The first National Asado Competition took place on the streets of Buenos Aires this weekend. The 24 provinces of Argentina sent their two best asadores to battle it out under the shade of the obelisk. The sun was burning bright in the sky without a cloud in sight, each provincial team had chosen their own condiments to use, and the grills were fired up to barbeque a selection of meat cuts and vegetables.
Each asador had their own style and technique. As they heated up their grill, Daniel and Diego from Jujuy claimed that “it’s essential to have good meat and charcoal. This basics are to have a good grill and calculate that a kilo and a half of meat cooks for about an hour and a half depending on how you like it cooked. The secret is in your hand, the griller who is doing it, and the way it’s cooked.”
Rubén from Neuquén province had a similar message. “The secret of a good asado is to have patience, good charcoal, and good fuel to make a fire which never goes out. You need patience to cook, you can’t cook an asado in half an hour or in an hour. A good asado always takes an hour and a half to two hours cooking.”
For each of the grillers, the asado is seen as something sacred and part of the Argentine national identity. “Asado is something typical and a food from our culture. It’s something on a national level, we do it every Sunday, but only when you can buy meat as it is expensive,” laughed Luis from Córdoba.
Gabriel from Santiago del Estero agreed: “Asado means family for me, to share with friends and it’s all about meeting together.”
Gabriel had a more spiritual take on the process. “The secret of an asado is everything. You have it in yourself, it’s not all about the salt, or how long it cooks for, or the fire. It’s what you do that matters. You know what is meant to go on.”
Despite this message of unity around the asado, the organisers decided to split the crowd from the actual grills, which faced inwards in an enclosed triangle. The only people allowed in were the judges, the judge’s friends and family, and the press.
As the meat began to hiss and sizzle on one side of the obelisk, a protest was building on the other. Corriente Villera Independiente, a social group based in the villas (slums) of Buenos Aires, questioned the “morality” of spending $10m on an asado tournament while one in three Argentine are living below the poverty line. They organised a “Metropolitan Stew Tournament” at the same time as the asado, offering free stews to the public to underline their message that “[public] resources should be used to resolve real problems and necessities, not to show off.”
There were other question marks over the event: according to Tiempo AR, it was organised by a shell company called Complemental SRL that was only created a year ago, had no previous experience in staging such showpiece attractions, and did not appear to operate at the stated business address. Based on this, city legislator Natalia Fidel has requested a report explaining why Complemental were contracted over the other bidders and what technical criteria was used to make that decision.
All the asadores grilled up pure mouth-watering magic on their grills but the team to win the first competition in Buenos Aires were the pair from Mendoza, Carlos Gallardo and Francisco Araya, who have worked together for more than 20 years and won the best overall score from both sets of judges. The y took home a golden grill as their prize.
There were also seven special mentions for the winners of individual categories: Neuquén won the prize of most delicious asado, Jujuy won the best beef prize, and team Córdoba cooked up the best chorizo.