Phantom Gourmet Hosts Cook-Off in City Hall Plaza

Posted June 27, 2014 by Leo Champion in Downtown Boston
Phantom Gourmet BBQ

From June 20-22, the Phantom Gourmet hosted its annual barbecue event in the shadow of City Hall, where half a dozen competitors have come from as far away as Down Under. Judged by area radio personality Baltazar, Johnson’s Bar-B-Que from Little Rock, Arkansas, ended up winning the competition.

Ribs (more on that below) weren’t the only thing going on. Saturday afternoon included a 10-minute, all-you-can-eat invitational hot-dog contest. Legendary eater Matt “Megatoad” Stone won by chowing down 53 of them, which means he qualifies for Nathan’s Famous Fourth Of July International contest, considered the world championships, in Coney Island, New York.

Saturday evening featured a show headlined by Boston ska legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, celebrating frontman Dicky Barrett’s 50th birthday. Barrett is also the announcer of Jimmy Kimmel Live, and a last-minute addition to the lineup was Kimmel himself. Other acts included The Gaslight Anthem, Barrance Whitfield and the Savages, and in a flashback to the ’80s, hip-pop duo Salt-N-Pepa.

And the contenders were:

Paul Mackey of Aussom Aussie

Last year’s champion Paul Mackey of Aussom Aussie. Photo Credit: Leo Champion

“They say barbecue started in the South,” says Paul Mackay of Ausom Aussie, “and you can’t get more south than Australia.” A 25-year barbecue veteran, Mackey came all the way from Sydney to defend his championship from last year’s cook-off. His hometown’s a 20-hour flight away, but his website’s a little more reachable at

Joey Sutphen has been invited to serve his Joey’s Texas Thunder Barbecue at the White House, for President George Bush and guests. That might not be the most glowing endorsement in Massachusetts, so we’ll also mention that the 60-year-old family business is consided legendary in Texas. (This reporter was also impressed and endorses them.) Check out his site, which includes recipes, at

“Professor” Tom Ferguson of Chicago BBQ Company got started young. He began smoking ribs at the age of 10. He’s been competing with his recipes around the country since 1988 and is one of those rare secret-recipe holders who won’t actually describe every aspect of that secret at length and in detail. On the Internet, you’ll find more info at

Philadelphia isn’t a city you’d normally associate with barbecue, but Jack’s Down Home Barbecue is run out of a restored 19th century firehouse there. Its owner, Jack McDavid, has worked in more than 115 restaurants since he got started in the 1970s; he’s also made a career in TV, most recently starring in the TV Food Network’s “Grillin’ & Chillin’.” Online, you’ll find more about him at

“The secret ingredient is me,” says this year’s winner, Dan “Arkansas” Johnson of Johnson’s Bar-B-Que, out of Little Rock, Arkansas. He takes special pride in serving bigger, meatier ribs — they come from only the right side of the rack — and his “pain in a bottle” Thermo-Nuclear Sauce.

Jon Bigalk runs Just North of Memphis Barbecue out of Minnesota, just a thousand or so miles northwest of the city they’re named for. His process, unique and custom, involves exposing the ribs to steam from water soaked with maple pellets. It’s unknown where its servers are located in relation to cities in southwest Tennesee, but their website can be found at


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