This is from the The Norwalk Advocate. It's about my friends Nancee and Greg at Purple Turtle Catering. Enjoy.
Couple on way to courtly cook-off
By Jamie DeLoma
July 6, 2007
NORWALK - By the time the smoke cleared last weekend at the I Love Barbeque Festival in Lake Placid, N.Y., Nancee Gell and Greg Hunter knew they were hot.
Beating three dozen teams spanning the continent from Florida to Vancouver, the Norwalk-based Purple Turtle Catering Company emerged with the grand championship crown, a check for $1,500 and the New York state title. They are now eligible to compete in the annual American Royal Barbecue Festival in October in Kansas City, Mo.
"There were a lot of great teams out there, and it's really special to win this festival," Hunter said.
The Norwalk teammates have not always been the barbecue aficionados they are now.
"I grew up eating burned chicken and undercooked steaks," Gell said. "I learned about barbecuing in the mid '70s, but it wasn't until we got involved with the New England Barbecue Society about seven years ago that it has become an obsession."
She said the grilling also helps to relieve the day-to-day anxiety in her job as a security specialist in Stamford.
"It's a tremendous stress reliever," Gell said. "It really lets you focus on your food, creating an artistic and good product and not let you worry about what's going on at the office or have to worry about little Johnny."
She said the competitions, which have been popular in the South and Midwest for decades but only now are growing in the Northeast, encourages participants to bring their families. Gell said she has seen people get married at the contests.
"The competition circuit is really growing leaps and bounds," said Don McCullough, executive vice president of the National Barbecue Association in Austin, Texas. "It really grew in popularity after 9/11 when people didn't want to go on expensive vacations anymore."
He said the competition has grown quickly in the Northeast over the past three or four years.
"Barbecue is coming out of nowhere," McCullough said. "It's becoming a pretty popular pastime."
Jeff Esau of Stamford, who owns Jeff's Cuisine in Norwalk, won the first international barbecue competition in Montego Bay, Jamaica, five years ago.
"Barbecuing is a process," Esau said. "It started here in America. It's an American form of art, just like the jazz and the blues."
Esau, who calls himself a barbecue historian, said the first barbecue restaurant was established in the 1840s in North Carolina. Since then, the style of cooking has grown in popularity with the advent of the Weber grill in the early 1900s and growth in their popularity in the 1950s.
"Barbecuing really took off in the 1970s, and now it's just exploded," he said. "In the South, barbecuing has always been part of life. In the Northeast, people really want to try something different. It's the hottest cuisine out there now."
Competitions are generally by category, usually beef, chicken, fish, pork and ribs and can span from January through November. Many of the contests raise money for charities as well.
Garry Howard, who is now retired and living in Puerto Rico, mentored Gell and Hunter for three years beginning in 2000 before they began competing on their own in 2003 and mentoring others.
"He really gave us a lot," Hunter said. "We are just basically giving back what we got from him."
Since then, the married Norwalk couple won about a half-dozen grilling and barbecuing competitions and finished second or third in several dozen others.
"We travel all around the country going to these contests," she said. "The camaraderie of the grilling, barbecuing community is something that can't even be described. It's like a big fraternity if you will. We get together, cook together, eat together and laugh together. Some weeks, I win; some weeks, you win."