The Wildwood BBQ Bash has grown and gained popularity continuously over the past 13 years, drawing in steep competition from across the state – all vying for the prestigious title of Grand Champion. This year, team Bringing the Heat claimed that title – with a secret ingredient that must be in their DNA.
“It’s just me and my mom,” Andrew Ahrens said, of team Bringing the Heat.
The mother-son duo is a force to be reckoned with, taking home two Grand Champion titles in just four years of competing.
“Every good man has a good woman by his side. In Andrew’s case, it’s his mom,” Wildwood BBQ Bash founder Frank Schmer said. “They have foodie personalities that excel in barbecue. People respect that team.”
Ahrens always has had a passion for cooking. After attending culinary school, he eventually found his niche in barbecue.
“Fine dining wasn’t really my thing … I bought a smoker and said, ‘Hey mom, let’s see how good we are.’ We were hooked ever since,” Ahrens said. Now, the duo competes in about 22-25 events a year.
“It’s like a second full-time job.”
Ahrens noted that the Wildwood BBQ Bash is one of his favorite places to compete. “I love it. We’ve competed in a lot of events. There’s nothing else like it around. The size, the activities, the people that come out … You’re just not going to see that at any other contest.”
The two-time champions know first-hand that competing is no leisurely task.
“It’s a lot of mental and physical [work] in this contest, a lot of work for a small team like us. You have to use your resources,” Ahrens said.
During intense competitions like this one, Ahrens said he’s grateful for his sister, brother-in-law and other family and friends who step in to help as needed – indicating that Bringing the Heat is a team truly built on love.
Ahrens needed all hands on deck when his team overslept by two-and-a-half hours Sunday morning, the final day of the competition.
“I thought about just packing up and going home. I had three hours to cook pork butt, chicken and brisket, and that’s almost impossible to do,” Ahrens said.
The family unit stuck together to pull off another win.
When asked the key to the team’s success, Ahrens responded instantly. “My mom’s sauce … sweet with a little bit of heat,” he said.
The 13th annual Wildwood BBQ Bash tested the waters this year with a new location, St. Louis Community College – Wildwood. The event went off without a hitch, drawing hefty crowds. Both Schmer and Ahrens declared it a success.
“We liked the big, open spaces and the parking plan,” Schmer said. “A lot of really positive takeaways from our first year over there.”
“This year was the best year I’ve ever seen it,” Ahrens said.
The bash started 13 years ago in the front parking lot of Schmer’s store. Throughout the years, it’s grown from a parking lot party into a well-known festival, which Schmer said is now “bigger than itself.”
Competitors are judged over eight categories: ribs, brisket, pork, chicken, pork steak, dessert, chili and chef’s choice.
Team Rippel-Que, led by Jeff Rippelmeyer, took home the second-place title of Reserve Grand Champion this year.
Visit westnewsmagazine.com for a complete list of competitors and photos from the Wildwood BBQ Bash.