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Chef's Tender Touch Clinches Rib Cook-Off

Dennis Ofsthun's special barbecue preparation has winning results at a Nevada competition.


Armed with his special marinade and a barbecue trick he picked up in Texas over the summer, Dennis Ofsthun of Saticoy traveled to John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, Nev., recently for the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off.

He returned home with the title of Best of the Best in the West.

Ofsthun, owner of Rib Tickler's BBQ, beat out two dozen cooks from across the country and Australia, who each prepared barbecue pork ribs for two panels of judges.

Though he had competed in the contest four times previously, and had walked away empty-handed each year, Ofsthun said he expected to win this year's contest when he took a look at his finished product.

"The ribs were just so tender and juicy," he said. "They were awesome."

Ofsthun said one of the keys to his success was a marinade he prepared with his Rib Tickler's mild barbecue sauce mixed with apple cider vinegar, salad oil, salt and pepper.

"I marinated the ribs and then put them in the smoker for two hours," he said. "Then, a little trick I learned in Texas, I took them out of the smoker and wrapped them in foil drenched with my barbecue sauce [and mixed] with pineapple and honey. Then I put them back in the smoker for 40 minutes."

Ofsthun credits John Trigg, a former Texas barbecue champion, with the idea of partially smoking the ribs, taking them out and then finishing the smoking process.

"That was what really did the trick," he said. Ofsthun will cook with Trigg, and enter his own sauce, at the American Royal Intl. barbecue cook-off, Oct. 3 to 5 in Kansas City, Mo.

Ofsthun is also preparing to cook the barbecue dishes for the Adobe Cantina, an Agoura Hills restaurant set to open next month. And on Oct. 5, Ofsthun's barbecue staff will handle the cooking at the Bowlful of Blues concert at Ojai's Libbey Bowl.

Ofsthun is also trying to sell his Rib Tickler's barbecue sauce to home chefs. Last month he began manufacturing it in large quantities, and he's looking for retail shops in which to stock it.

"I'm in California to market my sauce," said Ofsthun, who in 1993 moved to Ventura County from Gig Harbor, Wash. "I've just started getting it out there."


Caribbean cuisine, hors d'oeuvres, holiday food gifts, and outdoor and RV cooking are some of the culinary topics to be covered during the fall season at Ojai's Amestoy House Cooking School.

Thai food will be the focus Sept. 26, with chef Chieko Ladawan Lopez, owner of Ojai's Lanna Thai Cuisine, cooking up a menu of spicy sour soup, Thai salad with peanuts, peppers and lime dressing, tamarind fish and coconut banana cream.

The class will run from 2 to 4 p.m. Cost is $25. Class size is limited, so call 646-7970 to reserve a spot. The school is at 8950 Highway 150.

"Cooking Al Fresco," tailgate cooking for the RV, with chef Edward "Zock" Clahan, is scheduled Sept. 28.


Speaking of cooking schools, Let's Get Cookin' of Westlake Village will offer a class Wednesday by Hubert Keller, executive chef at San Francisco's Fleur De Lys.

The French chef and cookbook author, who has made Food and Wine magazine's list of top 10 chefs in America, will prepare garlic soup, eggplant and zucchini pie with roasted red bell pepper sauce, quail stuffed with Swiss chard and pine nuts, and honey and lavender ice cream.

Class time is 6:30 p.m. Cost is $65. Let's Get Cookin' is at 4643 Lakeview Canyon Road. Call (818) 991-3940 for reservations and more information.

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