Amidst the smoking coals and wood fired flames from more than 40 contestants along the Iowa State Fair Grand Concourse, Ryan Friesth of Fort Dodge rose above the competition and was crowned the 2023 Iowa Farm Bureau ‘Cookout Champion.’ Friesth’s Ribeye Cap Steak recipe was voted as the championship-winning dish of the 59th annual Farm Bureau Day Cookout Contest at the Iowa State Fair. 

The championship winning entry was favored by the judges over a wide array of entries from some of the state’s best backyard chefs, representing one-third of Iowa's counties, during the longstanding Iowa State Fair tradition. In addition to being crowned the overall Farm Bureau Cookout Champion, Friesth also won first place in the beef division, and his charcoal grilled ribeye caps beat out other popular entries, including smoked beef brisket, baby back pork ribs, lamb skewers, smoked chicken and turkey dishes. 

Competitors in the Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest earned entry by smoking, grilling or barbecuing their way to victory in a county Farm Bureau contest in one of six categories: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, Turkey or Youth.  In addition to several regional qualifying county Farm Bureau Cookout Contests, entry to the popular event was expanded to include a select number of entrants from online applications.  

“The Farm Bureau Cookout Contest on Farm Bureau Day at the State Fair is a great tradition that our members and fairgoers look forward to each year as a fun way to celebrate the diversity of Iowa livestock production and Iowa’s best backyard cooks,” said Iowa Farm Bureau President Brent Johnson.  “The dedication and passion from today’s contestants reflect the values of Iowa farmers committed to responsible livestock care, and we’re excited to put on this event that celebrates Iowa’s livestock industry through these delicious dishes.”  

Friesth’s championship winning steak topped several other beef entries in route to being selected as the contest’s overall winner.  He received $1,000, the champion’s crown and a trophy as the 2023 Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest Champion. Friesth also won $400 for winning the beef division. 

Other first place winners, hometown and their winning category were: Jesus Ojeda of Johnston, lamb; Mitch Schmitz of Lost Nation, pork; Bob Carson of West Point, poultry and Theresa Jones of Hubbard, turkey. All category winners received a $400 prize.  

Second place finishers, hometown and their categories were: Sarah Cruise of Olin, beef; Ryan Justice of Vinton, lamb; Ben Zehr of Keswick, pork; Richard Bishop of Granger, poultry and Alan Schroeder of Dubuque, turkey. All second-place category finishers received $200. Kamie Helmke of Dumont finished second place in the youth division and won $150.  

Stoney Wood of Corydon emerged from a crowded field of young contestants to take home first place in the youth division. Wood received a gas grill valued at $1,000 and $300 cash, courtesy of the Iowa Propane Gas Association. Wood also won the praises of the judges for his flair behind the grill, display, presentation and engagement with fairgoers, and he also received the $200 showmanship prize.  

Prize sponsors for the Farm Bureau Cookout Contest include: Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Bureau Financial Services, GROWMARK, Inc., Iowa Propane Gas Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the Iowa Turkey Federation and the Iowa Poultry Association.