Competitive Smoker

You can be the judge of BBQ champion Kenny Nadeau’s ribs and brisket.

Kenny Nadeau, seen here holding a pulled pork sandwich, is a prize winner on the competition barbecue circuit.

Samantha Sherdel

Armed with wood chips and a sauce mop, Kenny Nadeau is a smoke-scented gladiator on the surprisingly popular competition barbecue circuit.

The 34-year-old owner of Uncle Kenny’s BBQ in Winter Garden grabs a lot of top-place awards on that circuit, which takes him all around the Southeast. “The secret is the sauce,” he says, adding that he makes his sauces (including his prize-winning red and mustard versions) and dry rubs from scratch.

“You see lawyers, firefighters, construction workers,” Nadeau says about the types of people who compete on the circuit, which is as much a community as a cook-off. “People who love what they’re doing. Lots of weekends on the road.” He entered the circuit in 2005 after a move to Orlando from Tampa, and clearly isn’t in it for the money. “It’s an expensive hobby,” says Nadeau, whose day job is sales director for a trailer leasing company. “Last weekend I spent $1,000 just to compete. I’ve made $100 in prizes in the last two weeks.”

But it was at one of those money- and rib-sucking competitions in 2009 that he met the owners of a local Maryland Fried Chicken franchise. They made a deal with him—on a handshake—to share a small space in Winter Garden, where pig- and cow-shaped trophies are now on prominent display in the dining area. His prizes in 2010 include grand champion wins at the Downtown Orlando BBQ
Cookoff and Southern Pines BBQ & Blues Festival in Perry, along with grand champion and state champion titles at the Grant BBQ Fest in Palm Bay.

The St. Louis native holds true to that region’s famous style. “Red sauce,” he says, “not vinegar or mustard on my ribs and brisket.” It’s a mildly spicy, mildly sweet flavor that asserts itself through the smoking, and unlike many local offerings, the flavor of the meats comes through. Nadeau creates amazingly moist brisket, dark meat chicken that actually tastes like chicken and hearty, juicy ribs that won first place at last year’s Orange Blossom Special BBQ Expo in Dade City.

If you stand at the busy corner of South Dillard Street and West Colonial Drive and face west, you can smell Uncle Kenny’s smokers cooking for the day. Turn around and catch the aroma from John Rivers’ new 4Rivers Smokehouse location, less than a quarter-mile away. The proximity of the two barbecue masters brings the competition a lot closer to home, and means there are some very happy ’cue lovers nearby.

Uncle Kenny’s BBQ
ADDRESS 13675 W. Colonial Drive, Winter Garden
PHONE 407-656-4143

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