The mustard sauce winner is Janelle R. Thomas, 29, a 911 dispatcher who lives with her husband and their 4-year-old son in Suitland. Her thick, spicy-hot sauce, spiked with horseradish mustard, is a little chunky with minced garlic and ochre-colored from a splash of ketchup.
“I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl,” says Thomas, who was born in Washington and grew up in Capitol Hill. “My grandmother was from Columbia, S.C., and I spent a lot of time just watching her.”
Thomas’s sauce, though, owes at least as much to television. “I learned from the Food Network,” she says. “Bobby Flay. ‘Boy Meets Grill.’ Other shows, too. But mainly Bobby Flay.”
No long-held family secret, the sauce Thomas developed was made an hour before she sent in the recipe. “I remember my grandmother always had a mustard-based sauce and I never liked it,” she says. “But I thought, let me try my hand at it. I wanted to do something different. When you put those flavors together, it’s like an explosion in your mouth.”
The winner of the alternative category is John Scofield, who moved to Washington from his native Oregon about 20 years ago to intern with then-U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield. “My plan was to leave after three years,” says Scofield, 39, who owns a government-relations firm. “But I guess I’m a typical story. I stayed around.”
He credits his wife’s heritage for the Asian accent of his thick, nicely balanced sauce and his Oregon roots for his overall barbecue sensibility. “My sauce is a hybrid,” he says. My wife is second-generation Chinese-American, so I love Asian-influenced barbecue. But I also love Texas barbecue, North Carolina barbecue. I don’t have a violent allegiance to Texas or east or west North Carolina. If it’s smoked, I like it. I like throwing everything in the mix.”
Scofield created the sauce one evening a few years ago when friends were coming over for barbecue and he realized he didn’t have any sauce in the house. He grabbed ingredients he had around, such as Sriracha, hoisin sauce, an orange, some seasoned rice wine vinegar, ketchup and Dijon mustard to create what he says works especially well as a finishing glaze on pork tenderloin.
“I just took all the good things about barbecue and put them together,” he says.
Betty’s Best BBQ Sauce
Janelle’s Delectable Sauce
Oriental Express Sauce
Shahin will join today’s Free Range chat at noon: live.washingtonpost.com.