The aroma of smoked pork ribs is wafting over downtown Des Moines this morning at the half-way point of the three-day Rib America Festival.
Some of the country’s top barbeque chefs are cooking several tons of meat for the feast.
Jerry Gibson, of West Salem, Ohio, is slaving over 36,000 pounds of ribs. Gibson says there are no secret ingredients needed to make a successful, savory barbeque. "It’s the seasoning and the sauce that blend together and the preparation we do and how we marinate them and for how long," Gibson says. "We have to pre-cook the product when we’re feeding 2,000 people a day. It’s not really a secret, just doing what the public wants."
Gibson is among eight chefs from across the U.S. in competition during this weekend’s festival. The 58-year-old has been a professional barbeque competitor for 25 years. "I’ve been in the meat business ever since I got out of high school and I’ve sold ribs to national account restaurants and distributors across the country for 35 years and I figured this cookoff thing must be pretty successful or these guys wouldn’t be doing it so I just jumped in there," Gibson says.
Since he spends 18 hours a day surrounded by the smell of spiced, smoked pork, Gibson says he’s had to change his diet. "I don’t eat barbeque but I enjoy cooking it," he says. "I’m around it so much, I’d rather eat a pizza or have a hot dog."
The festival at the Iowa Events Center isn’t just about food either. Ten bands are performing through Sunday, including Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, 38 Special and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. For details, visit www.iowaeventscenter.com .