KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ What is a rub? Where does a hamburger come from? What's the best internal temperature for a steak? How do you make those criss-cross grill marks on your KC strip steak?
These are a few of the burning barbecue questions we posed to these precocious and pint-sized participants of the Kids Que, a cooking contest for kids ages 6 to 12 at The American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
Cool under pressure, the answers we got from the 70 kids from seven states _ and a defending champion from Japan _ will make you laugh, scratch your head and maybe even tear up just a bit.
Wearing a cool pair of shades and a smart striped apron, Ben Henricks, 8, from Fenton, Mo., figured he would win big if he added some Cheez Whiz to his burger. Only problem: His brother Graeme, 6, had decided on the same secret weapon.
Meahwhile, soft-spoken Cole Backerman, 10, of Carthage, Mo., shaped his burgers like domes and decided he would use the American Royal's chicken rub on them.
Older brother and seasoned competition veteran Brett, 12, was also using a rub on his steak to give it "style."
Although family members must cheer the competitors on from outside the competition staging area, competitors have an adult helper by their side to keep them safe and on task.
Colin Garrelts, 6, had dad/James Beard award-winning chef Colby Garrelts of Bluestem and Rye by his side while older sis Maddie had pastry-chef mom Megan cheering her on. Although Colin didn't have much to say about his secret recipe, he eagerly demonstrated a light touch when it came to seasoning his burgers.
Hana Uchiyama, 10, who flew in from Japan a few weeks ago ahead of her dad to stay with family friends and practice her English before making butter burgers for the judges, was so relaxed she never broke a sweat. Her dad, a member of BBQ Shogun, was pleasantly surprised at how fluent she had become in such a short time.
Amelie Wong, 11, a first-time competitor who has taken classes from chef Richard McPeake of Rib Stars BBQ, says her favorite barbecue gadget is a thermometer. It's clear she's already a stickler for accuracy.
Madeline Boschert, 12, of Kansas City was competing in her last Kids Que competition. When asked what she would miss most about competing, she pointed to her longtime volunteer helper Allison Verman. Verman was so touched she shed a few tears.
And, in the end, that kind of teamwork is what competition barbecue is all about.