web analytics

Coverage: 4th Annual Up in Smoke Cook-off

The 4th Annual Up in Smoke Cook-off took place on Saturday, August 18, 2012 at Aloha Stadium, in the Salt Lake-bound parking lot. The event essentially encompassed a smoked meat competition, wild pig hunt weigh-in competition & car show competition subtitled the Nobody Cares Car Show.

Because this post involves so many photos and accompanying narrative, it has been split-up into multiple pages, with links to subsequent pages at the bottom of each page. Or you can jump directly to subpages by topic through quick-links here:

4th Annual Up in Smoke Cook-off coverage multi-page quick-links 
• Page 1: Event introduction and booth visits part 1 (you’re currently on this page)
• Page 2: Booth visits part 2
• Page 3: Booth visits part 3
• Page 4: Meet the judges and view the food entries
• Page 5: Sit down with the Smoked Pork judging team and sample the entries
• Page 6: The results are in!
• Page 7: Wild Boar hunt weigh-in and “Iron Chef” cook-off
• Page 8: “Nobody Cares” Car Show and event wrap-up

What makes this year’s event different from years past for yours truly, is that this year I was selected and served as one of ten official judges for the cook-off by Linda Henriques, the president and organizer of the event. Therefore, in this coverage I’ll walk you through the experience from a food judge’s perspective.

Without further ado, let’s head on over to the contestants booths and see what stay get!…

I swear, I must have been Japanese in my past life. I do everything in reverse (particularly the way I read magazines and newspapers), where here we’re starting with booth 30, working our way back to booth 1. Go figure. lol

Oh, and yes, I’m still on my vegetarian-centric diet (currently 176 lbs, with 31 lbs. total lost, and just 16 lbs. away from my final target weight), however made an exception for this event. And believe me, on this day, I wen’ GEEV’ ‘EM (went all out)! lol

Moving right along to booth 29…

OK, it doesn’t take being a food judge to know that, appearance-wise, this looks much better than the previous entry. From that first pan of smoked pork to this one, you can already see how color and sheen (how shiny it is) are key factors in appearance, especially if the presentation is just MEAT. More on that shortly.

Moving along to booth 27, now not only does the pork have great color and sheen, but they’re bustin’ out da’ “secret sauce”, throwing in some originality and creativity there (no others used sauce in this way)…

Ooh, then booth 27 busts this out!!!

Holy SMOKES! Wow, that looks freekin’ ONO! Great color contrast, sheen and concept. I’m one who appreciates more than just meat-meat-meat, preferring some form of veggie or other opposing ingredient to compliment and balance it out. Ya’ know?

So let me take a moment now and explain how I view and taste each entry from a food judge’s perspective.

Namely, there are a list of personal criteria I look for that goes like this:

1.) Color
2.) Contrast
3.) Sheen (how dull to shiny is the “finish”)
4.) Cut
5.) Creativity/Originality

1.) Seasoning (salty/sweet/spicy, etc.)
2.) Depth of, and overall flavor (penetration of marinade or rub)
3.) Moisture, Tenderness and Texture (in this case of the “bark”)
4.) Accompaniment/contrast (does the garnish or mixed ingredient(s) play well into the final texture and flavor?)
5.) Creativity/Originality

While the event’s voting ballot was much more abbreviated than this, I still took all those factors into consideration before deciding on where each entry stood from a grading scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent. More on that later.

With that, booth 27 pretty much hit all the marks on this one. Color, contrast, sheen, cut, creativity? Check, check, check, check and check, where I’d go 4 (very good) on each criteria.  And how did it taste? Very good to excellent. 4 points. You could tell whoever prepared this is a seasoned cook or chef, knowing exactly where the seasoning and doneness should be, while also knowing how to balance  the fusion of ingredients with proper cutting technique.

You wanna’ talk color, cut and sheen? Now this is what I’m talkin’ ’bout!…

OMG, now THAT’S how REAL “Paniolo” style smoked meat should look! Hooks ‘n all, baby! I just wanna’ lick the screen!

And who’s the genius behind this smoked meat madness? A Souza!…

No relations of course, as least not that I know of. The only Souzas I’m related to live on the Big Island and California.

And then just when you thought that was all from Souza-san, he busts out Smoked Palusami and Blue Crab Dip!…

Let me repeat that for you one more time. SMOKED. PALUSAMI. BLUE CRAB. DIP. Smoked Palusami Blue Crab Dip? GENIUS!!!!!!!!!! This takes creativity to a whole nother level! Check it out…

And how does Smoked Palusami Blue Crab Dip taste? Well, pretty much like how it sounds. Think of Spinach and Artichoke Dip with a squid luau twist. Or make that crab luau. Hey, Crab Luau? Now that sounds interesting too!  All I can say is, whoever was there that had the opportunity to try this dip should be considered very fortunate, as this stuff was truly special.

Note, Booth 27 served the general public the Smoked Palusami Blue Crab Dip with Tostitos “Scoops” tortilla chips, which is fine. However for the judge’s samples, it was served with the much more exotic ($$) and crunchy TARO CHIPS! Very good economics move when you consider the judges vote counts for 75% of the final score.

