Lots of people like ribs. Lots of people even make it a point each year to eat as many ribs as humanly possible at area rib festivals. But not many folks keep score as they move from vendor to vendor. Or query grillin' guys on their techniques. Or post their upcoming appearances on a website devoted to ribs.
Jeff and Sam do.
Jeff Chiplis and Sam Hubish met 15 years ago, when they were trustees at Spaces art gallery. They call themselves artists (Hubish actually is a web developer). But to many, Jeff and Sam are the rib guys -- the duo dressed identically at rib festivals, jotting down info and rating the barbecue.
"We'd always talk about what we liked and didn't like," Chiplis explains. "Then we started taking notes and talking to vendors. Half of them thought we were FBI agents."
Memorial Day weekend is a trio of holy days for the pair: Two area slab celebrations are happening. Chiplis and Hubish are required to be at the Great American Rib Cook-Off & Music Festival (they're official judges), but they'll be visiting the rib fiesta in Berea as well. "Downtown has the best national ribs," Chiplis says, but it's expensive. Berea is cheaper, Hubish adds, and it has "some very good ribs."
Four years ago, Hubish began posting recipes, a glossary, and some basic barbecue info on www.jeffandsamknowribs.com. It's just a small part of their babyback universe. The big picture includes a continuous quest for the perfect slab. "We hope to visit some of the [national festivals] one day," Chiplis says.
So, what makes award-winning ribs? The meat and the heat, says Chiplis, who notes that they present T-shirts to winners. "But hospitality [of the vendors] is the most important thing," Hubish adds.
"We generally agree on what [we like]," Chiplis says. "But we're just a couple of guys who like ribs." And keep score.