Pitmaster "Big" Tom Pierce and his teammate from Candy on a Bone pose for a photo with Raiderettes Jonni and Ashley. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Raiders Legend Morris Bradshaw and executive Mark Shearer acted as guest judges for the Bay Area BBQ Championship, which supported Alternative Family Services (AFS). Thirty-two teams squared off in four categories – chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket – with judges scoring each entry, while event attendees had the opportunity to taste the teams' food and vote in the People's Choice competition. Raiderettes Jonni and Ashley were also on hand to meet and pose for photos with event attendees.
The barbeque festivities raised money for AFS, which according to their website is "a foster, adoptions and mental health agency that has been creating safe, permanent connections for foster children and youth in Northern California since 1978. AFS serves approximately 1,500 foster children and youth 0-21 years of age on an annual basis."
Candy on a Bone, one of the barbeque teams led by pitmaster "Big" Tom Pierce, who is a big Raiders fan, participated in the event because they wanted to support AFS. "We are doing a barbeque cook-off, run by Alternative Family Services, and we are one of the sponsors for the event. My company is supplying the containers. [AFS] helps house more foster kids in the East Bay than any other outfit. Jennifer Harper, the organizer of the event, is just super. This is a unique event where they have a category called People's Choice, where event attendees buy tasting tickets and we get to share our food with the attendees. We had the opportunity to donate the proceeds or keep the money for the tickets. I donated the money for the kids and the charge for me is seeing people enjoy my food and helping the kids. We've been here all night cooking, having fun, enjoying the camaraderie of the other cooks and right here in the parking lot of the Raiders."
The teams submitted their barbeque for judging, which was where Bradshaw and Shearer stepped in. "I had the opportunity to get educated about an official barbequing contest and had the pleasure of being a judge on chicken," said Bradshaw. "I didn't think it would be as difficult as it was because you just eat food. Here, you're being asked to pay attention to aroma, texture, moisture." Bradshaw and Shearer tasted the meats and ranked them before the "barbeque certified judges" had their turn.
Bradshaw was happy to be involved with the Bay Area BBQ Championship. "It's always fun to be part of the community," said Bradshaw. "I think it's a great thing and it's being done for a great cause with the Alternative Family Services for foster kids. It's always fun to come out, see a lot of people, meet a lot of people, talk to a lot of people, but then understand that there is a cause behind it also."
Also on hand to judge the barbeque was US Airways pilot and hero of Flight 1549 Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. "It's another amazing opportunity I've had in the last two and a half years since Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River," said Sullenberger. "It's a chance to make a difference and support a worthy cause, especially here in the Bay Area. My family and I have always supported these kinds of activities and I think it's such an important role to mentor and to assist families who need our help."
During the event, AFS Executive Director Jay Berlin presented the Children's Guardian Award to former state senator and Congressman John Burton for a lifetime of service to foster children. "I accept this not for myself but on behalf of the thousands and thousands of kids not only who have aged out of the system but who are still in the system, the staff of our foundation for the great work they do and the countless people who contribute the funds that let us do the work we can do," said Burton. "And to organizations like Alternative Family Services that are on the ground and doing it. It's a great honor to receive this."
Event attendees enjoyed the smell and taste of barbeque, a performance by American Idol contestant and Oakland-native Latoya London, and photographs with Raiderettes Jonni and Ashley, all while supporting hundreds of Northern California foster children hosted by AFS.