Cary News

Apex Pigfest on Friday and Saturday is expected to draw 10,000

Don’t expect to find a can opener inside Red Eye Barbecue’s food truck.

Co-owner Richard Berner boasts that his food is made fresh daily and from scratch using ingredients from local farmer’s markets.

Red Eye Barbecue is one of 30 teams competing Friday and Saturday at Apex Sunrise Rotary’s first Pigfest – the only Kansas City Barbecue Society’s sanctioned contest in the Triangle.

Apex-based Red Eye faces stiff competition from the Triangle and beyond. Local teams include Hot Roscoe and the Q-Review of Cary and Redneck Scientific of Clayton. Barbecue vagabonds include the Pelletheads of Pasadena, Calif., and All Fired Up and Kickin Ash of Latham, N.Y. A celebrity team, Discovery channel’s Swamp Loggers, of Jacksonville, N.C., will also compete.

Cook teams have the chance to win up to $15,000 in prize money, a state championship and a chance to be picked for a KCBS national championship.

Unfortunately there will be a limited opportunity for the public to taste the contestants’ meaty morsels. Tickets to weigh in on the People’s Choice entries will be available starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Meat House tent on a first-come-first-serve basis, said organizer Graham Wilson.

Only the judges are guaranteed a taste of each team’s barbecued chicken, brisket, pork and ribs. Winners will be announced at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Red Eye Barbecue

Pigfest patrons will get a chance to sample Berner’s Red Eye Barbecue – for the right price. His family’s food truck is one of the festival’s vendors.

Richard Berner and his son Jon started the food truck business about two years ago, but this is their first competition. The decision to enter wasn’t about the prize money, Berner said.

“We’re a member of the Rotary Club, and we’re big into donating and giving to charity,” he said.

Proceeds from the Pigfest will go to Western Wake Crisis Ministry and other Rotary-supported nonprofits.

Berner, who grew up in Texas beef country, had to adjust to North Carolina’s pork-centric style of barbecue.

“There, if you talk about barbecue, pork is not on the menu. It’s beef or beef,” he said.

His team will compete in all categories, including pork.

Hot Roscoe

Hot Roscoe and the Q-Review is another first-time team, but cooker Ben Freeman of Cary isn’t intimidated. In fact he thinks being a new team may be to his team’s advantage.

“We are fans of winging this thing. If I was them, I would be scared of the unknown,” Freeman said jokingly. “I didn’t come here to watch everyone else win.”

He describes Hot Roscoe’s barbecue as the right combination of sweet and heat.

Freeman and his teammates are longtime buddies who started barbecuing seriously at Boy Scout retreats and now use it as an excuse to hang out.

“We camp together, we fish together, we barbecue together,” he said.

Hot Roscoe and the Q-Review is a name that has no real meaning to the team. Freeman said he tried to come up with the most innocuous name possible and took the name from a local band from the ’70s.

Red Neck Scientific

Veteran competitors Red Neck Scientific recently won first place for its ribs at the Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival in Tryon, N.C.

Red Neck Scientific stands out for another reason – the team smokes its meat in a modified 55-gallon barrel.

It’s a contraption that team member Jerry Stephenson, of Clayton, has named and trademarked as the Red Neck Convection Oven. He even sells the barrels on his website

“Load it up with charcoal and hardwood and put the pig in,” Stephenson said. “With this technique we don’t have to keep adding fuel to it and keep getting up through the night. It keeps moisture in which is critical for judging.”

For Stephenson, cooking over the barrel is the closest thing to the open pit cook method he remembers from his childhood.

“One of my jobs as a kid was to tend the fire,” he said.

He said he hopes his team can inspire other cookers.

“I hope they see a crew like us and say, ‘They are cooking on something I have in my backyard.’ ” Stephenson said. “Anyone can literally do this. Food brings people together and barbecue is kind of transcending.”