John Otto, left, and Jesse Orvis, both of Marshall, were selected as the People's Choice winner for best-tasting ribs, and were also second in the judge's voting for beef recipe and first overall for the three combined recipes of chicken, beef and ribs during the Smokin' BBE competition on Saturday. The winners of the Smokin’ BBQ contest on Saturday. (Front row, left to right): Ron Fricke, Eric Faris, Nathan Freeman. Back row: Mike Nybo, Dallas Reese, Marissa Reese, Ron Reynolds, John Otto, Jesse Orvis. Staff Photos by Scott Thoma.

Otto’s theme: Grill or be grilled

John Otto is so adamant about using a charcoal grill when grilling that he now has a large tattoo of a Weber kettle that blankets his right calf and reads "Grill or be Grilled".

And the little round black kettle filled with charcoal sure didn't let him down during the Smokin' BBQ Contest during Boxelder Bug Days on Saturday. Otto and his cooking assistant and cousin Jesse Orvis, both of Marshall, grill under the moniker "Smokey Bone BBQ".

They were the People's Choice winner in the rib cooking contest, the judge's winner for the best beef recipe, as well as the judge's overall winner for the combined score of the ribs, chicken and beef dishes.

"I love coming here," said the personable Otto. "We always enjoy this event." New this year to the Smokin' BBQ event was the public chicken tasting and voting.

"Chubby Hubby" with Eric Faris of Taunton, assisted by Nathan Freeman of Minneota, earned $170 as the winner of that event. Mike Nybo and Rod Fricke of "Up in Smoke" was the judge's choice for best tasting ribs. That team also came in second overall for the combined scores of the three recipes.

Otto was competing for the fifth time in the Smokin' BBQ contest in Minneota; the third with Orvis as his assistant. He was shutout his first two years, but placed first for Best Dessert (no longer included in the competition) in 2017, was the judge's choice for best ribs and also second overall last year.

And now they can add the coveted People's Choice and judge's overall wins to their resume. Aside from the cash win for People's Choice, Smokey Bone BBQ also received a large engraved cutting board and the traveling trophy made by Chris Swedzinski that allows them to compete for free in next year's contest. And there's little doubt that the Weber grill will be back in Otto's booth next year.

"I'm a believer in charcoal and the Weber," Otto said. "For one thing, I'm used to cooking on it. And just for the taste alone I like using it to grill on."

Otto and Orvis don't use the same marinade or rub each year as you would think with someone who has been successful. "We like to experiment a little with different flavors," Otto said.

"It's more fun to think outside the box a little when grilling and trying something different each year." And what will they do with there cash winnings? "I might have to get a grilling tattoo now," joked Orvis.

Jeremiason makes cutting boards

Sitting on the judge's table in the community center on the south end of the City Hall building were three beautiful cutting boards.

Each one was engraved for the eventual winners of the Smokin' BBQ contest. D.J. Prellwitz, the coordinator of the event, had contacted Minneota native Casey Jeremiason to make them for the competition.

"I've known D.J. for a long time and I've made a number of cutting boards for weddings and other things," said Jeremiason, 28, who now resides in Prior Lake and has his own woodworking business.

"The letters are engraved by laser," Jeremiason said. "I make other wood things, too, but I mostly focus on cutting boards like these." When Otto received his solid cutting board after getting first place in the judge's contest, he was surprised at how heavy it was. "Wow, this is really nice," he noted. "I don't even want to cut anything on it because it's so nice."

Josh Smith, one of seven competitors in the Smokin’ BBQ contest, checks over his grilled chicken legs on Saturday afternoon. Staff photo by Scott Thoma.

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