Huge crowd flocks to GMM

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Milton Burks of Birmingham, Ala., displays barbecue ribs to judges, including Roger Brandon, in blue shirt, and Grover Collins, at right, in red check shirt.

The grand champion of the barbecue contest at the Goats, Music & More Festival last weekend -- "The Swiggin' Pig" of Nashville -- says there aren't any secrets to his success.

"I don't think there are any secrets," says Barry Johnson of Nashville, whose father, Mike, was his teammate during the Lewisburg Rotary Club's barbecue contest on Friday and Saturday.

Simple things lead to success, he said.

"It's just a lot of hard work," Johnson continued in a telephone interview on Monday. "We try to put out the very same thing we do every time we go out. Just do what you like to do, as far as cooking."

What does he like?

"Oh, I don't eat barbecue, necessarily," Johnson says, off handedly. "The barbecue I enjoy is not what I cook for competition. That's doctored up because the judges get only one bite."

That seemed to be true as barbecue judges apparently tasted less barbecue from plates brought to them later, compared to those brought earlier.

"I think there was a lot of 'grazing' going on with this group," a Rotarian was overheard to say as tables had been cleared at about 1:20 p.m. Saturday. Another Rotarian said, "They've been eating since noon."

One speculated judges came hungry.

Comments from one of the judges Sunday seem to substantiate Johnson's point about impressing judges in one bite.

"You want to be able to bite and all that comes off is what comes off at your teeth marks," explained Rocky Danner of Fayetteville who was one of the judges and an established expert in the field. "If you have to pull it, like a dog on a bone, then it's not done enough. When you pick up a rib and the meat falls off the bone, that's because they boil the ribs and then slop sauce on them. That's good if you don't have teeth."

Danner conducted a training session for the other judges, including Marshall County figures such as Grover Collins and Roger Brandon. The Kansas City Barbecue Society, the organization that sanctioned the contest conducted by the Rotarians in Lewisburg's Rock Creek Park, considers Danner a master judge. Danner is also a staff writer for his publication, National Barbecue News.

Lewisburg Rotary Past President Jeff Jordan is co-chairman of the cook-off with Rotarian Gary Yarbrough. All the judges at the club's event are certified. There were 49 judges.

"Lewisburg is a first class event," Johnson said. "You don't have to ask for anything. Those guys really work at it."

So does he.

"From the time we get there, to the time we leave, we treat it like a job and the results show that," Johnson advises: "Be serious about it, but it's not a career. There's not enough there to make a living from it."

Sponsors for these events do increase funding, according to Dave Wilson of Cordova in Shelby County whose partner is Mark Kirsch of Toronto, Canada.

"I'm waiting for Guinness to show up," Wilson said after naming lighter beers and a famous Tennessee whiskey that sponsor barbecue cook-offs.

To what does Wilson attribute his success?

"Me," replies his wife, Pam, to which he responds, "Rephrase success."

Is there a secret ingredient?

"Lavender," she says while seated outside a comfortable travel coach as he cooks.

"Gettin' Piggy With It" is the name of the Wilson-Kirsch team.

"It is a team sport," Lewisburg Rotarian Berrie Smith said. "Look at the rigs and all the time and expense. The teams are from all over and they bring in a lot of people from a lot of different places."