Our Report of the Competition in Switzerland
After a year and a half of break, finally a KCBS event comes back in Switzerland, one of the first nations to host one, with a tradition that dates back to 2015. That historical edition in particular evokes a very vivid memory in many historical representatives of the Italian barbecue: it was one of the first competitions in southern Europe and an easy opportunity a few steps from home for the teams of our country to compete at a low cost of travel, and that in fact they were numerous in a rainy Brugg, succeeding despite everything to have a party as often happens to us. Returning to Switzerland is therefore always a pleasure, even more so on this occasion that the calendar wanted to be the last event of the 2018 season, so someway a sort of closing ceremony in which you always participate willingly. If you remember, the same thing happened last year in Tallya, in Hungary last year. The scenario on this occasion is objectively less poetic and evocative than the beautiful wine region of Tocaji of 2017 and sees us arrive in the modern urban context of a square in the technological district of the city of Schlieren in the canton of Zurich, northern Switzerland. The location has nevertheless been able to offer many interesting ideas with a small but well-stocked streetfood area and an adjacent tidy public park with children’s entertainment area. The district is also home to several companies that winks at the High Tech and who have taken the opportunity for an interesting open day, including the legendary Tesla. Smoke in Schlieren was a rather small competition with no more than 20 teams but very well organized: the square gave immediate access to two provided supermarkets equipped with Free Wifi, a convenient and ample heated free underground parking, chemical toilets that in 36 of the event has been cleaned by the staff at least four times and most of all, four professional sinks with hot water, a comfort that no one more than a barbecue team cooking for two days with fats, sauces and sugars can appreciate. Add to this a delicious atmosphere fondue dinner offered to teams and you will have an idea of the organizational effort put in place by Okker Cuiper and his team.
From a sporting point of view, the Grand Champion went to the Dutch Parkstad Smokers and the Reserve to our friends Dragon BBQ as one more confirm of their great season. For the Italian teams competing it was a challenge of substance with good performance by everyone and placements included in the “left” part of the ranking. We bring home two excellent walk on Ribs (1st) and Pork (2nd) and a sixth overall, and perhaps some regrets, convinced that we have given in the four categories a very good performance, among the best and most consistent of our recent past. But you know, these are the competitions.
Before closing the post and the competition season we will list as always the ranking of the five memories that we bring home from Schlieren. It was a very fun weekend and the choice of the 5 winners was not easy. The usual evening with the Italian Style based on polenta, cotechino and the inevitable cakes of Chiara, the first time of Stefanie of Dragon BBQ in expressing himself in the eternal war between Pandoro and Panettone, the discovery of the magical and unsuspected encounter between Swiss fondue and Calvados, the laughs for “Bistecca and Wurstel” invented during lunch, as well as many other moments lived in Schlieren will be remembered with pleasure but our personal top five is as follows:
- Customs duties. In the face of unquestionable merits, one of the reasons that make participation at a competition in Switzerland less attractive is unquestionably the customs duty. In Switzerland there is a very heavy quota for incoming goods with heavy duties to be paid for any quantity exceeding the personal limit, set at ridiculous thresholds. Clearly the limits are set in order to penalize the commercial importation of foreign products and not personal consumption but the fact remains that every year we must fight to explain to the customs officers that we are participating in a barbecue competition and all that meat will be cooked in the around 48 hours, showing him the registration to the event, the hotel booking and so on. Of course we have never even considered the scenario of paying taxes on it. This year the system suggested by the organization was to use a special App for customs declarations, to report and type the weight of imported meat and to pay the duties that the organizer then committed to return once you arrive on site. Well on balance 4.8 kg of Brisket, 7.1 kg of Boston Butt, 5.9 of Ribs, a poor kg of chicken and 2.5 kg of beef rib roast that we brought along for the “snack time”, with the number of people occupying the vehicle, they gave a customs amount of € 420, much more than the value of the goods. At a time when we are discussing so much the opportunity to leave Europe, it would be worth trying to remember what it meant once living on a continent with so many independent states without the opportunity for free movement of people and goods.
- Vanilla and Caramel. In our catering we offer a coffee service at the end of the meal that is supported by a supplier that in addition to three machines in free loan, gives us the complete packs of cup-teaspoon-sugar included in the capsule purchase box. Each carton is generally mixed with capsules of various crus to which are added in small quantities some coffee capsules flavored with vanilla or caramel, generally paired by us with the consumption of the dessert. When the last supply arrived, we still had leftovers from the previous one in the box, so we started to take it with us for personal use for convenience. The same thing we did in this event in Switzerland, but only realizing in Schlieren that we had consumed in the previous occasions all the capsules of “normal” coffee and that in the box there were only two packs of the flavored one. Considering that we are people of the kind of at least a dozen coffees a day, you can try to imagine how our tongues could be made of Vanilla and Caramello on Sunday evening.
- Country that you go, Streetfood that you find. Also on other occasions we have said that a format that works very well in terms of appeal to the public with barbecue competitions is the combination with a parallel streetfood area. We confirm this once again, even in the small of a fairly contained event. What we are used to seeing, however, are conventional trucks and usually trivially linked to the canonical dishes of American streetfood among the more customs (hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork sandwich, etc.) although there are some pleasant exceptions that contribute to generate interest and curiosity and which in the end are the expression of the true identity of the host country. An example in this sense in our parts was the War of Barbecue in which we could find really particular trucks, expressive of the Italian way of doing streetfood and that I have not seen anywhere else. In their own way, even the Schlieren trucks were able to amaze me. Three of them have remained in my mind: the Thai specialty truck, with a curious dish of chicken meat sandwiched between two wooden sticks and then grilled, the one with only salads, seasoned and enriched with every kind of ingredient and a curious pickup truck from the 50s entirely dedicated to coffee, a sort of Starbucks on wheels.
- Half a year in competition. In unsuspected times, I predicted a direction of the European barbecue towards professionalism, or teams fully supported by the sponsors who compete at the rate of one competition a week. We are still clearly far from that concept, especially from an economic point of view, but year after year I see an ever greater specialization of teams, ever more present and available sponsors and ever more advanced and expensive technical equipment. A further step in this direction was made by our friends Michael and Stefanie of the Dragon BBQ, who reached with the Smoke in Schlieren the quote of 22 participated competitions. Think about it for a moment: in a year there are 52 weekends. If you take off your vacations and the given holidays, no more than 45 will remain available. Of these 22, about half, have been spent in the competition. Really our congratulations to Dragon BBQ for having reached a goal for us absolutely unthinkable, even more so today.
- A Tesla for everyone. Just behind the streetfood area there was a Tesla dealer and as explained in the introduction, during the weekend they organized an open day with the possibility of being able to get in touch with the cars of the brand, to see them inside, to hear them switched on and assist with parking maneuvers. Me and good Faustino of course we did not miss the opportunity. The staff were very kind, opened us in front of a Model X, made to see the finishes, the huge central screen on which controls the whole car and told us the main features. Chatting with him, I was very surprised to know that in Switzerland the Model S is the best-selling car in its price range (€ 90,000). More or less as if by us instead of seeing the BMW X5 and Porche Cayenne were mainly selling electric cars (although of luxury). It is a fact that more than a thousand words expresses the difference in vision between the two populations.
Another great season, the third for us, comes to an end. But just the time to recharge and spend Christmas grilling and it will be already in the West! See you there of course, right? 😉