo Grills and Shannon Kinsella, the culinary director for Gourmet Garden. Each chef was given a whole bone-in pork shoulder, 2 full briskets, 25 chickens, and 2 rabbits from the truly remarkable Victorian Farmstead Meat Company in Sebastopol. Owned and managed by Adam Parks, you can find their products at the Community market in Sebastopol and at farmers’ markets around the Bay Area (Thursday through Sunday). If you can’t make it to one of those locations, you can also order online, giving all of us the opportunity to enjoy their local and sustainably grown products.
Each chef was allowed to choose their own seasonings, marinades, and preparation method for the proteins. After working all morning on their preparations, each chef met the judges and presented them with a sampling of their outstanding culinary creations. The attendees had the opportunity to taste each chef’s foods and judge for themselves the ones they liked the best. Honestly, it was the most delicious and creative selections of grilled foods that I have ever seen at one event.
Due to the extremely windy conditions out on the point, two of the chefs took a bit longer to prepare one of their proteins. The judges very graciously allowed the last two plates to be delivered when they were done, giving all four chefs the chance to compete in all categories. A special thanks to our judges, Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meats Company, Neil Marquis of First Crush Restaurant , and Torin Knorr of The Roadside Feast!
Our station was on the end without any protection from the whipping wind and our rented grills did not have any lids on them. Even with our jury-rigged aluminum covers and rocks to hold them down, the briskets were not getting the consistent heat needed to cook them through. We were prepared to leave our brisket out of the competition if it wasn’t fully cooked and risk being eliminated. We would rather sacrifice the competition than jeopardize the safety of the attendees.
It was so windy we had trouble getting our Sterno lit underneath the chafing dish. A quick wrapping of the bottom half of the chafer with foil (see photo above right) let us keep the foods safe and hot! Necessity, the mother of invention and bubblegum solutions, LOL.
Luckily, with the understanding of the judges, we were able to submit our brisket samples freshly sliced and served with the reduced braising juices. It made all the difference and got Shannon not only the win for brisket but the overall championship as well. I couldn’t have been prouder! Here was a woman who was 2000 miles away from her home, working on rented equipment, prepping in a borrowed kitchen, with only a few of her tools to work with. And though she didn’t say anything, this was her very first grilling competition and the first time she was back at work cooking after having major surgery just two months ago. She is a rock star!
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, are a food enthusiast, chef, food writer, blogger, or involved in the food industry in any way, we would love to have you join in the fun of the SFPFS! If you are interested, fill out the online form to become an active member of this wonderful organization!
And now, without further delay, here is Chef Shannon’s winning brisket recipe!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
** Gourmet Garden has a new line of products arriving on store shelves next month. Lightly Dried are fresh herbs processed in a totally new method that leaves them full of fresh flavor and instantly reconstituted when combined with liquid. This is an exciting product and I am thrilled to get to work with them when developing recipes for Gourmet Garden!
All Gourmet Garden products are gluten-free.
- 4 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
- 2 tbsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire powder (order online)
- 1 to 2 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 tbsp celery seed
- 2 tbsp New Mexican chile powder (or chipotle for smoky heat)
- 2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground Tellicherry pepper
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp cane sugar
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 beef brisket (about 12 lb), trimmed
- 1 pint hard cider
- 1 tbsp Gourmet Garden Garlic paste
- 2 tbsp Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Chili Pepper ** (see Tips & Hints above)
- Combine all the dry rub ingredients.
- Rub the brisket on all sides with the dry rub. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.
- Light grill to medium. Unwrap brisket. Place it in a disposable foil pan (lasagna size works best). Add the hard cider. Cover pan with foil. Grill for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until tender. Remove brisket from pan juices and sear on grill for 5 minutes per side.
- Reduce the cooking juices in pan over medium heat. Stir in Gourmet Garden Garlic and Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Chili Pepper. Thinly slice meat and serve with chili-garlic sauce.
- Yield: about 15 to 18 servings
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Disclaimer: I am a recipe developer for Gourmet Garden, but I was not asked to write nor compensated for this post. I am a volunteer on the Board of Directors of the SFPFS, a non-profit organization. As always, my thoughts expressed here are my own.
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