As 23 rib cookers from all over the world compete for top honors at the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, a carefully selected panel of judges will work behind-the-scenes to determine who makes the best ribs!
It’s not just bragging rights they’re competing for – $14,500 in cash is up for grabs for the cookers who impress the judges. As always, the judges are not permitted to sample any ribs from the cookers before the judging takes place on Sunday, September 3, 2017. The judging is double-blind, meaning neither the judges, nor the staff setting up the judging know which ribs belong to which cooker.
The judges will eat the same ribs served to customers during the cook-off. The winners will be announced at 2 p.m. at the West End Stage on Monday, September 4, 2017. This year’s judges are a mix of top culinary professionals, food critics and media personalities who share a passion for delicious BBQ.
2017 Rib Judging Team:
Head Judge Alan Zeman
Chef Alan Zeman graduated first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America. He has earned CEC Certification from the ACF, as well as being inducted into the American Academy of Chefs. He has been Executive Chef at restaurants, country clubs and prestigious resorts throughout the country. Most recently Chef Zeman owned and operated the award winning Fuego Restaurant Bar and Grill in Tucson, Arizona.
Allen Pierleoni is a senior writer for the Sacramento Bee, specializing in food and restaurants, travel, books and authors. His weekly restaurant review column, “Counter Culture,” has informed readers for 15 years.
Ken Wayne has anchored the weekend news at KTVU since 2002. He started his career at KTVU in 1992 and has covered some of the biggest stories in the Bay Area and California since then. He’s been on the scene of floods, fires, earthquakes, and almost every major Bay Area story over the past 16 years. He’s been honored by the regional Emmy’s, the Associated Press and national Telly awards. Wayne’s passion for TV is equal to his passion for delicious barbecue, and he says he’s excited to be part of this elite group of Nugget Rib Cook-Off judges!
On the Menu…Live!
Matt Russell is the host of On the Menu…Live!, a weekly radio program that dishes out the latest buzz on Arizona’s culinary and cocktail scene. He also serves as the food and beverage correspondent for the Bill Buckmaster Show and John C. Scott Show in Tucson, and writes the weekly food and beverage column for Inside Tucson Business, Southern Arizona’s business journal. When he’s not on the radio, writing his column, or serving as Master of Ceremonies at community events, he’s running Russell Public Communications, a public relations agency he founded in 2002.
Great American BBQ Tour
Since 2008, Mike and his wife Christine have been traveling the country teaching festival attendees and fans about the “Gospel of Q” as the hosts of the Great American BBQ Tour. As tour hosts, they are the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s ambassadors to the world. During the past eight years, the Peters have journeyed tens of thousands of miles across the nation and back, acting as the voice of KCBS and promoting BBQ while teaching professional grilling tips and tricks to millions of festival attendees. Mike is also serving on the board of Kansas City Barbecue Society, the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, where he was a past president!
San Francisco Chronicle
Spud Hilton is the travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and SFChronicle.com who has written about (and been lost in) destinations on 6 continents, from the back alleys of Havana to the shrines of Kyoto to the floor of a hippie bus in Modesto. He writes a biweekly column about travel.
Ray Lampe grew up in Chicago and after high school, spent 25 years in the family trucking business. In 2000, the trucking business had run its course, and it was time for Ray to try something new. He had been participating in BBQ cookoffs as a hobby since 1982, so he decided to take a leap and turn his hobby into a career. In 2000, Ray moved to Florida and began his career as an outdoor cooking expert. Ray has written seven cookbooks and is currently working on his eighth. The most recent being “Pork Chop” published by Chronicle Books. Ray was inducted into the BBQ Hall of Fame in 2014.
Bill and Connie and RJ in the Morning, Alice 96.5, Reno Media Group
A Wisconsin native, where he began his radio career, Bill has lived in Reno for two decades. He moved here to become half of the morning show on Reno Media Group station KODS, now called “The River” but then known as “Oldies 103.7.” He roots for the Wolf Pack but also remains a diehard Green Bay Packers fan. CHEESE HEAD! Bill is part of Reno’s popular “Bill and Connie and RJ” morning show on Alice 96.5, and he also oversees programming and operations for all of Reno Media Group’s stations. He’s continually out in the community, enjoys meeting new people and loves Ribs from The Best In The West Nugget Rib Cook-off!
Mayor Geno Martini
Sparks City Mayor
In July 1999 Mr. Martini was appointed to the Sparks City Council to complete an unexpired term, representing Ward 3. He was elected Mayor Pro Tempore by the City Council in July 2003 and served in that capacity until February 2005, when he was sworn in as mayor. He was elected to full terms in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and is currently the longest-serving mayor of Sparks.