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Omaha Magazine

Smoke and Sauce in Omaha

Aug 27, 2021 04:03PM ● By Patrick McGee
bbq  ribs on tan paper

Photo via iStock

Barbecue season never ends in Omaha. In fact, Greater Omaha Barbeque Society (GOBS) helps keep it smokin’ busy.  GOBS is a local nonprofit dedicated to all things barbecue, with emphases on competitive cooking and judging. That doesn’t mean casual enthusiasts won’t find a place at the table. Members meet twice a month year-round. They compete in barbecue events locally and nationally. They judge regional barbecue competitions. Even through winter, GOBS members sit down together to enjoy savory smoked meats at locales around the metro. 

“We all just like barbecue,” said Don Morgan, vice president of GOBS. 

Morgan said of the 50 or so people in the club, about 80% are cooks, and 20-30% of those like to compete. The remaining 20% of members are along because they simply love to eat and talk all things barbecue. All members share a passion for saucy and smoky foods. 

Mitch Carpowich, who sits on the GOBS board, said membership is diverse, including blue- and white-collar professionals, many women, and folks of all ages, from teens to those in their 80s. He and his wife, Marilyn, enjoy the “flavor” of the club. He emphasized that club president, Kris Gates, is female. “She’s judged over 100 barbecue competitions,” Carpowich said. And her leadership is not an anomaly. In fact, of the 36 Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned judges who are members of GOBS, seven are women. 

Travelers from Missouri,
Iowa, Colorado, and Tennessee have competed in GOBS events in recent years. Although the minimum age for club membership is 16, younger children can participate in competitions. “We have a ‘Kids Que,’” Carpowich explained, in which kids compete against others in their age category. Like adults, they’re judged by sanctioned barbecue judges. Barbecue competitions are family-oriented, Carpowich said. 

Morgan said during the Kids Que events, parents of competitors can only supervise to ensure the kids stay safe. No helping with meat preparation or cooking is permissible. Last year, the kids competitively cooked pork chops, with great results. 

GOBS also hosts the Nebraska State Barbeque
Championships each year. This year’s competition was held at the Washington County Fairgrounds August 13-15. The competition consisted of four meat categories: chicken (leg quarter), pork ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket. Sanctioned KCBS judges crowned the champions. 

Carpowich said Omaha’s barbecue style is essentially Kansas City-style, which incorporates a wet sauce and less dry rub. Popular meat cuts include St. Louis-style ribs, chicken dark meat (quarter), pulled pork medallions, and Waygu beef brisket. Competition barbecue must be cooked with charcoal and wood (but Carpowich likes an electric smoker for his own home barbecue). He and Marilyn are part of the GOBS competition team, along with Kris Gates and Gates’ husband, John. “They have the smoker, we have the trailer,” Carpowich said. 

Morgan enjoys distributing his barbecue via his food truck, Smoke on Arrival BBQ, which can be found at sites around Omaha. He offers the competition staples (chicken, pulled pork, ribs, brisket, and mac’n’cheese, lightly smoked with oak). Look for it if you want to get a taste of the Omaha flavor. 

For those interested in competition or just local tastes, GOBS provides a great sampler. Backyard chefs are always welcome. 

 This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Omaha Home Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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