EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Jon G’s Barbecue pitmaster Garren Kirkman on what’s next

If you’ve been following our current favorite barbecue purveyor in Charlotte, Jon G’s Barbecue, on Facebook or Instagram then you would have seen that the pitmaster behind it has made a big decision and will be devoting more time to his craft as of March 15th. I reached out to Garren Kirkman to get some more information and see what his plans are now.

First off, congrats! How excited are you?
I am stoked to see what the future has in store, but it’s bittersweet for this chapter of my life to (somewhat) close. It was my first job out of college, I bought my first house, I met my wife, my son was born and so many other milestones in life happened while I was employed at CMC… Carolinas Healthcare…ehrrr I mean what is now called Atrium Health-Union.

Can you help our readers understand what exactly the plan is as of 3/15, your last day full-time at Atrium Health in your current role?
The plan for now is to get more sleep! Until now I have worked 40 hours a week to come home Friday and stay up all night stoking a fire and seeing the whole process through until the service is over the next day. Make rub, trim brisket, season meat and so on and so forth, you name it, start to finish (meat wise) that’s me. 

Until now, we have done zero marketing besides a few Facebook promotions. Our biggest goal is to get our story out there, promote our brand and grow, grow, grow! 

Who was the 98-year old man that you quoted? Did he influence your barbecue dream  at all?
I can honestly say I don’t know who he is. I don’t know his name or his face, but I will never forget those words for as long as I live. In a roundabout way he most certainly spurred my dreams, even if the discussion wasn’t directly about barbecue. 

So why now?
Around 2010, hospitals were becoming a productivity driven environment and my 40 hour work week was being cut to around 20 hours some weeks due to the number of patients we were seeing. Sometimes I would unexpectedly have half of a normal paycheck. Even though I had half of a paycheck, the bills stayed the same. That being said, all those years ago when I was given the advice to not work for “The Man” it set into motion a vision that I had for my life. I didn’t know where it would lead me, but it led me to barbecue.

Jon G’s has grown beyond what we ever imagined it could with the time we allowed for it. We are booked solid every weekend until June and when we started turning down jobs that seemed to be my cue to take the opportunity that’s presenting itself.

Where do you want to take Jon G’s Barbecue in the next six months? One year? Five years?
Six months will look very similar to what we have been doing, a few pop ups and our scheduled catering gigs.

One year we hope to still be growing exponentially. We want to market ourselves and hope to get into some corporate catering during the week. Although we do believe in quality over quantity, we have a ton of room to spread the brisket gospel far and wide!

In 5 years we hope to still be in business…maybe in a brick and mortar?! We shall see!

What are your upcoming pop-ups or services? Where will folks be able to get their hands on your tasty brisket and barbecue?
You can find our schedule on our Instagram page @jongsbbq. We have plenty of dates between Monroe and Statesville, NC for people to come out and get some great food. Not to mention the breweries we are at have fantastic beer to compliment like Southern Range Brewing and Fourth Creek Brewing

Anything else?
I do want to say that when you come to one of our events it isn’t just me or my wife, Kelly that make it happen. We have amazing friends and family that allow us to create the Jon G’s experience.  We could NOT do it alone and I pray my son has a family business to step into one day. 

Thankful doesn’t seem like a big enough word to describe how we feel when people come give us a chance. Thank you all for helping our dreams become a reality! 

Thanks to Garren for his time. In the meantime, check out this mouthwatering video of his brisket in action.

Checking Back In: Richard’s Bar-B-Q in Salisbury, NC

Monk: The last (and only) time I had visited Richard’s Bar-B-Q in Salisbury was nearly 5 years ago and I mostly enjoyed my meal there, preferring it to the other Salisbury joint on the NC Barbecue Trail, Wink’s King of Barbeque.

Richard’s was the choice for a Monk family lunch meet up over the holidays, providing an in-between spot between Charlotte and Pittsboro.
Pulling in, the one thing that struck me was the spelling of “Bar-B-Q” on all of Richard’s signage. By my recollection, you tend to see “barbecue,” “bbq,” “barbeque,” “bar-b-que,” or “bar-b-cue” spellings more often, but even thought its clearly a valid spelling, I don’t recall really noticing “bar-b-q” in too many places in my travels. A minor thing for sure, but perhaps worth noting in the future.

