Dozens of spectators turned out on the patio of Whole Foods on Upper State Street yesterday, May 20, to check out the finals in The Santa Barbara Independent’s first ever Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest.

On display were 14 top chefs, both paid professionals and “amateur” backyard grill whizzes, to be judged by four of the more discriminating palates in town: Whole Foods’ own John Jurey; Rancho San Julian Beef’s Elizabeth Poett; Jaffurs Winery’s Dave Yates; and our own food editor, George Yatchisin. Tying it all together was emcee John Dickson, of

By the time the chomping smoke had settled, all of the judges agreed the choices were tough, and that all dishes were amazingly tasty. “On any given day,” said Yatchisin, “each of these dishes could have won.”

But it was a contest, so winners had to be named, and they are, listed by category:

Professional Entrée: Caterer Edie Robertson, who slow-cooked some Creole sugar rum rubbed short ribs

Professional Side Dish: Union Ale Brewing Company’s Aaron Robertson, who prepared bacon cheddar grits

Amateur Entrée: George Levinthal’s Santa Barbara Southwest Turkey Burgers

Amateur Side Dish: Liana Campon’s Chili

Each of these winners went home with a generous gift certificate to Whole Foods, a charcoal grill and other assorted BBQ goodies from Kingsford, and a one-liter bottle of Chopin Vodka, so we give special thanks to those sponsors of the first-time event.

Look to the June 3 issue of The Independent, where we will feature these grill-masters as well as some of the other exciting finalists in our Sizzling Summer BBQ Issue.

Cocktails Anyone?

For those wondering about the cocktail portion of the contest, the finals for that are this Saturday, May 22, at Harry’s Plaza Café, 3313 State Street, from 5 to 6 p.m. The public is invited to come watch the judges sip, and then purchase the winning drink for a special price from the bar all night long. Going drink-to-drink in that competition are:

* The S.B. Kate-tini, a sweet basil-ized vodka drink prepared by Kate Schwab

* The Senorita Susie, a strawberrified tequila drink prepared by Branden Bidwell

* The Cool Hand Cuc, an herbally enhanced cucumber gin drink prepared by Sonny Chehl

* The Hot to Quat, a spicy loquatified vodka drink prepared by Guy Cumberbatch

* The 10 Cane Calienta Cooler, a mango-spice rum drink prepared by Mandy Huffaker

In addition to being hosted by Harry’s Plaza Café, this contest is also being sponsored by Chopin Vodka and 10 Cane Rum, so come on down, support our master mixologists, and have a splendid Saturday afternoon.


The Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest’s Cocktail Finals are being held at Harry’s Plaza Café, 3313 State Street, from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 22. For more info, email


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