Jimmy Johanek seared consistency into his Bourbonnais barbecue joint, Jimmy Jo's. Before Friday's BBQ Fest competition, he said that would give his crew an edge over the other 10 contestants.
That's true, it turns out. Jimmy Jo's defended its grand champion title, earning its third overall championship in the four years that BBQ Fest has existed. It finished with 245 points.
"The pride comes through in all the employees," Johanek said. "It's always a team effort in the restaurant. My employees do this every day, and I pick up the trophies. It's all about consistency for us."
Johanek's crew was the most consistent, taking first in brisket and piling up second place finishes in chicken, sauce and miscellaneous. Holding on to grand champion was great, but taking brisket was the best for the crew.
"It means more than any of the other trophies today," Johanek said. "We are a Texas barbecue, and brisket is what people come to our restaurant for."
JJ's survived Bull's Pit Smoked BBQ, the 2013 Grand Champion, by 11 points. Bull's owner, Ryan "Bull" Wilder, said he was perfecting a new sauce in the days leading up to the competition. He was successful, having captured first place finishes in sauce and ribs.
"I guess we perfected the sauce," Wilder said with a grin. "We had a nice, sweet glaze on the ribs. I am really happy with taking first in ribs. I was pretty confident in that and the sauce."
Wilder added that he hoped to do better in brisket, which his restaurant won in 2014. He already has his heart and mind set on next year's competition and praised Jimmy Jo's for their success.
"They do a great job," he said. "Jim and I are great friends. We talk often and obviously compete in the business. It's always great to show up, put together good food and see who comes home with something better."
Cherry Red Roasters, a newcomer out of Dwight, finished third overall. Martinez Tacos won the miscellaneous title, and Cliff's Natural Pork took top honors in chicken.