Mike Howard of Elkford (left) won both the amateur category and People’s Choice Award. He was presented with the coveted propane tank trophy by John Merritt, who won People’s Choice at a previous BBQ chef challenge. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

GALLERY: Fernie BBQ Chef Challenge off to a sizzling start

Elkford man wins amateur category and People’s Choice Award; The Chopstick Truck named best pro

Station Square was foodie heaven on Sunday as local professional and amateur cooks served up gourmet smoked and barbecued dishes at the Fernie BBQ Chef Challenge.

The inaugural event was held as a fundraiser for Fernie Rotary, which in turn supports local community organizations.

Six local restaurants and six teams of amateur chefs fired up their barbecues and smokers to offer a smorgasbord of mouthwatering creations, from smoked beef brisket to barbecued halibut and pulled pork.

“The amateurs are as good as the pros and we’ve had a lot of great food today,” said judge Barrie Elliott from Fernie Catering Company.

“Some people have been cooking all night long on smokers. It’s a great fundraiser for the Rotary Club and we’re excited for next year, and a bigger event to come.”

Among the amateur chefs was John Merritt, defending champion of the People’s Choice Award from the Taste of Fernie BBQ challenge.

He is a self-taught cook and went with an old favourite from his years running Elk View Lodge – a Jamaican inspired dish featuring salmon and mango salsa.

“We used to do this as one of our signature wedding dishes,” he said, “frankly, it’s pretty easy to knock together. The work is done a few days before and then you let it marinate.”

Judges were looking for a smoked or barbecued flavour, as well as taste, texture and overall appearance.

The Chopstick Truck was named the winner of the professional category, while Mike Howard of Elkford won both the amateur category and People’s Choice Award.

He camped at Station Square overnight to start the smoking process and took home the coveted chrome propane tank trophy.

Fernie Rotary Treasurer Aysha Haines was blown away by the quality of the food presented during the challenge, which she is confident will become an annual event.

“I think it’s been spectacular. Our goal for this year has just been that all of the people who come have a really great time, that all of the competitors have a really great time, and that it’s good value for sponsors,” she said.

“The feedback we’re getting so far is amazing and we’re three-quarters of the way to sold out, so I think we couldn’t have asked for a better turn out on our first year.”


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