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By MATT CRANE
The weather is not the only thing heating up in preparation for Saturday's fourth annual Running of the Bulldogs.
Once again, amateur and professional chefs from surrounding areas will compete for first place in the second annual Mississippi Championship Steak Cook Off.
The grilling competition was the brainchild of Running of the Bulldogs organizer Hobie Hobart.
"Several of us talked about having a cooking contest in the Cotton District," Hobart said. "It's such a great place for it."
Hobart said there are steak grilling competitions across the country.
"We noticed that no one in Mississippi had one," he said. "The winners will advance to the World Championship Steak Cook Off in Magnolia, Ark."
Hobart said the cooking contest offers participants the chance to show off their backyard grilling skills.
"People walk into restaurants and say, 'I don't want to order a steak when I go out because I cook one better at home,' well here's their chance," he said. "I'm hoping for more attendance and awareness to make this cooking contest really big in Starkville."
Last year's winner Jay Yates and his team at the Veranda will be returning to the competition Saturday to once again vie for the top spot.
"The people who participate are ex-athletes, families and some restaurants, so it's good mix," he said. "I try to make it as level a playing field as possible."
Hobart said elements such as lighting the grill and turning steaks in at the same time are some measures being implemented to keep the competition as fair as possible.
A panel of judges will taste and score the steaks entered into competition based on a set of approved criteria.
Hobart said the meat used for the competition is a choice piece of stockyard angus from the United States Food Services, but advises hopeful contestants not to get too fancy with their grilling styles.
"It's a great piece of meat, so let it have the flavor," he said. "Keep your fire hot, and keep it simple."
Hobart said those participating in the Running of the Bulldogs should dress cool, but be ready to have a fantastic time.
"There's always a lot of smiling faces," he said. "It's a good time for everybody."
The Running of the Bulldogs begins Saturday at 3 p.m. with live musical entertainment, with steak judging happening at 5:45 p.m.
For more information about the Running of the Bulldogs and the Mississippi Championship Steak Cook Off, contact Hobart at 662-769-1715 or visit the Facebook page for the event for more details.