A change in ownership has done nothing to alter what has become a tradition at the Marco Island Brewery.
That tradition isn’t going to change when it comes to hosting the Marco Police Foundation’s annual Rib Cook-Off fundraiser, says Mike Jones, who is part of the five-person partnership, led by his wife Rondi, which purchased the eight-year-old eatery recently from its founder, Frank LaCava.
“We’re very big on charity,” said Jones, who, along with his wife owns 34 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in eight states, ranging from North Carolina to Alaska. “Anything having to do with children, police officers, firefighters, I’m all in.”
Another co-owner, Hans Schweighoefer, echoed that sentiment.
“We were glad to have this happen right after we took over,” he said. “It gives us a chance to meet a lot people. So we absolutely plan on continuing that.”
The cook-off’s sixth installment was recently held at the Marco Town Center establishment, less than one week after the sale was completed. The winning entry was cooked-up by Island Country Club and its executive sous chef, Loren Cogswell.
Joining him in competing for the 2018 rib-king crown were teams from the police foundation, the Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation and Jimmy Downey, owner of Wild Jimmy’s Beef Jerky, whose participation was sponsored by Naples-based Phoenix Roofing and Construction Co.
Judging was handled by Shari Fairchild, president of the Community Managers Association of Marco Island, Dianna Dohm, executive director of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Sullivan, president of the Marco Island Area Civic Association, Marco City Council member Charlette Roman and Linda Turner of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation.
Each entry was assigned a number and assessed based on such factors as taste, texture and tenderness and the smoke ring on each rib.
“We’re extremely happy,” said Cogswell after the results were announced. “We’re glad we could come out and support the Marco Island Police Foundation. We had a lot support from our club members and the public, and we’re happy to be out here in the community and enjoying the great afternoon.”
He said the ribs aren’t currently on the country club’s menu, but he hopes that will change. Cogswell was also willing to provide insight into the winning recipe’s components.
“We start with good quality ribs, Berkshire pork baby backs, and we give them a nice dry rub,” he said. “We cook them sous vide (partial cooking followed by vacuum-sealing and chilling) for 12 hours so they’re nice and tender, and then we finish them on the smoker for about three hours to give them a nice smoky flavor. Then we top them with a nice guajillo (a mild dried chile with a complex, fruity flavor) barbeque sauce.”
For the price of a $25 ticket, attendees partook of live music by Goodland’s Jim Allen, raffles, silent and live auctions, and a fully served barbeque meal provided at no charge to the foundation by the Brewery.
Ticket sales were normally capped at 200, but the new owners increased that number by 100 this year.
“When I heard about this, we added some more plates and said, ‘Let the people come and let’s give back to the police foundation,’” said Mike Jones, who, along with his partners, purchased The SpeakEasy restaurant in April.
The event raised about $9,600 for the foundation, which raises funds for needed supplies for the police department and also has a scholarship fund. Approximately $7,600 was raised by the 2017 cook-off.
Ray McChesney, of the Police Foundation, praised Jones for his contributions to the event’s success.
“This would not have been possible without his help because he supplied all the meals for us,” he said. “He was also the auctioneer for our live auction and he did a great job. He’s a great asset to the community. He’s a really nice guy and he really stepped up.”
Jones said major changes are not planned at the Brewery, which will continue to be managed by Al LaCava. Some renovations planned by Frank LaCava will still be done this summer and the number of beers on tap will probably be increased from 40 to 44 or 45.
“This being a tourist area, we want to be able to please everybody and be unique and that’s my plan,” said Jones.
The Brewery is located at 1089 N. Collier Boulevard in the Marco Town Center Mall. For more information visit marcoislandbrewery.com or call 239-970-0461.