During lockdown, my ‘bubble’ (not sure if my partner Jeannie will like her new nickname, but we will see if it sticks) and I participated in the first (and hopefully last) Great COVID Cook-Off – an online BBQ competition.

The format focused on presentation, captured through photos and video, rather than taste. While the concept initially caused some confusion among the purists, it soon became apparent that it was all about fun, banter, motivation, inspiration and social distancing community get-togethers.

The Great COVID Cook-Off was the brainchild of award-winning BBQ’er Derrick Paull. He assembled a panel of highly respected BBQ judges and scheduled the competition to run over the four Sundays during the lock-down period. Chicken was up first, followed by burgers, pork ribs and then finally beef – “the king of bbq”.
Being a successful BBQ’er is mostly about preparation, patience and having a vision of how the end game will look when presented to friends and family, or in this case, a judging panel and an internet full of food critics – no pressure! Each week an average of 37 teams made up of newbies and pros uploaded their photos and videos of their dishes, beginning an anxious wait to hear the results.

Later that evening, a notification would come through that “Derrick Paull is live” and the audience of over 10,000 viewers would scramble to the nearest online device to see the results live and hear the judges’ comments. After the salutations and platitudes were out of the way, the podium countdown began in earnest. Just hearing the names being read out and knowing there is a nationwide community of like-minded people ‘out there’ sharing their love of low ‘n’ slow BBQ really did help get us through some interesting times. We uploaded two dishes from our bubble and we managed two top ten placings, including an honourable third in the burger category for Jeannie. While the accolades and prizes were greatly appreciated, the smoky BBQ’d treats, inspiration and comradery were the real tasty soul food!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting event, breaking up the series of “groundhog days” during lockdown – a big thanks to Derrick, supporters, judges and competitors! Let’s hope we never meet under these circumstances again – we would much prefer to participate in person with you at a future Jack Daniels National BBQ Comp!



Article by: Kerren Packer