As for the ‘cue itself, I found the barbecue to have the necessary smoke but lacking the tang and spice I noted on my previous visit. Ditto for the red slaw. Thankfully, the large hush puppies were just as good as I remembered and I ate them until I was well beyond stuffed. In any case, my family and I enjoyed our meal as we lamented the recent closing of Allen & Son in Chapel Hill – most of us, anyways. My aunt said she found that one subpar and preferred the Pittsboro location much more. Now, even though Chapel Hill is gone, I will have to investigate Pittsboro. In any case, back to Richard’s – I still chuckle at the use of large coffee filters as part of the serving apparatus for the trays. Hopefully they won’t fall victim to the recent trend of NC barbecue joint closings anytime soon.

Now Available: Barbecue Bros “Forefathers of Lexington Barbecue” T-shirts!

Link: Barbecue Bros Forefathers of Lexington-style Barbecue Shirt

In the spirit of the pioneers and innovators of our favorite style of barbecue, the Barbecue Bros are pleased to make available our first t-shirt featuring those men in the classic Helvetica list style. We hope that Lexington-style barbecue fans will purchase and wear this acknowledgement of history proudly. The shirts are $24.99 and ship for free if you have an Amazon Prime account.

  • Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem
  • Available in Men’s, Women, and Child sizes S-3XL
  • Solid colors: 100% Cotton; Heather Grey: 90% Cotton, 10% Polyester; All Other Heathers: 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester

Click to purchase

A brief history of Lexington-style Barbecue

In 1919, Sid Weaver set up a tent across the street from the Lexington courthouse and began selling what would later become “Lexington-style” barbecue. He was the first man to sell this style of barbecue.

Weaver later teamed up with Jess Swicegood and those two men perfected Lexington-style barbecue and helped spread the technique across the Piedmont of North Carolina. Lexington-style means pork shoulders are smoked as opposed to whole hogs because shoulders are fattier and more forgiving than the leaner hams and loins found in a whole hog and yield more barbecue. They took the vinegar-pepper sauce of the eastern part of the state and added ketchup to provide sweetness to balance it out while maintaining the tang of the vinegar.

In 1927, Warner Stamey began working under Weaver and Swicegood while in high school, and for me this is where things began to pick up. After a few years under the tutelage of Weaver and Swicegood, Stamey moved 100 miles southwest to Shelby, NC. There, he taught the Lexington-style technique to his brother-in-law Alston Bridges as well as Red Bridges (oddly enough, not related). They, of course, opened their own respective restaurants in 1956 and 1946 respectively, both of which still exist today.

Stamey moved back to Lexington in 1938 and bought Swicegood’s restaurant for $300. It was there that he taught the legendary barbecue man Wayne Monk, who went on to open Lexington Barbecue (aka “The Honeymonk”) in 1962, which just so happens to be the Barbecue Bros’ collective favorite barbecue restaurant ever. Stamey would of course go on to open Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, where his grandson Chip Stamey still owns and operates to this day. Warner Stamey is also widely credited with bringing hush puppies to barbecue restaurants.

Much of the information above was taken from Robert Moss’s seminal book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. If you want to read more on the history of our favorite food, I highly recommend it.

Monk’s Top 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2018

Monk: Last year I provided a ranking of my 10 favorite barbecue meals eaten in 2017 so trying to make it an annual thing by doing the same for 2018. Happy New Year!

10. Brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a taste of the beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue (review)

I was a little let down by the brisket at Louie Mueller’s (as was Rudy) but I’ll chalk that up to a bad day. However, the beef rib and sausage more than made up for it. Plus, the number of of legendary Texas joints I’ve visited is quite low so I was glad to visit one of the OG’s.

9. Barbecue tray from Smokey Joe’s (review)

8. Barbecue tray from Speedy Lohr’s (review)

I hope to one day make a comprehensive list of Lexington barbecue joints, but in early 2018 I was able to knock two off the list in Smokey Joe’s and Speedy Lohr’s, with neither tray disappointing.

7. Whole hog from NC State BBQ Camp (link)

At the NC State BBQ Camp, I was honored to be a guest panelist for a barbecue roundtable led by none other than Bob Garner. After that chat, the campers and panelists all partook in a whole hog pig pickin’ with some dang fine whole hog. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch who did the smoking but whoever you are, well done.

