Binsfelds were comic relief, not dreaming they would take first place

Jan Binsfeld, left, an accomplished home cook and her son, Nick, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, combined their talents and experience to win the fourth annual Grillin’ and Chillin’ barbecue cookoff contest at Sinclair Lewis Park, Sept. 8. The Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce estimates that there were 700 to 800 people in attendance.


By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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As the Binsfelds set up their awning at this year’s Grillin’ and Chillin’ event in Sauk Centre, they knew they were providing entertainment for the entrants around them.

“People who had long been set up were watching Nick and his friend, Bob, put the awning up,” said Jan Binsfeld. “It was a comedy.”

“Bob said he was an engineer and would figure it out,” said Jan’s son, Nick.

“We knew people were thinking that we didn’t know what we were doing,” Jan said, “but we went to have a good time, to make a memory. We did chuckle through the day.”

As they looked around, they were amazed at some of the other setups there.

“There were people with smokers and grills the size of the back end of a semi-trailer,” said Jan.

There were some restaurants represented, as well as home cooks using a gas grill like the Binsfelds. “There were 21 contestants,” said Harry Binsfeld, Jan’s husband and Nick’s father.

“I told Nick when we got there, ‘Our goal is to not get disqualified,’” she said.

When Jan spotted the ad for Grillin’ and Chillin’ in the Peach, she thought it would be kind of a cool thing to do with Nick. When they realized they had to have a name, Nick told her to pick one. He was surprised when she came up with “Nick’s Ribs,” asking if she couldn’t do better than that.

“When the names of the competitors were listed in the paper, I called Nick and told him ‘we got trouble,’” said Jan.

“So we went with the attitude that we won’t win anything; we’ll just have a fun time,” Nick said.

“We got the ribs from Valley Meats and Groceries in Eden Valley,” said Harry.

The meat for competition had to be raw, unopened and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected. It was checked by the judges before cooking started.

The Binsfelds hand-rubbed the ribs before grilling, putting the barbecue sauce on near the end.

Jan found out that grillers served food during the day. She realized that with one normal-sized gas grill, she couldn’t do enough ribs, so she decided to make pulled pork barbecue ahead of time.

“My friends, Bob, Alicia and Kayla and I served the food,” said Nick. “We couldn’t have done any of it with just Mom, me and Dad.”

The Binsfelds also served coleslaw and jumbo chocolate chip cookies. Jan wanted to have something for the kids to eat and the cookies went very quickly.

“We had a fun tent, with dancing to bluegrass music and the cookies,” said Jan.

While cooking the ribs, Jan babied two out of the four sets of baby back ribs all day.

“We had to deliver six ribs to the judges,” she said. “When they were getting done I sat them up on back of the grill so they’d stay warm but not cook anymore.”

The second-place winners were announced first, a couple who also used a gas grill. But still, Jan and Nick figured they didn’t have a prayer.

“When first place was announced, Mom burst into tears,” said Nick.

“You could have blown me away,” Jan said. “It was like David and Goliath.”

“People came up to us and said it was nice to see the underdog win once in a while,” Nick said.

“But we could easily have had four or five different judges who didn’t like our ribs,” said Jan.

The other Binsfeld children were not surprised that their mom and Nick won. They know their mom’s cooking.

The Binsfeld family has always been close. They spent family vacations going to every state park in Minnesota and every
national park they could get to.

“Now we all get together only once a year,” said Jan. There are four Binsfeld children and four and a half grandchildren.

“Nick is the only one of the kids who was interested in cooking,” she said.

Nick graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Mendota Heights in March of 2006, and did an internship in Napa Valley, Calif. He returned from a deployment to Baghdad, Iraq a year ago and is now working on a degree at St. Cloud State University with majors in marketing and philosophy and minors in communications and psychology.

“The cookoff’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing; it’s a memory,” Jan said.