Food BBQ Jeff Thiemer

Jeff Thiemer loves a barbecue sauce that contains a bit of a kick. The former U.S. Marine and restaurant chef will be competing as part of 7.62 BBQ, one of the teams participating at Camp High Hope's third annual Rib Fest, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Battery Park. The Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competition will be the first contest for Thiemer.

SIOUX CITY --  When he was in the U.S. Marine Corps, Jeff Thiemer learned to keep calm in intense situations.

And as a graduate of the St. Louis Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, he thrived in a hyper-competitive environment.

But the former Kahill's Steak- Fish & Chophouse chef will soon face what could be his biggest battle. 

Thiemer will be competing with Siouxland's savviest smokers and most brazen barbecue barons at the third annual Rib Fest, being held from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Battery Park.

Food BBQ Jeff Thiemer

7.62 BBQ's Jeff Thiemer, a former cook at Kahill's Steak, Fish & Chop House, shows off the vertical cabinet charcoal smoker he'll be using as a contestant at the third annual Rib Fest, taking place from 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Battery Park. 

A Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event, the competition will give its proceeds to the nonprofit Camp High Hopes, which provides recreational activities for people of all ages with disabilities.

"This is going to be the first time I've ever competed in a barbecue competition," Thiemer said a few days prior to the contest. "I know they can get pretty crazy."

His 7.62 BBQ (named after the caliber used for full power military main battle rifle cartridges) will be going up against, among other teams, Ferg A Que, which was the 2017 Rib Fest Grand Champion winner.

Food BBQ Jeff Thiemer

Competitive barbecuer Jeff Thiemer shows off the cabinet smoker he'll be using to smoke chicken and ribs during Rib Fest, the third annual fundraiser for Camp High Hopes. Taking place from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Battery Park, the event draws top notch barbecuers who compete for bragging rights as well as a $1,750 purse.

"Everybody gives their all in the heat of competition," Ferg A Que captain William Fergen explained. "We all want the glory of a win."

Fergen not only is a Rib Fest combatant, he is also a past judge for other KCBS events.

"My wife and I got became KCBS judges five years ago," he said. "We've been entering competition for about four years."

Fergen said the key to competitive barbecue is consistency.

"You need to make sure that every rib and every piece of chicken is cooked to perfection," he said. "That's what the judges are looking for and what each team should be aiming for."

This is a sentiment shared by Adam Damrau, who is the captain of That 1 Guy's BBQ.

"There are so many things at play during the competition," said Damrau, who, like Fergen, is a Rib Fest vet. "Everything from the weather to the meat can impact your performance."

Still, he insists a budding barbecuer won't need to invest much money in creating quality 'cue.

"My $5.99 bag of charcoal works just as well as something more expensive," Damrau said.

He said That 1 Guy's BBQ does have a secret weapon.

"My three sons are our best taste testers," Damrau said. "If they like what we're making, it's got to be good."

Ferg A Que's Fergen nodded his head in agreement.

"Most people become interested in barbecue at home," he said. "They are encouraged to compete after positive comments from family and friends. This is why the world of competitive barbecue is more like family than anything else."

Which isn't to say that Fergen wouldn't like a piece of Rib Fest's $1,750 purse.

"I'm a bit of a foodie," he said. "I wouldn't mind seeing the team do as well as we did last year." 

Those are fighting words for 7.62 BBQ's Thiemer, who rarely backs down from a challenge.

Rib Fest 2016

People watch as 35th and Taylor performs during Ribfest 2016 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Battery Park venue in Sioux City on Saturday.

"My dream is to start my own catering business," he said. "I'm hoping cooking competitions will spark some interest in that."

Thiemer said both his military and restaurant experience will work in his favor.

"Cooking is an art and a science," he said. "But good barbecue all comes down to taste. I guarantee there will be plenty of terrific barbecue at Rib Fest this year."

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Copyright 2018 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Load comments