Grist Mill chef takes top honours at Similkameen wine event

Thomas Bridson of Penticton's Burger 55 mass assembles culinary delights at the sixth Similkameen Barbeque King, which took place at the Grist Mill in Keremeos Saturday, July 11. Burger 55 took home the People's Choice Award.

PENTICTON - A light rain that turned into a downpour failed to dampen enthusiasm for the Barbecue King competition, Similkameen Winery Association’s premier wine event.

The Grist Mill’s Natasha Schooten took home top honours, claiming Barbecue Queen for 2015, winning Judges Choice Award for her wine and food pairing of slow smoked short ribs with smoky-sweet apricot barbecue sauce on zucchini naan bread with a zucchini, yellow tomato blueberry basil pico and crispy shallot. The dish was paired with Corcelettes Estate Winery’s 2014 Oracle Rosé.

Schooten not only took top honours, but also won Judge’s Choice for the most creative dish.

She is the first female chef to win the event, which continues to grow in popularity every year. Similkameen Wineries Association Marketing Director Kim Lawton says attendance was up by 50 persons, with 450 in attendance Saturday night.

Penticton’s Burger 55 won the People’s Choice Award for Chef Chris Boehm’s offering of a braised short rib and Qualicum blue stuffed AAA beef burger with blueberry basil apricot jam, shallot root beer barbecue sauce, lettuce, heirloom tomato and crispy onion straws on a buttery Woudas bun, all topped with a truffle parmesan zucchini wedge. The delectable presentation was paired with 2012 Scout Vineyard Syrah from Orofino Winery.

Similar to last year’s event, Burger 55 appeared to be a popular choice amongst those in attendance Saturday night, with a steady line up of patrons through the evening.

This year’s  Similkameen Barbecue King featured competing chefs from eight venues, including “small bites” Similkmaeen competitors Benja Thai, Branding Iron and Tree To Me.

Karl Schorb of Keremeos’ Branding Iron and Grill took the Judges Choice Award for Best Small Bites. His dish was paired with Eau Vivre Winery’s 2014 Cinq Blanc.

Miradoro Restaurant’s Chef Jeff Van Geest won Judges’ Choice for Best Plating Presentation. HIs dish paired up with Forbidden Fruit Winery’s 2013 Plum Noir.

Saturday’s weather was more seasonal than last year’s event, which took place under scorching conditions. A light rain that turned into a downpour eventually forced the awards ceremony into the tea room on Saturday night, but few appeared to be bothered by the rain, which began after many patrons had already completed their tastings.

Saturday’s event was the sixth Barbecue King competition, for the Similkameen Wineries Association.

The event, which challenges chefs to come up with the best wine and food pairings based on the same grocery list of Similkameen-procured ingredients, continues to grow in popularity with foodies and wine aficionados each year. For the last several years the competition has found a comfortable home at the Keremeos Grist Mill.

The Similkameen Barbeque King continues to grow in popularity with each year. This year more than 450 people attended the event.
The Similkameen Barbeque King continues to grow in popularity with each year. This year more than 450 people attended the event.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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