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Around mid-2017, Southern Thunder BBQ reached out to former students with a lucrative offer. Southern Thunder BBQ was interested in forming a team of students to participate in competitive BBQ and offered to provide coaching to interested students that signed up; all we needed to do was provide the necessary tools (from a provided list) and pay for the provided meat. Interest in this offer was high, and enough students signed up to participate that three separate teams were able to be formed to be to compete in the 2017 Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival in Kennesaw, GA.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three teams, and contact information was shared around so team members could divide up the required list of materials. On August 5, 2017, all three teams came together at ‘Que University for a crash course in competition BBQ.
Right away, I could tell I was lucky to be assigned to Team Thunder. Team Thunder consisted of Jobst Elster, Jeff Crimm, Jeff Stewart, Jason James, David Rubury, and myself. The team seemed to gel together pretty quickly as we began learning the difference between the everyday BBQ that one might prepare for friends and family, and the extremely detailed BBQ required for competition. Southern Thunder BBQ did a great job of explaining the importance of perfecting the texture, flavor, and appearance of our required BBQ turn in dishes to be able to compete in the Backyard class of competitive BBQ.
In the Backyard class of KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) competition, teams are required to turn in chicken (legs or thighs), pork ribs, and pork butt boxes for judging by a panel. During our crash course on competitive BBQ, Team Thunder prepared each of these boxes to be critiqued by experienced KCBS judges who were present to help with the class. Team Thunder scored third place of the three teams during the quick course, but we came away with a lot of information and ideas on how we could improve on our boxes for the Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival at the end of that month.
With the knowledge passed on to us by Southern Thunder BBQ, we made adjustments to our recipes and participated in the 2017 Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival at the end of August. We also brought on Sandi Edelson, one of the judges at the practice cook, to help us prepare a desert for one of the elective categories. During the event, Dave, Pete, and Rick from Southern Thunder BBQ looked over our shoulders and gave simple advice at times, but they were very adamant that they weren’t going to get involved in preparing BBQ or the boxes we were to turn in. They said it was important that we did it on our own.
The result of Team Thunder’s hard work was amazing! Team Thunder managed to win Grand Champion of the Backyard class by taking 1st in Chicken, 2nd in ribs, and 2nd in Pork! Sandi Edelson’s peach desert won 1st place in the elective desert category as well. All-in-all, it was an incredible experience that we were all proud of.
Shortly after our victory, our team was renamed The Heavy Smokers and registered with the KCBS. We have gone on to compete in a handful of BBQ competitions since 2017, and we still follow the tradition of lighting up the pit in early August to prepare ourselves for the Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival. This year we decided to focus on perfecting our rib turn-in.
Just like the event that prepared us in 2017 for the Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival, we figured out what we can improve on during this practice event. Hopefully it pays dividends at this year’s Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival! If you are in the area, come out to 2019 Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival August 22nd to the 24th in Kennesaw, GA and look for us; The Heavy Smokers! (August 23rd is the best day to come find us!)
What’s it all about?
- Competition BBQ is very different than the BBQ one usually cooks at home for friends and family!
- Come check out the Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival in Kennesaw, GA August 22-24. We’ll be preparing our BBQ for judging, for the main event, on August 23rd.
- Look for Southern Thunder BBQ at the festival and pick up some information on their ‘Que University!
- Stay tuned for The BBQ Experience – Part III to learn how The Heavy Smokers did at the 2019 Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival!