At 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, a cool marine layer blanketed the Queen Mary in Long Beach as 44 BBQ teams, who had been working through the night, started to prepare their delicious entries for the 5th Annual Queen Mary West Coast BBQ Classic.
Blaze’s BBQ is a father/daughter team that started in 2015. Blaze Criqui and his daughter, Hailey, started like most teams – they love BBQ. Blaze has always loved to cook and BBQ for family and friends. His BBQ was so good that they told him he should enter some competitions. Hailey started showing her interest in learning how cook, BBQ, and loved a certain TV show, BBQ Pitmasters. So Blaze felt this would be a great opportunity to spend more time with Hailey and watch her grow into a full-fledged pitmaster.
Smoker: Blaze’s BBQ uses a custom-designed, custom-built smoker that Blaze and his friend (Marty’s Welding in Lancaster) created back in 2014. Blaze and Hailey have yet to name her.
Competition circuit: Last year, they have placed in the top ten in all categories in numerous competitions. They came in 11th place overall and 6th place in Pork Ribs at Santa Anita this year.
Challenges: Blaze’s BBQ faces the challenge of understanding what the judges are looking for. When the comment cards are few and far between, it is difficult to make necessary adjustments. For example, “Was it too salty?” “Was it not seasoned enough?” “Was there too much sauce?” “Was the meat not tender?” “What was wrong with the appearance?” Once pitmasters have the answers as to why they scored as they did, they can adjust for the next competition accordingly.
Blaze’s BBQ is all about having a good time with family, friends, and enjoying great BBQ. Blaze said, “If it wasn’t for some of my friends and family, Blaze’s BBQ would not exist. I have to give special thanks to my very awesome and understanding wife, Sherri Criqui, my awesome daughter and assistant, Hailey, my awesome son, Parker, my partner in crime, Ronnie (who is always taking off work to help out with Blaze’s BBQ), and Ronnie’s wife, Alexis, for putting up with him being gone all of the time.”
Now, let’s see how Blaze’s BBQ did in each category:
Chicken: Chicken thighs were turned in. The presentation was beautiful and a little different than most boxes. The chicken was tender, juicy, and had bite-through skin. The good seasoning on the outside penetrated through the meat right to the bone with a good spice level and was just sweet enough. The sauce was a little too heavily laid. A lighter glaze and maybe some time on the pit to caramelize it a bit would be better. OC Food Diva Score: 4.5/5 (If judging, Tenderness – 8, Taste – 8, Appearance – 8) KCBS Rank and Score: #37 with a score of 163.3828
Pork Ribs: The ribs were perfectly sauced and had a nice looking presentation. It had a great balance of sweet and savory with just the right amount of smoky flavor. The pork was meaty and juicy. This was a near perfect rib. OC Food Diva Score: 4.8/5 (If judging: Tenderness – 8, Taste – 9, Appearance – 9); KCBS: #14 with a score of 169.1200
Pork: Sliced pork was turned in. It had a good smoked flavor along with a good spice level and just the right amount of sauce. It also had a nice bark and great color. The texture, however, was a little tight. It probably needed a little more time on the smoker. OC Food Diva Score: 4/5 (If judging: Tenderness – 7, Taste – 8, Appearance – 8); KCBS: #28 with a score of 164.5484
Brisket: Sliced brisket and burnt ends were turned in. Both cuts had a good smoke and beefy flavor along with good spice level. The sliced brisket was a little on the salty side. It needed a lighter coat of au jus before turn-in or none at all. Its bite was a little tight and had a fibrous texture similar to corned beef brisket. The burnt ends were much better with a tender texture. OC Food Diva Score: 4/5 (If judging: Tenderness – 7, Taste – 7, Appearance – 8) KCBS Rank and Score: #40 with a score of 156.5144
Overall, Blaze’s BBQ came in #32 out of 44 teams with a score of 653.5656. With another event under Blaze’s BBQ’s belt, it’s on to the next competition!
There was also a People’s Choice category, where the public could vote for their favorite BBQ team. Keep in mind, the items that they served are probably not what they turned in for the competition. They were either cooked separately or parts that may not have been up to par for turn-in. But it’s still some of the best BBQ you’ll ever have.
Blue Eyed BBQ served up pulled pork. It was very dry and needed more flavor along with sauce. Rating: 2/5
Smokin’ Harts served up brisket. It had a tender texture. Balanced flavors from beefy to smoky. Rating: 4.5/5
Smoky Doky Barbecue served up burnt ends. It had a very dry and chewy texture. It was also bland. It needs more seasoning and maybe some sauce. Rating: 2/5
Rude Not To BBQ served up brisket. It was overcooked and had a mushy texture. But it had a really good flavor. Rating: 3/5
Mad Dawgz served up brisket. It was tender but overcooked. It had a really good beefy flavor. Rating: 2.5/5
Burnin and Lootin BBQ served up sliced brisket and burnt ends. It had a tender texture. The flavors were well-balanced with a slight sweetness. Rating: 4.5/5
A great way to end a day of savory meats is with ice cold, hand dipped ice cream bars and frozen bananas. Check The Queen Mary’s events calendar and save the date for next year’s West Coast BBQ Classic! It’s an event not to be missed!
For more information:
1126 Queens Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90802