Dowagiac native wins inaugural BBQ Competition

Published 4:00 pm Monday, July 17, 2023

DOWAGIAC — It was a homecoming to remember for Michael Gard.

The Dowagiac native took home Grand Champion honors as Silver Creek BBQ in the inaugural Dowagiac BBQ Competition Saturday after earning first place in both the chicken and rib categories.

The competition was sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society – the largest competitive barbecue organization in the world. The event – sponsored by Lyons Industries, The ReLeaf Center and the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce – brought 16 pitmasters, 16 judges and enthusiasts from all over the country to downtown Dowagiac.

The competition was fierce, with KCBS-certified BBQ judges judging the meats based on KCBS standards.

“Overall, it went pretty smooth,” Gard said. “I’m pretty happy with it; this is my hometown, I grew up here. I don’t live here anymore. When I heard about this contest popping up I was excited to get back and cook it. Having kind of swept it could have kind of turned out any better, so I’m happy about that.”

Gard’s love for barbecue began when a friend invited him over to his house and showed Gard his smoker.

“I was like, that’s really cool. I’m gonna get one,” he said. “I got one and then I started cooking for family and friends and everybody’s telling me it’s good. I was like, well, maybe they’re just being nice because they’re getting free food, right. Let’s see about this contest thing and see what the judges think. That’s really what started me being competitive.”

Gard, who lives in Mishawaka, has been competing in contests since 2012. While he has competed at the professional level, Gard said he enters three or four amateur contests per year.

Gard enjoyed competing in his hometown and came away impressed with Dowagiac’s festival.

“I’ve been up to Steve’s Run before – it’s been a number of years – and to see how this is growing and now they’ve added this contest, I think it’s a nice twist,” he said. “It’s something different. I feel like it brought a lot of people through the barbecue area and it was nice to talk to some different people, asking questions about our smokers and different things. There was a lot more community, which was great to see.”