A meaty job

Lauren Garber

Talk about a baptism in fire. Lauren Garber is the new public relations manager at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, and this was her first time steering the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off. She’s a relative newbie to Northern Nevada, having only been here a couple of years. Some readers will recognize her from her stint as a reporter from KOLO. It’s been awhile since she’s had a day off, but she says she gets three in a row off next weekend, “And I’m really looking forward to it.”

So how did the Rib Cook-off come off this year?

The Rib Cook-off was fabulous this year. We had people come in from out of town—I even heard we had some people here from as far away as New York. And we’re so excited that so many people could come and enjoy our fabulous ribs.

What are we talking about as far as people numbers?

We don’t have the final count in for this year yet, but we do expect about 500,000 people every year, and we think we at least hit that.

Anything that surprised you this year?

This was my first year being here for the year cook-off—doing the P.R. at the Nugget for it. There were a lot of things that were surprising to me. I was on stage watching Joey Chestnut eat eight pounds of ribs. That was an incredible sight. I have never seen anyone eat that much meat at one time. My eyes are definitely wide open now.

How does that work? What is the method that you guys use to get them the ribs that they eat?

These ribs aren’t the ribs that you’d get on the street. These are Nugget ribs that those competitors are eating. We bring them out. They’re in a bunch of trays. Some of the staff here, we measure them out. We put about four pounds in each tray. We weigh them beforehand, and then after the fact, and that’s how we figure out how much meat off of those bones that those eaters ate. It is a lot of meat.

How long do they have?

Twelve minutes is what they have to consume all that meat. It’s incredible. Eight pounds of meat in 12 minutes, that’s almost a pound a minute.

And do you guys have an estimate of the financial impact on the economy around here?

We do. We did a study last year, actually. It brings almost $25 million to our local economy, and of course, it’s not just here at the Nugget. It is all over our area, and all the local casinos really benefit from this large event.

How many ribs do you think were used this year? Can you come close with pounds or tons?

We don’t have a final count yet this year. It goes up almost every year, as far as I know. Last year, it was 233,400 pounds consumed. We’re thinking we hit at least that again this year.

How many pigs is that?

You don’t want to know.

I do, really! (Internet research says a baby back rack is about 12-14 ribs, and weighs about 1.75 pounds. Each pig has two racks. So 233,400 divided by 3.5 pounds is about 66,686 pigs. That’ll do, pig; that’ll do.)

Awww. [Laughs.]