Florida Skin & Bones double winner at 10th annual RibFest

Tim Grandinetti, Liz Kiger, and John Turner dug into judging ribs for Ribfest, Saturday. (David Rolfe/Journal)

Tim Grandinetti, Liz Kiger, and John Turner dug into judging ribs for Ribfest, Saturday. (David Rolfe/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After a long day cooking ribs under the hot sun, Florida Skin & Bones BBQ took home the bacon Saturday, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Not only did it edge out Carolina Rib King of Moore, S.C., for Grand Champion at the 10th annual Texas Pete Twin City RibFest, it also won the award for Best Sauce.

“Our ribs speak for themselves,” pitmaster Rooster Roberts said. “My favorite part is the smile on people’s faces when they try my ribs — I call it the ‘Wow expression.’”

Florida Skin & Bones of Arcadia, Fla., one of seven teams in the competition, has accumulated nearly 1,100 awards in the past 10 years, including two world championships.

Roberts attributes the success to his top-secret seasoning — a mix of 13 spices and herbs — which has been in the family for eight generations. By Saturday afternoon, Roberts had used 40 pounds of the seasoning, The four-day festival, at the corner of Marshall and Fifth streets downtown, concludes from noon to 5 p.m. today.

This year’s vote was the closest it has ever been in all four categories, a testament to the quality of the ribs, event coordinator Allen McDavid said.

Big Boned BBQ, based in Charleston, S.C., was the winner for Best Ribs.

The People’s Choice Award went to the only North Carolina competitor, Poor Piggy’s BBQ & Catering from Wilmington.

“It’s only our second year out here so we’re still cutting teeth and getting into it, but we did well,” Ed Coulbourn III, the owner of Poor Piggy’s, said. “We tried our best to represent North Carolina, and it paid off.”

Coulbourn said the ribs he serves are unique in that they are dry-rub with a dash of honey, while others in the competition slathered their ribs in sauce. Poor Piggy’s style of ribs has been popular with the customers this weekend, he said.

Melinda Bartlett of Raleigh said of the three rib places she tried, each was different but all shared a common thread — they were delicious.

“We brought big appetites and so far we’ve been more than impressed by the food,” Bartlett, who was with her family, said. “Not only are all the ribs sublime, but there’s something here for everyone.”

This year’s RibFest featured the usual array of musicians, vendors and rides, and it offered lucha libre wrestling for the first time. Throw in good weather for a change, and it’s been a great event, said Kevin Gift, the owner of Pig Foot BBQ from West Salem, Ohio.

“We love being a part of it,” said Gift, who has participated in all 10 RibFests. “We’re so glad everyone’s out there having fun and that the weather is cooperating for once.”

But he had to admit to a bit of disappointment. Pig Foot BBQ’s seven-year run of winning Best Sauce came to an end.

“Everyone’s always told me a northern sauce won’t win in the South, but seven years out of 10 proves them wrong,” said Gift, whose been in the barbecue business for 44 years. “Not a bad track record. We didn’t win this year, but there’s always next year.”

Solomon Williams, pitmaster at Carolina Rib King, said he was disappointed in his team’s one-vote loss for Grand Champion and added this wisdom: “When your living’s on the line, your grilling better be fine.”

And although Carolina Rib King’s grilling was better than fine — at least according to the swarm of customers surrounding the booth — Williams said it will have its sights next year on reclaiming Grand Champion, which it won most recently in 2008.

“When you’re the king, you have to stay on top,” he said. “We’ll be back next year. You can bet on it.”