Recipe for success: For last year's People's Choice winners, RibFest is a family affair

·3 min read

Aug. 5—While Big Boned BBQ owner Pat Nelson won't tell you the secret to his recipes, his family helps contribute to the recipe for his success.

The Minnesota State University graduate has owned the business for over 20 years and has participated in RibFest for 13.

Six people pitch in to help the family business, including himself, his brother, his two nieces and his parents.

While the business itself is based out of South Carolina, they take it out on the road every year across the Midwest.

This year they're ending their tour a 24-hour drive away, in the state where he spent a lot of time.

"I was a student here. I lived here and worked in the community for a number of years. So I love coming back," Nelson said.

Early on Thursday, they handed out rib samples at MSU ahead of their competition at RibFest.

Nelson said it's the community that makes RibFest special.

"Specifically with towns this size, in communities like this, we go during the week and get stuff at different grocery stores and Home Depot and people see the name on the card and go, 'Oh, are you guys at RibFest?' It's a big deal here," he said.

Nelson said it's the rub that makes his recipe unique.

"The sauce is amazing, too, but it's our rub. We have a special rub that we put on all of our pork and our brisket and our ribs. We dry rub it, and we serve it dry rub, and then you can put sauce on them afterward. It's a combination of 32 different herbs and spices. I can list them all for you, but I'm certainly not going to tell you how much of each one of them," he said.

He did say that the rub, which has stayed consistent over the years, is a mix of salty and sweet.

"So you can kind of guess. A little garlic, a little sugar, a little salt," he said.

And as far as sauces go, Nelson said they don't so much change the recipes as they add new ones, and next year customers can expect something new on the menu.

"This year will be the last year we don't have a South Carolina mustard barbeque sauce," Nelson said. "We're from here, but we've lived in the South and in South Carolina for about 15 years now. When we get out on the road, people see we're from South Carolina on our signs and they always ask if we have a mustard sauce because South Carolina specifically is where mustard barbeque sauce originated. So we've never had one and in the past year, we've been developing a new sauce and now we're ready to take that in production."

Up until now, the sauce and rub recipes have been his, but this recipe blends inspiration from both himself and his mother.

"She's the boss. It doesn't matter who's listed on any papers or who does what. Mom is still the boss," he said.

While Mom might be the boss, Nelson co-owns the business with his brother, Benjamin, who said it's great to be back in the state.

"It's awesome, it's fun. We were talking the other day about how great the people of Minnesota are to us," he said. "It's been fun coming back. We love coming to Mankato."

And they are hopeful to once again be crowned People's Choice winners.

"We like to think we have a consistent product that's going to give everyone a good opportunity to taste our barbeque and to enjoy it," Benjamin said.

RibFest runs through Sunday at Riverfront Park.