The smell of chicken and ribs lured hundreds of people to the Sparks Street Mall in downtown Ottawa Wednesday for the kickoff of Ribfest.

It's an international cook-off of barbeque chicken and ribs - a battle for the best meat from across the continent.

"They fall off the bone, they're sweet, they're tasty," said Heather Skaarup, who enjoyed a meal of ribs on Wednesday.

"I came all the way from Australia for these ribs . . . They're extremely good. A lot better than we get at home," added Andrew Doyle.

The annual festival of flavours is offering up food from some of the best barbeque vendors in Canada and the United States.

While some vendors hinted at what makes their ribs best, they wouldn't give away their secret.

"Our sauce is a sweet sauce and we use citrus in our sauce, so it makes it a little sweeter, brown sugar, and I can't tell you anymore," said Louise Smith, of Gator BBQ.

"Just a good spice, a good sauce, good slow smoke and a little tender loving care," said Steve Vaughn, of Texas Outlaws.

Over the course of the festival, vendors will compete for best rib choice, best rib sauce, best chicken choice and best chicken sauce. Ribfest runs until Sunday.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Katie Griffin