Local Parishes

The Thrill of the grill

by Joe Bollig


In the beginning was the grill.

And then the men said, “Let us add meats to the grill, flavor the meat with savory rubs and sauces, and invite a few friends over.”

They did so, and it was good. In fact, it was better than good.

It was awesome.

Six years ago Steve Meagher, Tom Hall and Dan Bingaman, friends and members of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, held a little barbecue party at Hall’s house.

“[We] talked about having a little more fun than just cooking for your friends,” said Hall.

With encouragement from their pastor, Msgr. Charles McGlinn, the three barbecue aficionados grew their little event and made it an annual parish celebration — the Holy Smokes Barbecue Contest — held every June.

“In six years we’ve had almost 60 teams,” said Hall. “It has really become for Curé [Parish] one of the best-attended, most-fun events we have all year. It has really become a signature event of the church.”

Barbecue people are always looking to step up to the next level. The three men cooked up an idea to teach their ways to other parishes, so they could have barbecue contests, too.

“Dan and Steve pretty much created the framework for these other parishes to create their own contests,” Hall said.

“It was always in the back of our minds that once we got this event going, and had other parishes doing the same contest,” he continued, “it would be a really neat thing to take the top teams and allow them to have an all-parish cook-off.”

Bingaman and Maurer became apostles of barbecue, helping parishes organize and conduct their own contests. Each of the “evangelized” parishes began to create their own teams.

“Steve and I counseled about eight other parishes on how to get started, how to conduct it, and how to do judging,” said Bingaman.

The top three winners of these parish-wide contests earned the right to participate in the first All-Parish Barbecue Invitational Cook-Off, which was held Sept. 24 and 25 at Curé of Ars.

Six parishes contributed 15 teams: Church of the Ascension, Leawood; St. Ann Parish, Prairie Village; Cure of Ars; St. Thomas More Parish, Kansas City, Mo.; St. Therese Parish, Kansas City, Mo.; and Visitation Parish, Kansas City, Mo.

The overall winner was team “Smoke of the Irish,” led by head cook Joe Murphy, from St. Thomas More Parish.

This first event was small compared to the usual Holy Smokes event, but that’s the way the organizers wanted it. It followed the usual format that barbecue contests take. On Friday night, the teams set up their grills and did preliminary cooking for family and friends as the band Jupiter Two played. They also began the all-night cooking for the contest.

The food categories were sausage, chicken, pork, ribs, and beef brisket. Trophies were given for the first three places in each category.

“It was an awesome time,” said Hall, who estimated the crowd to be more than 250.

Enthusiasm was high, and Hall said two teams from Ascension Parish in Overland Park volunteered to host next year’s All-Parish Invitational Barbecue Cook-Off.

Anyone interested in starting teams and conducting their own parish barbecue contest is encouraged to contact Hall, via e-mail, at: thall19@kc.rr.com, or Bingaman at: dan@kuecker.com. Bingaman and Meagher have developed a guide, “How to Throw a BBQ Contest,”  and are willing to help other parishes launch their own contest.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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