Cuisine Lady of Q, West Coast BBQ

Published on June 2nd, 2016 | by Reporters Desk


Pitmasters Vie for West Coast BBQ Title

By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

The 5th Annual West Coast BBQ Classic at the Queen Mary featured barbecue styles from across the country. The May 14 event included slow-cooked hickory barbecue from Texas and southern Memphis-style barbecue.

The annual competition is officially certified in California and sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. The barbecue championship brought Southern California’s most accomplished champion pitmasters together to compete for a $10,00 cash prize and the coveted title of West Coast BBQ Pitmaster Champion.

This past year, I showed up late and ran around trying to shove as many samples of barbecue in my mouth, before I shlepped my body home and threw myself on the couch. With 44 teams competing this year, it was nearly impossible to try everything, but I gave it my all. I made it a point to take my time, reacquaint myself with many of the contestants and, of course, sample everything along the way.

West Coast BBQ Teams

Teams are expected to submit entries in four categories: pork, chicken, brisket and ribs. Certified judges, who spend their day tucked away in the judges’ tent, rate the entries on presentation, taste and everything in between.

Attendees are able to cast a vote also but just for their overall favorite team. The winner receives the People’s Choice Award. That award means nothing to the judges— and often the West Coast BBQ Pitmaster Champion isn’t the people’s favorite. The general public is voting on everything else — like whether or not the booth is aesthetically pleasing or if someone is passing out watermelon, while hungry crowds gather for meaty samples.

I actually read through some Yelp reviews of the event and again, many complaints were unfounded. Some attendees were upset about waiting in line to try samples. It’s a barbecue competition, not a restaurant, folks. Wait your turn. If I was competing for $10,000 in cash, I might be slightly more worried about plating pulled pork for the judges tent, than making sure everyone in line tried a sample in a timely fashion.

Several teams stood out, primarily because I had the opportunity to sit and talk to the competitors and hear their stories. Passion for barbecue reigns true at these events but the quality and dedication to hone in on their craft totally shines through.

One team in particular really stole the show: Lady of Q, a one-woman traveling team, who’s been swooping up barbecue accolades wherever she goes. Humility goes a long way, but in a man’s barbecue world, she’s truly made a name for herself. She pulled up her food truck alongside the judges tent and stayed in the parking lot, away from the masses.

In fact, her samples were actually not available to the public. Slightly shy, but totally determined and focused, she was more interested in putting energy into her food, rather than entertaining the crowd — and with good reason, she came in third place overall. Not a bad spot for a one-woman team.

The Coachella-based Big Poppa’s Smokers won the top prize, while the Banning-based Left Coast Q took second place.

For details about the West Coast BBQ Classic and Kansas City Barbeque Society events, visit their website


A member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association, Gina Ruccione has traveled throughout Europe and Asia and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. You can visit her website at


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