Harrison County

Gulfport police, fire throw some shade, cook some meat in BBQ battle

It’s a battle as old as a time — who can barbecue the best piece of meat?

On Saturday, egos and cooking abilities were challenged as two allies temporarily became competitors and the Gulfport police and fire departments met in an “all or nothing” battle for the title of “best ribs.”

The first responders went head-to-head at Centennial Plaza at the Barbecue Under the Oaks benefit for the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra and Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra. The winner gets bragging rights for an entire year. Gulfport police and Gulfport fire and rescue had tents within inches of one another, making it only a short distance to “throw some shade” and hurl an insult.

“We have a much better chance of winning because the fire department is always sleeping,” Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said.

The police prepared chicken ribs and sausage.

“The chicken was done in a special dry rub,” police Cmdr. Chris Ryle said. “It’s a secret recipe.”

Although the officers started cooking the meat about 6:30 a.m., the department’s true secret weapon was a side item.

“The true kicker is our pickles, which are sweet and spicy,” Ryle said. “They are the secret recipe of Chief Papanaia’s wife.”

The fire department served baked beans, sausage and, of course, ribs.

“We used a lot of secret family recipes,” said Lt. Gary Joffrion. “We have the best stuff and we will win because we put love into our stuff.”

Finding a judge for the showdown was no easy task as both Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and Councilman Truck Casey recused themselves.

An anonymous third-party judge was selected to take a blind taste of the ribs from both the fire and police departments.

The judge said the police department’s ribs were “delicious” and had “a nice smoke flavor.” The ruling on the fire department’s ribs was “sweeter and very tender.”

In the end, sweet and tender was the winner. The firefighters defeated the police in the rib showdown, winning bragging rights until next year’s contest.