6. Chopped pork plate and brunswick stew from Stamey’s Barbecue (last review from 2013)

My takeout meal the day after Thanksgiving of pulled pork and brunswick stew only proves that I need to make it a point to get to Stamey’s more often.

5. Chopped pork and brisket from Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

There are certainly big things coming for Sweet Lew’s BBQ which only opened in early December. I look forward to many more meals here over the coming months and years.

4. Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken) and 6 Memphis dry rub wings from Martin’s BBQ Joint (review)

I couldn’t have been more impressed with everything on our visit to the downtown Nashville location of Martin’s in late summer – from the space itself to the open air beer garden to each and every delicious meat. Speedy is quite lucky to have Martin’s as his local joint.

3. Whole hog platter with barbecue hash from Buxton Hall Barbecue (review from 2016)

A visit to Buxton Hall once every two years simply isn’t gonna cut it for me. With the consistently amazing whole hog, the fantastic barbecue hash, and at least a couple other items I haven’t even tried such as fried catfish and smoked fried chicken, it should be at least a twice per year affair for me.

2. Brisket, sausage, and chopped pork from Lewis Barbecue (review from 2017)

As confirmed by the #hogtripping crew of the Tales from the Pits podcast as well as The Smoking Ho during their travels in late August, Lewis truly is legit Texas barbecue in the lowcountry. The Carolinas and in particular the lowcountry should count itself very lucky.

1. Brisket, chopped pork, Porky Brewster sandwich, and taco from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

My only complaint with Jon G’s Barbecue is that lately they’ve focused more on catering gigs instead of public servings. In any case, Garren and Kelly continue to kill it.

Honorable Mentions: Q – Houston, TX (review), LeRoy & Lewis – Austin, TX (review)

Pitmasters of Charlotte: Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ

While there is certainly good barbecue to be found in Charlotte, I wouldn’t quite say that it’s a barbecue city…yet. However, there are pitmasters out there doing great work, and I hope to spotlight that a little more in this series of posts called “Pitmasters of Charlotte.”

Our second profile (thus making it an actual series, woo hoo!) is Lewis Donald, who along with Laura Furman Grice opened up Sweet Lew’s BBQ in early December. Monk previewed them back in September as well as reviewed the restaurant, and is a big big fan.

How long have you lived in Charlotte and how did you get here?
I’ve been here 10 years. I came here to take a job at Charlotte Country Club, after I graduated the apprenticeship program at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.

How did you become a Pitmaster?
I don’t really use that term, not for myself. Those that came before me, those that learned the art through family generations, those that defined what we know as bbq today…they’re the pitmasters.

What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer? 
I like the staples, skin-on-shoulder, ribs, chicken, and brisket. It takes being able to cook all of them to offer a good bbq experience to family, friends, and customers. I prefer [smoking over] hickory and pecan.

What are your barbecue influences?
Simplicity, scratch cooking, consistency

What is your favorite barbecue joint or style?
I like them all, true bbq spot and styles. But I’m not a big sauce guy.

What is your earliest memory of barbecue?
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, it was a gas grill with burgers and dogs. In 2003 is when I was introduced to bbq.

What is the best thing about Charlotte barbecue?
I think it’s great that it’s served in restaurants.

What is a weakness or opportunity of Charlotte barbecue?
There’s not much of it, so there’s room to grow it!

Thanks to Lewis for his time. For more about Sweet Lew’s BBQ, check out their website, Instagram, Facebook page, or Lewis’ Instagram.

If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!

The Barbecue Bros Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Note: a version of this post was posted in December 2017. It has been updated as of December 2018.

Monk: For those last minute shoppers (whoops, should have posted this a few weeks earlier), here’s some gift ideas for the barbecue lover in your life. Or perhaps you if you want to treat yo’ self. The bolded items are the ones I can personally recommend. 

Books

Cookbooks, from pitmasters and food writers alike

Food History, Cultural Writing, and Photography

Hats, T-Shirts, Apparel

Accessories, Stocking Stuffers, etc.

Happy Shopping!

On Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog at Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville

Monk: Chicken Bog is a South Carolina Pee Dee regional dish with Gullah 
Geechee roots that’s at least 300 years old but if you were to ask someone outside of that small region, chances are they have never heard of it. Per DiscoverSC.com, it’s most popular in the stretch of SC between Horry County (think Myrtle Beach) to Florence in the eastern part of the state. Loris, SC (30 miles inland from Myrtle Beach towards the NC border) has been home to the Loris Bog-Off Festival since 1979. Personally, it wasn’t until a little over 2 years ago that I first encountered and tried it at Buxton Hall Barbecue (in the mountains of NC no less). Though if you know Buxton Hall, that’s not so far-fetched because pitmaster Elliott Moss is originally from Florence and has brought his family’s recipe for the dish to western NC.

I liken chicken bog to a SC version of jambalaya. It’s base ingredients are rice, chicken, and sausage and from there its anyone’s call. In that way, its a bit like Brunswick stew where everyone has their own version – some have various veggies while others are pretty simple with just the main ingredients and everyone’s spice mix is a well-kept secret. The version I made with my neighbor for an oyster roast this past weekend was on the simpler end of the spectrum. My neighbors have been having oyster roasts for a while now and initially would cook a chili to accompany the steamed oysters. A few years back, they made the switch to chicken bog and it was such a fan favorite that they haven’t done chili since.

I don’t have the recipe but the version we made was pretty simple (check the Discover SC page above for a more exact recipe). In two large pots, we placed 3 whole chickens, chopped smoked sausage, and spices into water and brought to a boil which both cooked the chickens and also created the stock we would later cook the rice in.

Then, the chickens were taken out of the stock and pulled into coarse chunks and set aside. Combining the stock into one pot, the rice was boiled and once cooked we added the pulled chicken back in and stirred the entire pot up. Spoon that mixture into bowls, add some hot sauce if you prefer, and its done – simple as that. It was a huge hit, and its so easy that you should do it too at your next oyster or even pig roast.


For more on Chicken Bog:
A Taste of SC: Just What Is Chicken Bog?
Elliott Moss’ Chicken Bog recipe
“On South Carolina, Gullah Cuisine and the History of Chicken Bog” by RL Reeves Jr

Preview: Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Note: This post was updated after initial posting

After working at various chef positions at resorts, country clubs, and, most recently, for the upscale grocer Reid’s Fine Foods, Lewis Donald will be bringing a community barbecue restaurant to the Belmont neighborhood later this fall in the form of Sweet Lew’s BBQ.

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Lewis may be originally from Cleveland, Ohio but has been inspired by southern barbecue at places such as Lewis Barbecue in Charleston and Lexington Barbecue (he recently met Rick Monk, who he hopes will visit Sweet Lew’s once it opens). The plan for Sweet Lew’s is to have pork, chicken, and ribs on the regular menu with daily specials like brisket on Saturdays, smoked turkey on Tuesdays, and hash on Wednesdays.

Speaking of meats, Sweet Lew’s will use high quality meats sourced from ethical farms across the US; his pork will come from Beeler’s Pure Pork in Iowa, the briskets will come from Creekstone Farms in Kansas, and chicken from Springer Mountain Farms in Georgia. Lewis will also keep it simple when it comes to rubs, for instance using only salt and pepper on his pork butts. All of the smoking will be done on a Myron Mixon H2O Water Smoker that will use wood such as pecan and hickory as its primary fuel source; there will be no gas or electricity assistance in the smoking of these meats.

The sandwich I tasted a few weeks back was NC barbecue at its simplest perfection. Hand-pulled pork shoulders mixed with Lewis’s vinegar-pepper sauce, topped with a vinegar slaw, and placed onto a simple white hamburger bun. Sure, I had the benefit of having it prepared freshly off the smoker in front of me, but the process is simple enough that I am expecting the same quality once the restaurant opens.

The house made pickles were a nice compliment to the sandwich (I kept them on the side as opposed to topping the sandwich), but I can’t wait to try the boiled peanuts that will be a standard side. If you’ve read anything about Sweet Lew’s up to this point you’re likely aware of them but this is a menu item that makes it stand out from other barbecue restaurants in town.

Lewis has already embraced the Belmont community through catering neighborhood events and he has plans to partner with local businesses such as the Salvation Army, with whom he shares the back boundary of his property. He wants Sweet Lew’s to have a family and community feel to the restaurant, and Lewis has promised a higher level of service to patrons of the restaurant.

