As the top three winners were announced at Wednesday night's Brisket King 2018 event, the theme of the night was clear: the out-of-towners meant serious business when they showed up to compete at Biba in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The top winner of the night, and New York's new Brisket King, was Lawrence La Pianta. He is the pitmaster and owner of Cherry Street Bar-B-Que, the buzziest BBQ joint in Toronto and a staple of the American BBQ circuit. In second place was John Gower from England's Quiet Waters Farm and in third place was Joshua Massin New Jersey kosher restaurant Nobo Wine and Grill.
One fun fact about the three non-New Yorkers is that all three also had a little local help that may have pushed them across the finish line. La Painta smoked his brisket at Hometown Bar-B-Que (which won Brisket King in 2015), Gower smoked his brisket at Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue (which won best traditional brisket in 2014), and Massin got a little advice from last year's Brisket King Sruli Eidelman.
It might seem a little strange that not one New York pitmaster came out on top at Brisket King, but remember — New York is the a city of immigrants and we welcome people from all over the world. And if you want to come here and show off your talents, bring it on. La Pianta and the Cherry Street team certainly did with their traditional (and beautiful) brisket platter. I hope I can visit the restaurant in Toronto sometime!
While those three top winners attracted the spotlight, other great vendors included Robert Cho of Kimchi Smoke who served a brilliant Korean brisket pastrami topped with kimchi; Doug Keiles from Ribs Within who served a tender Waygu brisket; the team from Smokehouse Tailgate Grill who served traditional smoky brisket; Judd's Memphis who served an inventive burnt end hush puppy; and Ashj Fulk from Hill Country who served his great Texas-style brisket. I'm sure I'm missing other great dishes too.
One other standout was chef Jared Male from Randall's Barbecue, which is on track to open in mid-June on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Male served a delicious pecan and mesquite smoked brisket with chili chutney BBQ sauce. If his new restaurant serves brisket of that quality, expect it to get a lot of attention. (I'll be keeping tabs on Randall's.)
Overall, the event was a lot of fun (although the space was a little crowded) and the food was outstanding. I already can't wait to see what next year has in store.
Check out more photos from Brisket King 2018 below.