What started out as a cook-off between two local escrow companies is now a community event that allows hundreds of families to eat barbecue for a good cause.
The fifth annual Grill Master Challenge will take place at Wolf Creek Brewery on April 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eight Santa Clarita barbecuers will cook hundreds of pounds of tri-tip and chicken, with all proceeds going to the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Project.
The event began five years ago, when Jim Lombardi, CFO and owner of Federal Escrow, challenged Steve Corn, CEO of Newhall Escrow, to compete and grill meats for their coworkers and families.
The pair soon decided to formally partner with the SCV Youth Project and bring in more cooks with extensive culinary backgrounds. Now, the event has judges and people assessing who can make the best tri-tip and chicken. There are four different awards — Judge’s Choice for Tri-tip, Judge’s Choice for Chicken, People’s Choice for Tri-tip, and People’s Choice for Chicken — and this year, there will be trophies, Lombardi said.
“Through the help of the Santa Clarita Valley Escrow Association and the Youth Project, and everyone promoting it, fortunately it’s grown to be a pretty good sized event — and I think it’s going to keep getting bigger every year,” he said.
All proceeds go to the Youth Project, an organization for Santa Clarita middle and high schools to help teenagers cope with teen challenges such as anti-bullying, drug addiction or suicide.
“It’s gotten a lot of recognition in the community, and everyone loves barbecue,” said Martin Rodriguez, Board President for the Youth Project. “The Grill Master event helps to create awareness [of our organization] for the students, that we’re there to support them, but also lets parents know we exist, we’re on every high school campus out there and we support teenagers.”
The cooking begins at 9 a.m., and judging is awarded at 2 p.m.
“It’s grown, and it’s a great day for the whole family,” Anita Lombardi, Jim Lombardi’s wife, said. “We have a 50-50 raffle, silent auction, sno cones and cotton candy. We also have some balloon animals and corn holes for the kids. It’s a nice day out with a lot of great food.”
Tickets can be purchased at helpnothassle.org in advance for $20, and $25 at the event site. Tickets may also be purchased by calling the Lombardis at 661-222-3132 or Andrea McCune with Pathway Escrow at 661-705-8440.