Slather some chicken and ribs in barbecue sauce over an open flame, and just watch the crowds that follow their noses to you.
An estimated 300,000 visitors were enticed by the aromas onto Sparks Street Mall over five days to partake of the 17th annual International Chicken and Rib Cook-off, according to Sharon McKenna, executive director of the Sparks Street Mall.
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“You can just smell it in the air,” said Natalie Appleyard, who was attending her third cook-off event. “I like how everyone has sauce on their faces and nobody cares.”
Her brother-in-law, Graeme, was attending his first cook-off, but made up for lost time by visiting on three separate days.
“It’s delicious. These ribs are amazing, the sauce, the tenderness of the meat. It’s so succulent,” he said. “Uncle Sam’s is my favourite this year.”
Personal favourites aside, some heavy bragging rights are at stake when the cook-off hands out awards for best sauce, best chicken and best rib.
“Everyone starts with the same meat. It’s how they cook it, and what rubs they put on the meat and the sauce (that counts) at the end,” said McKenna.
Some of the top grill teams from across North America attend Ottawa’s cook-off. This year, Blazing BBC won for best chicken, Camp 31 won for best ribs, and Billy Bones had the best sauce.
Sean McNamara, the owner of Bibbs B.B.Q from Naples, Fla., was disappointed to miss out on a trophy this time, but didn’t count it as a wasted trip.
“Everyone looks forward to coming up and having a good time,” he said. “Ottawa is one of the best by far. It’s a great time and a great city.”