Cooking success: Awards open doors for Upton, cooking team

Photos provided to the Times ObserverKurt Upton and the Skintown Smokestacks punched their ticket to the Steak Cookers Association World Championships in 2025 in the wake of a competition held last weekend in the Lancaster area.

Competitive cooking is opening some doors for a local restaurateur.

Coming off a trip to the Steak Cookers Association (SCA) World Championships in March, Kurt Upton and the rest of the Skintown Smoke Stacks – Matt Perrin, Eric Sproveri and Michael Archuleta – have already punched their ticket to Worlds in 2025.

And that opens the door to an even bigger opportunity for Upton and his restaurant staff at Liberty Street Lunch – the World Food Championships in November.

The first trip to Worlds was – in Upton’s words –“incredible.”

“It’s almost overwhelming to have that much talent and that many people together,” he said. “Everything is definitely bigger in Texas.”

A first place finish in wings and a fourth place finish in steak secured “Golden Tickets” for the SCA World Championships in 2025 for local restaurateur Kurt Upton and the Skintown Smokestacks competitive cooking team.

Their first trip was also a learning experience as Upton highlighted the networking that happened and competitors “picking each other’s brain, going over technique together. (There are) not a lot of secrets in this competition.”

No one can accuse them of resting on their laurels, either.

Upton said they competed in a regional event in Lancaster last weekend taking first in chicken wings and fourth in a steak category. Both of those outcomes brought “Golden Tickets” to Worlds next year.

The qualification for the World Food Championships brings quite the prize.

Qualifying in the sandwich category, Upton and the crew from Liberty St. Lunch will have a $150,000 prize on the line in the televised competition.

He said he’ll be closing the restaurant and taking his team, along with three or four other chefs that will help out.

“It’s a huge learning experience for all of us,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without taking my crew with me. They work with me every day. I’m the left hand, they’re the right hand.”

These recent events are just a part of a full summer of competitions that Upton will be participating in.

He explained that there are 12 events in Pennsylvania that make up the “Pa. Points Chase.”

There are no events in New York and just a few in the region so chefs from the region come to Pennsylvania to compete.

“The best in the region are usually going to be there,” he said.

They’re back in the Lancaster area for an event at New Holland, Pa. this weekend where the Smokestacks will be preparing three steaks and pork ribs.

“Myself and my team are trying to do all the events we can possibly,” he said. “(Our) goal is to be top 10 in the points chase this season.

Upton has been in the food business for 30 years. It started as a hobby. Now it’s his business.

“Sometimes you do really well, sometimes you don’t,” he said of the cooking competition.

But there’s reason to believe that the experiences from the first trip to Worlds will pay off at Worlds in 2025.

The benefit will be the “simple things,” he said. “Accommodations will be a lot easier. We know where we’re going.”

“(We) got a lot of feedback from fellow competitors that is really going to help immensely.”


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