Atlanta Kosher BBQ Contest Set for October

Atlanta Kosher BBQ Contest Set for October

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

The Atlanta Kosher BBQ Competition is back after a year’s hiatus, and with a new presenting organization and a new location, organizers expect the one-day festival to be beefier than ever.

Last held in October 2013 at former presenter Congregation B’nai Torah, the Atlanta Kashruth Commission-supervised festivities are moving east to Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park under the auspices of local lodges of the Hebrew Order of David.

Quadrupling the space at Brook Run Park, combined with an extra splash of social media promotion, could bring 3,000 to 5,000 people to the festival between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, said one of the organizers, Jody Pollack. In the confines of B’nai Torah, between 1,000 and 1,200 people attended the first two competitions.

Pollack said the kosher competition ( was nearly an HOD production from the beginning. Adam Waxman, the current president of the HOD lodge in East Cobb, Bezalel, and Pollack were talking about trying a kosher barbecue event to raise the HOD profile, only to learn that B’nai Torah already was planning one for October 2012 through the efforts of the competition’s founder, Brian Mailman. Serving on the B’nai Torah board and inspired by a competition in Birmingham, Mailman persuaded the congregation to host the first competition.

So HOD helped B’nai Torah, including assembling Weber grills and cleaning help.

Teams at the Kosher BBQ contest compete in everything from brisket to booth design and team name
Teams at the Kosher BBQ contest compete in everything from brisket to booth design and team name.

“We provided a tremendous amount of manpower to help the first barbecue competition happen,” Pollack said. “It was just a really wonderful event. Completely exhausting, but a wonderful event.”

It also gave a boost to HOD, whose new members included B’nai Torah congregants Matt Dickson, the competition team liaison, and Keith Marks, who has gone on to launch a mobile barbecue business, Keith’s Corner Bar-B-Que.

About a dozen teams competed in the inaugural event, and 19 entered in 2013. But B’nai Torah was a massive construction site amid extensive renovations a year ago and couldn’t host the third-annual event. With work continuing at B’nai Torah this year, three of the four local HOD lodges happily took on the competition.

“We got the presidents together and said we’re doing this. Everybody is 100 percent behind us,” said Pollack, who leads the HOD lodge in Alpharetta. The lodges in East Cobb and Sandy Springs also are participating. The lodge in Toco Hills couldn’t participate as a group, but some members are, including Atlanta Jewish Music Festival Director Russell Gottschalk, who is organizing the musical entertainment at Brook Run Park.

“HOD being community-oriented, this is a phenomenal way to showcase what we do,” Pollack said. The proceeds from the competition will go to charities designated by the lodges: Jewish Home Life Communities’ Weinstein Hospice; Jewish Family & Career Services’ JETS transportation system; the Atlanta Community Food Bank; JScreen; Gift of Life; and I Care Atlanta.

B’nai Torah remains a sponsor and is the site where about 30 teams are expected to gather Thursday night, Oct. 15, for food preparation. By 10 that night, all the food will be wrapped, sealed and locked into a mobile refrigerated container at B’nai Torah.

The competitors have a good time while doing good. Pollack said the atmosphere during the low-and-slow process of barbecuing brisket, beef ribs, chicken thighs and beans is like “a summer camp around the campfire” as teams sample one another’s sauces, offer tips and share some of their secrets. They may even indulge in an adult beverage or two between the time a rabbi lights the cooking fires Saturday night after 9 and the time the food comes off the grills and goes to the judges around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

At that point, noncompetitors can get in on the fun. They can sample the teams’ food for $1 per nibble, and they can purchase more substantial fare from kosher food vendors. In addition to the music, scheduled activities include inflatables, face painting, a mechanical bull, Circus Camp, the Purple Hippo and a pickle-eating contest for kids, as well as a robotic T-shirt cannon from Wheeler High School. Adult attractions include a Big Green Egg cooking demo and raffle.

Plus, attendees will have a say in choosing the winner of the coveted Marvin Rembo Fan Favorite Award.

“It’s a great way to spend a day,” Pollack said.

Show Your Sizzle

If you and some friends want to get in on the fun of the Atlanta Kosher BBQ Competition, contact Matt Dickson right away at There’s no official registration deadline, but organizers wanted to have the lineup mostly set by Rosh Hashanah.

The entry fee is $425 — which covers two Weber Silver Elite kettle smokers, 15 hours of charcoal, the meat and kosher food ingredients, all the utensils and other implements, and two tables and chairs — plus a $100 cleaning deposit. A clever team name, a creative booth design, and a mouth-watering recipe for a rub or sauce also help.

11 Cities, 3 Principles

The Atlanta Kosher BBQ Competition is one of 11 such events around the nation, all of which work together to market one another, share important information and leverage social media to build awareness.

The other kosher barbecue competitions are in Birmingham, Memphis, Charlotte, Chicago, southern New England, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Long Island, Kansas City and Cleveland. They all rely on volunteer efforts, in-kind donations and sponsorship dollars.

Brian Mailman, the founder of the Atlanta competition, tells the story of the event’s origins on its website.

He, Matt Dickson and Keith Marks were competing in a kosher barbecue competition at Temple Beth-El in Birmingham in 2011, and at 2 a.m., while their brisket was starting to smoke, he drew up a plan: why they would bring the event to Atlanta, who would benefit, and how they would keep it kosher and educate people about how kosher food could be amazing.

“So three dads with passion, conviction and a taste for BBQ set out on a mission with this in mind. Let’s build a Kosher BBQ Competition each year in Atlanta with these founding principles,” Mailman wrote. Those three founding principles:

• Bring both the kosher- and nonkosher-eating Atlanta communities together, educating guests how keeping and eating kosher is not difficult and has many benefits.

• Showcase award-winning kosher food in a venue where everyone, across all Jewish movements, feels comfortable to enjoy.

• Raise money and collect food for charity.

read more: