Up in Smoke Team Wins at Throwdown Benefit Auction and Barbecue by Wendy O. Dixon
Barbecue fans were in for a feast at the 10th annual Throwdown Benefit Auction & Barbecue, sponsored by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. The weekend of events, held in April in Santa Rosa Beach, raised $700,000 for Gulf Coast charities, with more than half the proceeds staying in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
The winner of the cook-off was Up in Smoke, headed up by Seaside’s Barefoot BBQ owner and barbecue king James Murphy. Known around town as Murph, he and his team beat out world-class chefs, bringing home the Perpetually Porkified Trophy. The team captains were Pat Roberts, George Barnes, James Murphy and Alexandrn Borzac.
“Being invited back was a great pleasure,” Murphy says. “It’s such a well run event, really first class. They make it a very comfortable place to make great food.”
The Throwdown event started in 2006 at the home of event founders and co-chairs Valerie and Mike “Chi Chi Miguel” Thompson as a small backyard barbecue, and has grown to become one of the most successful fundraising events along the Emerald Coast, drawing guests from around the country.
This spirited outdoor barbecue competition featured many world-class vintners, chefs and pit masters. Star-studded cooking teams included Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery and David Long of David Arthur Vineyards, as well as Emeril Lagasse. Celebrity judges were Beau McMillan, Dustin Valette, Tim Creehan, Chan Cox and Jim Richard. Broadway great Morgan James provided musical entertainment.
Murphy says winning the competition was especially thrilling considering the elite level of competition. “Emeril is such a great guy, and he was such a great sport about it,” he says. “I learn something new every time I see him. Being next to him, seeing how successful he has been in his career. It was an honor to compete with him.”
Murphy says the team didn’t do anything different than they do everyday at Barefoot BBQ. “You could get the same plate of food at the Airstream. I don’t know any other way to cook,” he says. “I feel like I’m in a rib cooking competition everyday, getting judged by 700 to 1,000 judges who vote for me with their wallets. We don’t change. We don’t waver left or right.”
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation is distributing grants to several charities including Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Camille’s Art for Autism, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, Alaqua Animal Refuge, Food for Thought Outreach, the Ingram Lee Foundation and Children’s Volunteer Health Network.
“Also I cannot say enough about George Barnes from 30A
Costal Wines contribution,” Murphy adds. “He made a quail dish that we smoked at Barefoot and served over creamy grits with shiitake
mushrooms, by far the best appetizer served by any team. It was
Barefoot BBQ, celebrating its seven-year anniversary, is the only Airstream Row eatery open until 2:30 a.m. “Working in Seaside is a blessing,” he says. “It’s growing and changing, and we’re doing our best to hold on to the way it is. I’ll settle for a little less money to keep the standard up. Even if the line gets a little long, we’re not going to let the food quality suffer.”
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