Darren Warth
Darren Warth

In the barbecue competition arena, there are NASCAR-like standings throughout the country. As you go through the season, you accrue points, depending on how you do in each contest. About midway through 2013, we were ranked number three in the country in ribs, number two in brisket and tenth overall. This was out of about 2500 teams. In another post, I’ll tell you how we ended up the year.

Have you heard of the BBQ Pitmasters Show? There’s a guy called Johnny Trigg who appeared in the first two series of the TLC reality television show BBQ Pitmasters. His BBQ team is called "Smoking Triggers," and he has been nicknamed the "Godfather of BBQ." He’s probably the best-known barbecue personality out there. He’s been competing for 35 years and is just a legend.

Last summer, my team was competing right next to him. He tried my ribs and wanted to know how I made them, so I ended up showing Johnny Trigg a new style of cooking ribs.

Always something new to learn

The barbecue scene has changed over the years. There’s been a movement by some of the top barbecue cooks in the country to offer classes to other teams. Some of them teach 30-50 teams a weekend, and this is making the competition even stiffer.

You don’t necessarily need to be a good cook to do competition barbecue, you just need to know how to control your smoker and cook a recipe to a “T.” You’ll have people who are just starting in barbecue but because of these classes, they have the opportunity to go out and win the following weekend. When we started 10 years ago, it was much more a matter of trial and error. Sure, we shared secrets with friends, but there were really no established classes so the learning curve was greater.

When we started, it took two or three years to actually learn championship barbecue. Today, that learning curve could be less than a week. There is a lot more competition out there today than there’s ever been.

I’m my next post, we’ll talk about what we love most about competition barbecue, and the food business in general.