I predict Charlotte barbecue fans are going to go crazy for Sweet Lew’s BBQ. It fills a niche in Charlotte that we just haven’t had – a joint that plans to sell its freshly smoked meat until its sold out, then close for the day. I enjoyed meeting and speaking with Lewis and love the concept; late October can’t get here earlier enough.

In the meantime, if you want to try Sweet Lew’s BBQ before the opening in late October, look out for his pop ups around Charlotte including a stop at Birdsong Brewing on 9/22 from 5-9pm.

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Monk Participates at a Barbecue Roundtable at the 2018 NC State BBQ Camp

Monk: A few months back, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate on a barbecue roundtable at the NC State BBQ Camp by Dana Snow, professor of Food Science at NC State. Considering I am both a NC State grad and a barbecue aficionado, I could think of no greater honor and accepted immediately.

The camp itself was early last month, and on day 2 I arrived shortly before the roundtable during a break in the camp. And to my surprise, they had beer! It had been at least 15 years since I had drank a beer on campus at State (not counting football games of course), so I was in a great frame of mind ahead of the roundtable discussion underneath the big tent.

The roundtable was moderated by the great Bob Garner and joining me on the panel was Joe Beasley of Haywood Smokehouse in the Asheville/Waynesville area as well as Tripp Hursey, the great grandson of the Hursey family that runs the Hursey’s Bar-B-Que restaurants in Alamance Count. While those guys could provide the perspective of owning and running a barbecue restaurant, I was on there to give a different perspective as a barbecue blogger.

Bob kicked off the panel by prompting each of the panelists question or two about our experiences before opening it up to the campers. I recounted the story of how Speedy, Rudy, and I got the idea for the blog in 2012 and also told stories of how Mrs. Monk puts up with my barbecue obsession. I may look a bit pensive and anxious in the photos that Mrs. Monk captured from the discussion, but once I got going I felt more and more comfortable (the couple of beers also helped). Unfortunately, after about 40 minutes a downpour came and made it extremely hard to hear any discussion under the tent so Bob made the executive decision to call it in favor of a happy hour before the pig pickin’. More beer!

And to my surprise, the two beers on tap were both beers made on campus. And a sour at that! Predictably, the sour was not for everyone and most campers went for the Wolfpack Pilsner. Oh well – more sour for me. Soon enough, it was time for the pig pickin’ and  a huge 200 lb porker that had been smoked offsite more than ably fed all of the 30 or so campers plus the 10-15 or so guests. Being in this part of the state, it was of course served eastern style with a vinegar sauce and white slaw. And it tasted amazing. Finally, for dessert peach cobbler with Howling Cow (the ice cream made on campus) capped off the meal perfectly.

It truly was an honor to participate in this year’s NC State BBQ Camp. Big thanks to Dana Snow for the invite and hopefully I can participate again next year.

 

 

 

 

Memphis in May 2018, or How I Spent an Entire Weekend Between Dave Grohl and the World Champion Barbecue Team The Shed

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Monk: I’m not a competition barbecue guy in that I haven’t ever participated in one and I don’t really go out of my way to attend them. The ones I’ve been to have mainly been smaller ones in Charlotte when its easy and convenient. However, when my neighbor, a former Memphis resident, insisted I come with him and join his former barbecue team at the 2018 edition of Memphis in May, it was hard to turn that opportunity down.

The Cotton Pickin’ Porkers have been competing in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest for over 20 years and is comprised of a great group of guys: Bob is the team captain, Sleepy was the lead pitmaster, Heavy plays the role of muscle and bouncer, and there were countless others who filled various roles on the team. And they all welcomed me in pretty quickly. I wasn’t going to be expected to help with the whole hog – they’ve got their process down – but I would try to pitch in where I could whether that meant picking up kegs for the booth from the gate, leading flip cup tournaments, or setting up tables and chairs for dinner. Their booth, and my home for the weekend, was a two story structure with a smoker in the center with dedicated prep area, lots of tents providing shade, a frozen margarita machine running 24/7, and 3 kegs available at all times (though the two craft beer kegs were for team members only).

On one side of our booth was a team called The Beached Pig out of Nashville, who had a peculiar setup in that they were the only team who had a chain link fence surrounding their area with black fabric panels providing privacy. I would later come to learn why: Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters was on their team for the weekend. And he was just hanging out drinking beer and shooting the breeze…literally all weekend long. No security, no entourage, just Dave and his apparent buddies from The Beached Pig competition team (though I never did learn what the connection was).

