Rabbi Shawel

Rabbi David Shawel at the first Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship. (Photo ©David Duchin)

Along with the food and the fun, one of the more intriguing aspects of the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship, which makes its third annual run Sunday, Oct. 29, is how the smokers, grills, knives and other cooking utensils are kept from year to year to ensure they remain kosher.

“It’s pretty neat,” said Rabbi David Shawel, the top Kosher cop at the event. “We’re dealing with a very high standard.”

Kosher dietary laws, derived from the Hebrew bible, involve the food itself and the way it is prepared. One big difference with regular barbecue fare: No pork. The competition provides the four meats — chicken, turkey, beef brisket and beef ribs — and all condiments and spices.

Rabbi Shawel explained how the equipment is cleaned and thoroughly washed under supervision after the event. Then it is sealed with tape in original boxes, plastic containers and plastic bags, and stored until the next event.

When it is unsealed, also under supervision, if there is any “schmutz” — dirt — on it, the rabbi said, it is washed again.

Rabbi Shawel spoke by cell phone — all hands-free phone devices engaged — while driving to a meeting to discuss preparations for an Israel Independence Day program next spring. He has been with Dallas Kosher for nearly 30 years. It’s the non-profit organization that has provided kosher certification to supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries and commercial manufacturers for more than 50 years.

“Whatever type of Jew you are, everyone in the city feels comfortable” that the laws are being followed, Rabbi Shawel (pronounced ‘shawl’) said.

I asked him if anyone at the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship had ever tried to short cut the rules?

At the first contest, the rabbi responded, some seals had been broken, some equipment was being used and some food was being cooked before he got there to supervise.

“I learned them the first time,” he said.


At press time, ten teams have signed up for this year’s competition, according to Mike Precker, who is handling event communications. Teams will do their prep work on the Thursday night before the event and the food will be stored. After sundown on Saturday, the fires will be lit and cooking will begin.

The event, held in the parking lot at Sunnyland Patio Furniture at the corner of Spring Valley and Coit roads, is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, which will present awards in each meat category and for overall champion.

A panel of celebrity judges will also present awards. Those judges are Jill Grobowsky Bergus of Lockhart Smokehouse, and chefs John Tesar, Tim Byres and Kent Rathbun.

Admission is free. The Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship is organized by The Men’s Club of Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson.

Lest some of us barbecue aficionados get too smug about the appeal of our favorite food, Rabbi Shawel said the biggest competition his group certifies is the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off, which will hold its 25th annual championship next spring.

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