It's one of busiest times of the year for caterers and restaurants.
JP Mooney of JP's Barbecue & Catering, and JP's at Otter Creek, was going full-speed getting ready for the 8th annual Battle of the Hors D'oeuvres and 12th annual Bid for Kids Sake hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and Area Friday night at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
"I had an 80-person lunch catering today, I had a drop-off in Delhi at 6 o'clock, this, and I had my restaurant on the run, so there were four different things I was working on today," said Mooney, who was about to pack up after Friday night's 'Battle' to get ready for Saturday's catering. "I'm lucky, I've got a chef behind me. He can run the restaurant and I've got some great staff."
Mooney opened JP's at Otter Creek in April 2016 (Thursdays to Sundays) located at the Otter Creek Golf Club in Otterville, which is now his base of operations for JP's Barbecue & Catering.
A supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters since his first Battle in 2012, Mooney served up BBQ Brisket Egg Rolls at this year's competition. It was a winning entry - Mooney took the Critic's Choice Trophy, voted by a team of judges, and People's Choice Trophy, voted by the 200-plus ticket holders at the Lion's Auditorium.
"I was really surprised with this one," Mooney admitted. "I knew it was a really good app, but I didn't know...
"There was a lot of very nice presentation out there and all of the competition really did a good job. I know I enjoyed them all. All the ones I tried, they were awesome. They had a really good lineup this year."
Mooney's key ingredient was brisket.
"It's the smoked brisket," he nodded. "I sell a lot of it. It's like bacon - you can put it in anything and it makes it that much better. So I put it with that egg roll, added a little sweet Thai chili barbecue sauce, and it was a match made in heaven.
"We made our own sauce. It's like a two-to-one ratio - two sweet Thai chili, and we added just a little bit of our barbecue sauce. It gives it that full flavour and kind of tones down a little bit of the heat."
It also helped, said Mooney, having a cooker on site.
"They're still sizzling when you cut them, hot and fresh out of the fryer. It was kind of like the poutine last year - it was hot, it was fresh, it was filling... everything you want."
Second place, in both categories this year, was Tillsonburg's Indigo Lounge, and third place - also in both categories - was newcomer Tillsonburg's Angel St. Gelais Cakes / Corey's Restaurant.
Winning both is rare, Mooney noted. He recalled a double winner in 2011, the year before he started, when Food Affair Catering from Ingersoll picked up both awards, judged by Jonathan and Cynthia Collins and Matthew Fox. And in 2010, it was Tillsonburg's Ron Thoma winning both.
Since 2012, the first 'Battle' for both Indigo Lounge and JP's Barecue & Catering, a handful of competitors have been consistent single-award winners, including Jed Lau - It's All About You Catering.
"He (Jed) always wins," Mooney laughed. "I was always the bridesmaid the first few years."
Mooney was second in People's Choice in 2013, finishing behind The Thirsty Golfer, and third for Critic's Award in 2014 (Beef Brisket Sliders), then broke through with a People's Choice winner in 2015, taking the prize with Beef Brisket Poutine.
On Friday, JP's BBQ Brisket Egg Roll couldn't be beat - a tasty combination of brisket, egg roll wrapper, rice noodles, carmelized onion, mushrooms, peppers with a sweet Thai chili barbecue sauce.
Also serving hors d'oeuvres this year were It's All About You Catering (European Breakfast Canape), The Bridges at Tillsonburg (Bacon Wrapped Grilled Cheese), Indigo Lounge (Smoky Maple Water Chesnuts with Thyme), Quinton's Catering (Turkey Slider), Local Dairy (Grilled Cheese Squares), Angel St. Gelais Cakes / Corey's Restaurant (Mini Meatloaf - savoury cupcakes), and Boston Pizza (Southwest Flat Bread).
The real winner on the night was Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and Area, who raised more than $24,000 Friday, nearly half of that coming from a live auction (led by auctioneer Jared Pettman). In addition to fundrs raised by the silent auction and sponsorship, it brought them very close to their $40,000 fundraising goal.