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On the other side was the team from The Shed, the famed barbecue restaurant in Ocean Springs, MS, that had an army of workers and camera crews following them around all weekend and documenting on video and photo. Oh, not to mention they had some recent success at the competition – just a small matter of being 2015 Grand Champions. Cotton Pickin’ Porkers has had some success themselves in whole hog – a 4th in 2013 and a 3rd in 2014 – but if our immediate neighbors were any indication, it was going to be a tough competition.

Whole hog prep began Friday morning. The hog was trimmed before I arrived there mid-morning and yellow mustard was being slathered all over before a rub (dubbed “Uber Rub”) was applied to the inside of the hog. A handful of Boston butts were also brought out and some where butterflied while others stayed in tact but all were injected with a solution. These would be placed on top of the hog in the smoker so that certain parts of the hog – the loin in particular – wouldn’t dry out before the fattier parts cook. Being a newbie, I don’t know if this is a common technique in competitions but it was something I hadn’t seen before. Then, the hog with the shoulders on top was loaded into the smoker, its home for the next 24 or so hours.

Our smoker set up was certainly different than The Shed, who sat their hogs (that’s right, plural) upright in their custom smoker made from an old pickup truck.

A few hours later, the team rotated the hog in the smoker and adding towels. I assume the towels are to retain moisture but never got exactly what purpose they served.

Another two or so hours after that, the hog was pulled out again and covered in foil. This time, the hog was left in (I believe) for the night until early Saturday morning.

At that point, the Cotton Pickin’ Porkers booth turns into a dinner for the team and their invited guests before a straight up dance party, going into the late hours. Now if you are Sleepy, one of the head pitmasters, you are calling it quits somewhat early after dinner so that you can wake up and get back to the booth at 5am the next morning to tend to the hog. If you are someone like me who has no specific responsibilities, you stay late and rage. Many jello shots, Kahlua strawberries (yes, you read that right), margaritas, and beers later, I called it a night (but not before getting a late night soul burger at Earnestine and Hazel’s). After a slow start to the morning, I didn’t make an appearance until close to 11 the next morning.

For whole hog, blind box turn-ins are at 12pm noon on Saturday and the judges start coming by at 12:15. Around 11 some of the team starts building the blind box…

…while others dress and garnish the whole hog for the judges presentation.

The three judges come by, one by one, and the team is feeling about as good as possible after its all said and done (well, Sleepy said he never feels good even when they’ve won but at least it was over). A couple judges even come back and give positive feedback, though signaling that we came in behind The Shed but ahead of The Beached Pig out of our block of teams. A bit later, a judge comes by The Shed to let them know that they are finalists and they erupt in wild cheering. Of course, we aren’t so lucky but there’s always a chance to get a call and make the top 10.

My neighbor and I then stepped away to hit up Beale Street for the afternoon only to find that not only did we miss the team photo, but I missed my best chance to meet Dave Grohl. UGH.

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Also while we were away, apparently the competition liaison gave our team captain Bob the impression that we definitely want to show up for awards ceremony. Who knows what exactly that means – could it be a top 10 placement or are they just wanting to make sure that folks show up for the awards (though I doubt this is a problem)?

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Everyone on the team is hopeful for a top 10 and all but we make our way to the stage right at 6 for the awards ceremony…only to not end up getting a call. Our neighbors The Shed not only win 1st place for whole hog but they end up winning the entire shooting match – grand champions for the second time.

Aside from the competition itself, I got to meet a lot of great people at barbecue fest: Jess Pryles of the Hardcore Carnivore cookbook and rubs, Matt Pittman of Meat Church who has judged on BBQ Pitmasters, Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue in Savannah and Atlanta was smoking wings and brisket at BBQ Alley, and when Speedy visited for a few hours Saturday we ran into our old buddy Elliot Moss of Buxton Hall Barbecue who was helping out on the Peg Leg Porker shoulder team.

I had always heard what a great time the Memphis in May barbecue fest was, and now I can definitively say so for myself after four days of partying and barbecue. Regardless of the outcome of the competition for us, I had a blast and hope to join the Cotton Pickin’ Porkers again next year and help bring home some hardware.