As rib cookers from all over the world compete for top honors at the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, a carefully selected panel of judges will work behind-the-scenes to determine who makes the best ribs!

It’s not just bragging rights they’re competing for – $19,500 in cash is up for grabs for the cookers who impress the judges. As always, the judges are not permitted to sample any ribs from the cookers before the judging takes place on Sunday, September 3, 2023. The judging is double-blind, meaning neither the judges, nor the staff setting up the judging know which ribs belong to which cooker.

The judges will eat the same ribs served to customers during the cook-off. The winners will be announced at 2pm at the West End Plaza Event Stage on Monday, September 4, 2023.

This year’s judges are a mix of top culinary professionals, food critics and media personalities who share a passion for delicious BBQ.

Rational USA

Chef Alan Zeman graduated first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America. He has earned CEC Certification from the ACF, as well as being inducted into the American Academy of Chefs. He has been Executive Chef at restaurants, country clubs and prestigious resorts throughout the country. Most recently Chef Zeman owned and operated the award winning Fuego Restaurant Bar and Grill in Tucson, Arizona.

Celebrity Chef

At 13 years old, Clint was preparing dishes for customers, and gaining the hands-on entrepreneurial experience that eventually would grow the family business into a $10 million empire. Now, Clint is has taken his insatiable curiosity and sense of culinary adventure on the road, in an epic journey to learn why we eat the way we do. “The world provides,” he says. “Every culture has a food story, and every person who prepares it tells their story through the food.”
In 2016, Clint won the Food Network’s Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge.

Kron TV

Ken Wayne has anchored the weekend news at KTVU TV in the Bay area from 2002 to 2018 and recently became the co-anchor at KRON weeknights . He started his career at KTVU in 1992 and has covered some of the biggest stories in the Bay Area and California since then. He’s been on the scene of floods, fires, earthquakes, and almost every major Bay Area story over the past 16 years. He’s been honored by the regional Emmy’s, the Associated Press and national Telly awards. Wayne’s passion for TV is equal to his passion for delicious barbecue, and he says he’s excited to be part of this elite group of Nugget Rib Cook-Off judges!

On The Menu...Live!

Matt Russell is the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com, a canvas of culinary and cocktail encounters in Arizona and beyond. He’s also the food and beverage correspondent for the Bill Buckmaster Show, a regular food and beverage contributor to Wake Up Tucson, the craft beer correspondent for Tales of the Keg on ESPN Tucson, the author of the bi-weekly food and beverage column for Inside Tucson Business – Southern Arizona’s Business Journal, and a Master of Smoke brand ambassador for Masterbuilt. When he’s not on the radio, writing his column, smoking meats, or serving as master of ceremonies at community events, he’s running Russell Public Communications, a public relations agency he founded in 2002.

Great American BBQ Tour

Since 2008, Mike and his wife Christine have been traveling the country teaching festival attendees and fans about the “Gospel of Q” as the hosts of the Great American BBQ Tour. As tour hosts, they are the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s ambassadors to the world. During the past eight years, the Peters have journeyed tens of thousands of miles across the nation and back, acting as the voice of KCBS and promoting BBQ while teaching professional grilling tips and tricks to millions of festival attendees. Mike is also serving on the board of Kansas City Barbecue Society, the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, where he was a past president!


A Graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Vinnie Oakes had success early as a team member of a group that took First Prize for Students’ Work at the Annual Salon of Culinary Art and Exhibition, National Hotel Show, N.Y.C. He was the recipient of first-ever Augie Award voted by The Culinary Institute Of America Alumni for “Outstanding Direction of a Hotel, Casino, Cruise line, or Airline” for the first 50 years of CIA’s existence.
Oakes held a variety of top food & beverage management positions with casino properties for 20 years, working at Harrah’s – Lake Tahoe, the Desert Inn, Las Vegas, the Peppermill, Reno and John Ascuaga’s Nugget. He was the sole selector of judging team for 7 years at the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off and a judge at the Cuisine Corks & Crafts Festival, Battle Born Best Chef’s Competition. Currently Oakes is the Director of Food Procurement at Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Sparks City Mayor

KDOT Radio, Two Doods Reviews

Jave Patterson has spent almost half of his 30 year radio career here in Reno, on-air at both KDOT and as host of the ‘Locals’s Only Morning Show’ on 105.7 KOZZ, Reno’s Classic Rock. In his spare time, he and his review partner Andy Van Nostrand run the website and complimenting YouTube channel Two Doods Reviews, reviewing everything from new music to cigars and culinary delights

Sparks, NV Chief of Police

Retired Executive Banquet Chef, Nugget Casino Resort

Keith Sadanaga recently retired as the Executive Banquet Convention Chef at the Nugget Casino Resort and was responsible for a team of chefs creating gourmet meals for 5 to 1500 clients and the Best in the West Rib Cookoff. As a native of Hawaii, he enjoys blending Pacific Rim, Classical European, Mediterranean Cuisine, by creating innovative menus and excellent new dining experiences. He was named the 1994 Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, California Capital Chefs Association. Special times are spent with his wife Lynn in the Napa Sonoma Region. However, Hawaii will always be his first love and home!

Sparks, NV Fire Department Chief

Professor/Program Coordinator, Truckee Meadows Community College Culinary Arts

Chef Cannan has been in the industry for over 35 years. Starting at a young age, her experience ranges from all areas of the restaurant/food industry. She worked the front of th e house as a bus girl, waitress, cocktails, bar back, bookkeeper, and manager. She moved to the back of the house and this is where is thought she was going to stay, having found a special niche in pastry. She started a small catering business, which allowed her to work and attend culinary school at TMCC and the Culinary Institute of America. She was mentored by the director of the program at TMCC and eventually accepted a Chef Instructor position, which led to her current position as the Director of the ACE Nationally accredited program at this local community college.

Reno Media Group Program Director and On Air Personality

R.J. Palominos is your morning traffic guy, and one third of the Alice 96.5 Morning Show with Bill and Connie. He’s also Rude Boy, on Swag 104.9 from 10am-3pm. Originally from Modesto, CA, Rudy has been in radio since 1999, and he moved to Reno in 2004. He loves Hip-Hop Music and The Hip-Hop culture. He’s happily married, and a huge Transformers fan and collector.

Honorary Rib Judge

Disabled American Veteran’s Department of California