A Beginner’s Guide to The Ark-La-Tex Ambassadors BBQ Cook-Off

Featured photo: A giant, inflatable pig soars at Grillin’ for Grads in 2015. Photo by Casey Habich. 

Here’s the deal: I love barbecue as much as anyone you’ll ever meet. I could eat brisket and smoked sausage three meals a day and live a happy, brief life. If you love ‘cue as much as I do, I highly recommend marking your calendar for the 2016 installment of Grillin’ for Grads: The Ark-La-Tex Ambassadors BBQ Cook-Off. This year’s event will be held, 12-10 p.m., on Saturday, April 9 in Downtown Shreveport’s Festival Plaza. The barbecue cook-off component of the event, which includes a people’s choice award determined by the barbecue-eating public, takes place 12:30-4 p.m. Admission is $15 and includes barbecue tasting tokens as well as admission to a post-cook-off concert featuring Hydrogen Child and Jacob Davis. 

The event, which is a fundraiser benefiting college scholarships for area students, can be a little confusing if you don’t know how it works. I’ve attended for the last three years running, and I think that I finally figured it out last year. Here’s my advice on how to get the most bang (and, in this case, by “bang,” I mean “ribs”) for your buck at Grillin’ for Grads.

Arrive shortly after 12:30 p.m., and arrive hungry. Unless they’ve changed the policy, you’ll get three five tasting tokens and a people’s choice award vote. This, essentially, adds up to three five samples of barbecue from competitors at the festival. You’ll award that vote to the favorite thing you’ve tasted. More about those “samples,” and how they can vary in size, later.

A photo of pulled pork
One of the larger “samples” of barbecue served at the 2014 Grillin’ for Grads event.

Walk around and scope out the teams to figure out who’s competing for the People’s Choice Award. This is the hardest part. Teams are not required to serve food to the public for the People’s Choice Award, but are encouraged to do so. If you can’t tell if the team that you’re looking at is serving for the PCA, just ask. 

Eat some barbecue. Pace yourself. Last year, the definition of “samples” varied – in my personal experience – from “one rib” to “a giant, Alabama-style whole hog pulled pork sandwich and a side of coleslaw.” Use those sample tickets wisely. Don’t be afraid to ask “What are y’all serving for samples?”

Take a break. These folks have a mechanical bull, local food and art vendors, a children’s play area, live music by Bayou Boogie Band and more. New for 2016, there’ll be a rib-eating contest (I’m seriously considering it!), a children’s barbecue cook-off and more. There were beer vendors last year.

A photo of barbecue chicken
Food is handed out at Grillin’ for Grads in 2015.

Eat more barbecue and cast your vote. Many of the People’s Choice Award contenders will likely be running out of ‘cue by 3 p.m. or so. Once you’ve eaten all three five of your samples (for me, in 2015, that meant two pulled pork sandwiches and a slice of bacon-wrapped, sausage-stuffed pork loin), cast your vote.

Watch the awards, catch some live music, etc. The awards ceremony takes place at 4:30 p.m. and Shreveport’s own Hydrogen Child takes the stage at 6 p.m. If you’re still partying after three five servings of barbecue, I tip my hat to you.

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If you love local food, consider downloading our new brochure, Eat Here: A Food Lover’s Guide to Shreveport-Bossier.


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