BBQ benefit: Police Foundation rib cook-off raises charity funds

Lance Shearer

Mike Murphy’s apron said “Fire Chef,” not fire chief. But Murphy is both, with chief of the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Dept. his full-time day job, and BBQ grillmaster merely an avocation.

The Fire-Rescue Foundation joined in to help their fellow first responders in the police department at the 6th Annual Marco Police Foundation Rib Cook-Off, held once again at the Marco Island Brewery.

Fire Chief Michael Murphy, left, and Police Chief Al Schettino share the sizzle. The Marco Police Foundation hosted their sixth annual Rib Cook-Off Saturday afternoon at the Marco Island Brewery.

About 225 people bought tickets to support the charitable work of the police foundation, focused on helping the families of Marco Island police officers going through difficulties, and providing scholarships to their children. Along with the police and fire foundations, teams representing Wild Jimmy’s food service operation and the Island Country Club competed.

When the “smoke cleared,” the judges’ nod went to the Island Country Club, and chefs Loren Cogswell and Kurt Beattie. They showed confidence not only in their charcuterie prowess but also in their daintiness, boldly cooking BBQ ribs while wearing white shirts.

Cogswell said the tenderness in the ICC ribs came from the “sous vide” process they used to cook them, with the ribs sealed in a vacuum container and then cooked at low heat in a water bath for 12 hours, before smoking them for an additional three hours and finishing them on the grill. Also key to the taste, he said, is the Berkshire pork they use. Asked if the baby backs are on the menu at the club, Cogswell replied, “not yet, but after today we might have to.” The fire department’s offering lost out by just one point in the judges’ rankings.

In perhaps a first, the judges were an all-female crew. They included City Councilor Charlette Roman, Community of Association Managers President Shari Fairchild, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dianna Dohm, and Marco Island Civic Association president Kathy Sullivan, and Linda Turner of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation. Turner was a last-minute replacement for Fire-Rescue Foundation Vice President Barbara Murphy, who happens to be the wife of Chief Murphy, and he said she would know the taste of his ribs even blindfolded.

Turner, whose husband Dr. Jerry Swiacki was also flipping ribs, wearing an apron proclaiming “Gourmet Stud Muffin,” said what she looks for is “tenderness, taste of course, and maybe a little kick in the sauce,” although it was not clear if she was describing her taste in ribs or in men.

Roman said getting the judging gig at the rib cook-off was the culmination of a dream: “I’ve been waiting 20 years for this.” She cautioned the servers who delivered the anonymous plates of baby backs to the judges’ table not to take away previous plates. “I’m saving those for later,” she said.

The event also included a silent and live auction, with new Marco Island Brewery co-owner Mike Jones revealing himself to be a master auctioneer, who has actually taught the subject. Civic organizations, take note.