Jan and Don Canterbury are all set for this year’s Texas Cook’em festival.
Coming from Conroe, on the outskirts of Houston, they have made sure they have the choicest meat, fresh seasonings and a blend of extra spices they say is reserved only for a Rio Grande Valley palette.
“It’s 100 degrees in Conroe and we’re steeling ourselves for South Texas,” Canterbury said. “We don’t expect anything, but what we do know is that every time we come down there the people are really friendly, they cater to the cook’s needs and we always have a fantastic time.”
Texas Cook’em, Edinburg’s largest cook-off competition, takes place this Saturday, July 4, at the Edinburg Municipal Park. The event will include live music, entertainment, a fireworks show and of course food. This year’s cook-off categories feature steak, chicken, ribs and brisket.
The annual cookoff is sanctioned by the International Barbeque Cookers Association (IBCA), of which Canterbury and his wife Jan are both members. The IBCA is a venue by which expert grillers cook and compete on an international scale.
The duo are their own worst competition, Don Canterbury said.
In 2008, Canterbury was ranked seventh nationally by the IBCA and Jan was ranked 15th. In the Texas Gulf Coast Barbecue Society (TGCBS) Jan was ranked No. 1 and Don was ranked second in 2008.
“We have a lot fun doing it,” Canterbury said about competing against his wife. “We believe the Edinburg cookoff is probably one of the best run cookoffs in Texas. You guys really put on fantastic cookoff. The money is phenomenal, and anybody who is anybody in barbecue is cooking down there. You draw some pretty heavy hitters.”
In 2007, Don was grandchampion at Edinburg’s cookoff and Jan was reserve grandchampion. Last year, Jan placed third overall and Don placed eleventh.
The Canterburys participate in 20 to 36 barbecue cookoffs throughout Texas and Lousiana. They also compete in the invitation-only Best of the Best Barbecue Festival in Douglas, Ga. In order to compete, the couple has to place in the top-10 of their organization. The Canterburys agreed that in Edinburg the mentality for most cooks is the “spicier the better.”
“We definitely want to get their attention so, yes,” he said. “Geographically, when you move into an area you remember what you did. Maybe a little bit of spice is what they’re going to like in the Valley, and typically that’s what we have done in the past, kicked it up a notch to get people’s attention.”
Mike Flores lives in Houston and spends more than $8,000 to compete in the event he celebrates as being “family oriented and laid back.” His El Dorado Texas cookoff team has been participating since Texas Cook ‘Em began. The team won the steak competition in 2008.
“We do a lot of cookoffs here in Houston already,” Flores said. “These are the same old teams we play over and over again so we are just looking for competition. As far as expense, we know what it costs for gas and hotel but that’s not the idea, the idea is the competition to win it.”
“Most of the people down there are pretty friendly. It’s a different environment from Houston to Edinburg. Houston is mostly about partying but down there it’s like company of neighbors, you get to know more people.”
Staff with the Edinburg Chamber say the event is one of kind. Texas Cook’em features t-bone steaks as a cooking category, which no other event in the Valley does. The category alone attracts purists from across the State of Texas.
“The whole presentation is the meat itself,” said Evana Vleck, Chamber director of marketing. “For those who prefer barbecuing in their backyard, or just used to Valley barbecue, I truly feel you have to try something different.”
Teams consist of one head cook and four four team members, and features natural wood fired grilling even though charcoal is allowed. The event begins at 8 a.m and lasts all day.