Rib Cook-Off Judges

As 23 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 2, 2018. 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 2 p.m. at the West End Stage on Monday, September 3, 2018. This year’s judges are a mix of top culinary professionals, food critics and media personalities who share a passion for delicious BBQ.

2018 Rib Judging Team:

Head Judge Alan Zeman
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.

Allen Pierleoni
Sacramento Bee
Allen Pierleoni is a senior writer for the Sacramento Bee, specializing in food and restaurants, travel, books and authors. His weekly restaurant review column, “Counter Culture,” has informed readers for 15 years.

Ken Wayne
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!

Matt Russell

On the Menu…Live!
Matt Russell is the host of On the Menu…Live!, a weekly radio program that dishes out the latest buzz on Arizona’s culinary and cocktail scene. He also serves as the food and beverage correspondent for the Bill Buckmaster Show and John C. Scott Show in Tucson, and writes the weekly food and beverage column for Inside Tucson Business, Southern Arizona’s business journal. When he’s not on the radio, writing his column, or serving as Master of Ceremonies at community events, he’s running Russell Public Communications, a public relations agency he founded in 2002.

Mike Peters
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!

Spud Hilton

San Francisco Chronicle
Spud Hilton is the travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and SFChronicle.com who has written about (and been lost in) destinations on 6 continents, from the back alleys of Havana to the shrines of Kyoto to the floor of a hippie bus in Modesto. He writes a biweekly column about travel.

Mayor Geno Martini
Sparks City Mayor
In July 1999 Mr. Martini was appointed to the Sparks City Council to complete an unexpired term, representing Ward 3. He was elected Mayor Pro Tempore by the City Council in July 2003 and served in that capacity until February 2005, when he was sworn in as mayor. He was elected to full terms in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and is currently the longest-serving mayor of Sparks.

Jave Patterson
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!

Brian Allen
Sparks, NV Chief of Police
Chief Brian Allen began his career with the Sparks Police Department in 1991 as a Police Officer.  As an officer, Chief Allen was a field training officer, a department instructor as well as being assigned to the S.W.A.T. Team.  He was promoted to Sergeant in 1999, where he served as a Patrol Sergeant, Project Development Sergeant and Support Services Section Sergeant.  He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 2004 and served in the Patrol Division until given the special assignment rank of Commander in 2008.  Chief Allen served as the Acting Deputy Chief from October of 2009 through July of 2011 where he was officially named the Deputy Chief of Police.  On May 28, 2013, he was named the Chief of Police for the Sparks Police Department.




Keith Sadanaga
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!




Chris Maples
 Sparks, NV Fire Department Chief
Fire Chief Chris Maples started his career with the Sparks Fire Department as a firefighter in 1995. He was promoted to operator in 2001, captain in 2007, and battalion chief in 2011. In 2013, he became a division chief responsible for SFD’s training and administration division. He was sworn in as the department’s Fire Chief in September 2016.  Chief Maples has a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management from the University of Nevada, Reno and an associate’s degree in fire science from Truckee Meadows Community College. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1976 to 1980 and the Nevada Air National Guard from 1980 to 1984.




Karen Cannan
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.




Rudy Palominos
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.


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Rooms | Dining | Entertainment | Packages | Casino