Some 500 meat lovers stormed the doors of the former Biba space on the Williamsburg Waterfront last week to sample slabs of smoked meat at the seventh annual Brisket King NYC competition. Nearly 20 pitmasters and chefs presented brisket in kosher ramen, on sliders with fiery hot sauce, braised as barbacoa and dabbed on tacos, and topped with kimchi, not to mention served Texas-style with a slice of pickle and onion on the side.
Competitors came from far and wide this year, and the out-of-towners brought their A game: winner Cherry St Bar-B-Que took the Brisket King NYC crown north of the border to Toronto. Pitmaster Lawrence La Pianta and his team worked with past Brisket King winner Billy Durney's Hometown BBQ to smoke perfectly juicy beef and plump, red sausage links.
From even further afield, the second place winner John Gower flew in from Devon, England, where he runs Quiet Waters Farms, which specializes in hosting and catering outdoor, fire-cooked meals. His brisket, cooked at Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ in Gowanus, used Quiet Farms' Mocha spice rub, made with coffee, chocolate and spices.
Rounding out the winners of the evening, Josh Massin only had to cross a couple rivers to get the the festivities from Teaneck, New Jersey, where he cooks kosher fare at Nobo Wine and Grill and the upcoming Narruto Bowl. His beautifully prepared bowls of ramen drew one of the longest lines of the night.
Throughout the evening, host Jimmy Carbone could be found cutting through the crowds, shaking hands and giving hugs. He was in his element.
Carbone swells with pride looking back on the history and diversity of the event. "This started out as a small event, just inviting chefs to come cook brisket with no theme. By the second or third year, barbecue became a bigger thing, with Dan Delaney, then Mighty Quinn and later Billy Durney of Hometown Barbecue." All went on to win the competition.
In recent years, the kosher chef community has joined in, and bloggers and videographers covering kosher food could be seen filming and interviewing chefs and judges.
Last year was a hard one for Jimmy, with the shuttering of his bar, Jimmy's No. 43, a long-time headquarters for craft brewery fans and local food causes. Later in the year Carbone had a health scare, brought on in part due to stress, which required a GoFundMe page to get through. As things stand, while he still hopes to find a partner to team up on the relaunch of the bar, he's sanguine about it all and considering what's next. "I'm still in the industry and looking for new opportunities... it's a whole new start."
Right now though, he's not thinking about all that. "I'm still pumped from Brisket King," he said later, "that's all I'm thinking about at the moment."