The scene bore a faint resemblance to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," appropriate for Father Tim, from San Marco Catholic Church, and the judges approached the contest entries with lip-smacking reverence. The ideal BBQ ribs?
"They have to be succulent, moist on the inside, not too spicy and not too bland," said Navin. "And they've gotta be served hot."
"What he said. Father Tim has guided me," said Lazarus. "There are a lot of different ways of cooking ribs, but they do have to be crisp on the outside."
Indeed, many different styles of barbecue ribs were included in the eight anonymous, number-coded aluminum trays delivered to the judges' table by Marco Island Brewery owner Frank LaCava. Each cook had his or her secret ingredient, a rub, a marinade, a special technique for applying a glaze to the finished product.
Rondi Hauser, her ribs representing the Kiwanis Club, said her technique is a three-step process.
"We marinate them overnight in mojo sauce, put on a dry rub, and slow cook them for hours. Then, we finish at high heat to caramelize the sauce," she said. She shared her shade canopy with the team from Iberia Bank next to her grill, but said of the 5 p.m. judging, "at 4 o'clock, look out – the guns come out."
The Iberia Bank team, meanwhile, "brought in a ringer," said Keith Dameron. David Gordley, one of the bank managers in Naples, "spent five days with the sauces. We have special charcoal, a special cooker, and hickory chunks" for the smoky flavor, he said.
Mike Newell and Denise Garneau went Asian, producing a Korean-style barbecue "with a little Crown Royal in the marinade, not the glaze," said Newell, along with oranges, garlic, allspice, and even Coca-Cola – "everything and the kitchen sink."
Jan Graf and Suzanne Amon turned out two different batches, one "more Asian, and one brown sugar with a kick," she said. "We used a milk-stout beer they make here at the Brewery. I figured I might as well buy it here."
First time contestant Connor Riddle said the family recipe came from mom and dad.
"My parents got it ready, and I'm just cooking them," he said. Riddle was also supported by team members Bill Reiman and Nick Popoff, and helped by quantities of beer – in the cooks, not on the ribs.
Inside Marco Island Brewery, patrons enjoyed the "home team's" baby back ribs and home-brewed beverages, and split their attention between schmoozing with their friends, the tunes of Jeff Hilt on guitar and invisible band, and the NFL playoff contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos. Sporadic games of "corn hole," or beanbag toss, broke out in front of the restaurant.
When the smoke cleared, the top two entries were swept by the teams from Marco Island Home Inspections. The winner's trophy, in the shape of a slab of ribs, went to Jan Graf. Suzanne Amon, her daughter, the significant other of MIHI chief Duane Nettles, took the runner-up spot.
"I did all the slave work," said Nettles, "setting up the grill and getting the fire going. They did their recipes and we cooked them."
Additional prizes included a 50/50 raffle, weekend stays at the Hilton and the Marriott, a cooler full of booze, and a half-day fishing charter with Capt. Hector Diaz.
Funds raised during the event support police officers through the Marco Island Police Foundation.