Okay, it’s time to play “good news/bad news.” The good news is that once again, the Marco Police Foundation will host their annual Rib Cook-Off, the sixth annual, on Saturday at Marco Island Brewery, with five teams turning out their best baby backs, and you’re invited.

The bad news is you don’t get to eat the contestants’ ribs, which are prepared for the official judges.

The good news is you can still chow down on some delectable baby back ribs. While not entered in the contest, Marco Island Brewery, what you might call the “home team,” cooks delectable, moist and tender baby backs, which literally fall off the bone, and each attendee at the cook-off will have them on their plate, along with barbecue chicken, and fixin’s including such items as baked beans and corn on the cob.

These ribs are the creation of longtime Marco Island Brewery (MIB) chef Wilmer Ruiz. Asked the secret of their preparation, Ruiz was succinct: “The secret is secret.”

Frank LaCava, who opened MIB eight years ago, was more forthcoming.

“The ribs get a dry rub for 24 hours. Then, he sears them at 500 degrees, and steams them three hours at very low heat. And they get a homemade barbecue sauce.”

LaCava’s willingness to “spill the beans” on the ribs leads to the next good news/bad news installment. Bad news – he isn’t going to host the Rib Cook-Off any more. The reason is that he just sold the restaurant, with a closing on Tuesday.

The good news is the new owners, a group of five partners led by Rondi Jones and her husband Mike, intend to keep the tradition going, and say they are committed for this year, next year and looking forward.

“We are all for the community involvement,” said Rondi Jones. “That, the great location, and of course the food, are what have made the restaurant a success.”

More good news: part of the tradition is that MIB charges the Marco Police Foundation nothing for the food, using the event as a way to give back. In the past, they capped the number of tickets sold at 200 – which have already been sold – but the Joneses and their partners have authorized up to an additional 100 meals, so you can still buy your ticket to the event.

The cook-off features live music by Jim Allen, a silent and live auction, with prizes including four tickets to a Bucs’ home game this fall, fishing charters, golf at Hideaway Beach and the Island Country Club, and a raffle for a “bucket of booze” (in bottles).

Rib cooking teams include the police foundation, Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation, Island Country Club, Ross Frozen and “Wild Jimmy” Downey. The “blind” judging will be performed by judges City Councilor Charlette Roman, Community of Association Managers president Shari Fairchild, fire-rescue foundation vice president Barbara Murphy, chamber of commerce executive director Dianna Dohm, and Marco Island Civic Association president Kathy Sullivan.

Mike and Rondi Jones, who also purchased the Speakeasy restaurant, already owned 34 – soon to be 35 – Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants from Indiana to Alaska. They have five partners in the LLC or limited liability corporation that owns the Marco eateries.

The MPF Rib Cook-Off runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Marco Town Center, with judging scheduled for 4:45. Tickets cost $25, and all proceeds go to the police foundation’s charitable efforts, including help for police officers and their families facing difficulty, and scholarships for their children.


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