Most smokers were using Kiawe, however a few had their own smoking wood “tricks”, using anything from guava, to lychee to peach wood. Here’s Kiawe (Mesquite) smokin’ away at Souza’s Smokehouse booth…

Moving along, please go to page 2 at the link below…


19 thoughts on “Coverage: 4th Annual Up in Smoke Cook-off

  • September 18, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Mahalo’s Braduh Pomai for the awesome coverage. Glad you liked our Smoked Macs! Unreal pictures…everybody brought their “A” game and the competition will get tougher every year for sure. Up In Smoke Hawaii #1 :)

    • September 19, 2012 at 6:13 am


      Indeed, the smoked mac and almond nuts were the kind of “anything goes” twists I appreciate! I’d like to see more folks offer the likes of smoked mushrooms, smoked fruits (smoked trail mix?), smoked cheeses, and perhaps smoked tofu next year, just to name a few suggestions. “Think outside the box” kinda’ smoked stuff!

      On the other side of the fence, I can say without question, based on our discussions amongst each other throughout the event, all the judges brought their “A” game as well, including yours truly. We truly put in our best efforts to give fair, impartial, matter-of-fact, thoroughly thought-out scores. Oh, the poi palate buffer surely helped clear out the taste of each entry as we went along. Definitely!

      • September 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm

        I agree Pomai…judging is not easy. Mahalo to you and all the rest of the judges for the hard work you all put in to make this contest a good one :)

  • September 19, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Kudos to you for your coverage of this and the many other unique Hawaii events. Lucky we live Hawaii. We appreciate the time put into capturing the many activities happening at the Smoking Cookoff, the beautiful photos and storyline. Love it!

    • September 19, 2012 at 6:18 am


      Glad you enjoyed it. Sure took a while, but I think I covered all bases thoroughly. I’ll be doing some minor editing, fixing a few typos and formatting, plus adding more photos along the way as time permits, as there’s more where that came from. Check back in another week or so for additions.

      Hey, if you have connections with other competitors from the event, please let them know about the coverage here. They may be interested in seeing photos of their dishes, and even perhaps the commentary given on it. Mahalos!


  • September 20, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Mahalos for the awesome write up and for taking the time to judge. All of the competitors truly turned in some amazing smoked food. The competition teams/cooks are turning in more amazing and unique dishes each year. Can’t wait for 2013.

    • September 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm


      I’m VERY curious how you’ve tweaked your recipes, smoking methods and presentations over the years of actively competing in this competition, as well as any others.

      Without giving away all your secrets, that would be a GREAT interview with you to share here as a follow-up to this post!

      • September 26, 2012 at 11:09 pm

        I’d be happy to share my thoughts and ideas. I can tell you that I won’t give out too much info, as it would be non-beneficial to VRM. Let’s be honest, Hawaii has some amazing cooks that can bring some serious smoke meat products to the judging table. Honestly, you might want to hit up some of the other teams that cooked the Up In Smoke 2012 event.

        Still, let me know. I’m sure we can work something out.


  • September 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    This was well worth the wait. Excellent write up. Like a good book, I could not wait to turn the page. I am so happy you decided to judge this year. I trust that this will the first of many.

    • September 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm


      I’m actually right now on the fence for next year in choosing between judging or ENTERING the competition. After the experience of judging, I have SO MANY IDEAS of what I’d like to see done from a competitor’s standpoint.

      Perhaps I’ll go on a “2/1 spree” of 2 years judging, 1 year entering. Repeating over and over, until my blood pressure goes back so high, I won’t be able to do neither. LOL!

  • September 21, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Wow, awesome post and pics. Any chance of getting the recipes for the smoked mac nuts and winners in the respective categories? I thought with all the shows on bbq competitions the presentation wasn’t better. I like the KCBS style of presention on a bed of parsley. From the pictures the presentation seemed flat and didn’t really frame the meats. Surprised they used brand new grills on the iron chef competition instead seasoned grills but I guess it would be hard to find two identical seasoned grills.

    • September 22, 2012 at 7:20 am


      Recipes from the winners of a cooking competition? Ha-ha! Good one!

      As for the presentation, I’m just SO GLAD they didn’t use them damned white foam clamshell takeout containers so prevalently used at most plate lunch joints nowadays. That just RUINS the appearance of even the best attempt at presentation, IMO. While “bento box” containers used at this event were on the small side, the red and black colors and shape of it are certainly more elegant and “upscale” if you will.

      Which brings up a good point. As a suggestion, Linda should seek out the best possible disposable container to use for next year’s event that fits within budget. That really is a big part of the presentation, is the dish the food is served on, as that’s the “canvas” where the art of making food look appetizing all begins, right?

    • September 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      I agree with Kobi. KCBS garnish style is solid and evens out the competition field.

  • September 22, 2012 at 2:12 am

    Pomai, too bad no wild boar meat cook off. Now Food Network is having more wild games in cooking contests. Last one on Chop was wild boar meat used.

    • September 22, 2012 at 7:45 am


      Diner E noticed from my coverage of both this year and the other past years Up in Smoke events, nobody did SMOKED TURKEY. Total no-brainer, you’d think, right? But, no, I don’t recall seeing smoked turkey! The new Aloha Beer Company next to Sam Choy’s BLC (Nimitz) serves a smoked turkey leg, which while I didn’t try it, indeed looks and described as tasting like smoked ham. Looks ono!

  • September 22, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Two tray smoked tako and one mahi, take out, please. Oh, and toss in one tiki pork for back up. wow

    • September 22, 2012 at 7:46 am


      Not surprisingly, when all the entries from the judges table were set out for the public to sample and finish off, the smoked seafood entries were gone first!

  • September 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Up In Smoke will just get better and better as the years go on. The smoked meats, fish, and whatever else wil evolve and the teams will be more and more creative. I’m sure Pomai will get in there too :) Awesome!

  • September 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Wow! This looks so wonderful! I wish I’d been there. Everything looks so delicious. I imagine it must have been very difficult to be a judge.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: