National Champions of Barbecue Ribs

Rib ChampionsKansas City, Mo., is to barbecue what Chicago is to deepdish pizza. So imagine the reaction when an upstart team from Red Bank, N.J., crossed over the Mississippi River in February, slathered pork ribs with its signature sauce, and walked off with first-place honors at the 30th annual American Royal BBQ Competition, known as “the World Series of BBQ.”

The team—Fat Angel BBQ, two-thirds of which is made up of Steve ’01 and Loren Berkheimer Raab ’00—had just taken first-place in ribs at the ’Que by the Sea competition in Seaside Heights, N.J.

In October 2008, Fat Angel took first place in brisket at the Best of the Best Invitational in Douglas, Ga., beating 10 cooks from Texas— including those who placed first the previous five years.

Fat Angel features a Carolina-style pork sauce, sweet barbecue sauce, and dry rub that took about a year to formulate. They select brisket cuts with a high marble score. The pork is a certified Berkshire heirloom variety that a sponsor ships from Iowa.

The team participates in 8 to 10 competitions each year. Loren, an economics and business graduate, handles the logistics, organizing products and equipment. Steve is the pitmaster. The third member, Eric Keating, preps the meat by applying the rubs and injecting it with spices.

A full-time sales representative for Hale Insurance Brokerage, Steve also sells the benefits of sponsoring the team. Loren helps run the team members’ full-time catering business, Local Smoke BBQ, with Keating.