The feeling of walking into Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest

My first sight of Memphis in May

My first sight of Memphis in May

I walked into Tom Lee Park in Memphis Tennessee for the first time in May 2013, what I saw in front of me is a sight I will never forget. BBQ, spanning over a mile from one end to end. In front of me was Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest. One my bucket list BBQ events to attend, and I was here to compete with my wife as Uncle Richie’s Hillbilly BBQ,

 

Uncle Richie's Hillbilly BBQ site 2013

Uncle Richie’s Hillbilly BBQ site 2013

Being crown the Amateur Virtual Circuit Champion from the Canadian Southern BBQ association in 2012.  My wife and I were award the opportunity to compete in the Patio Porker division of Memphis in May. The Patio Porker division is their amateur event. Each team cooks only pork ribs for the judges. Armed with our new Uncle Richie’s Hillbilly BBQ banner and a tote full of Canadian flags we set up our site in the park. We had a fairly small site for Memphis in May being only 15 ft by 15 ft and were the only team in the entire park that didn’t have any power to our site, but we made it our home for the next week. Our coolers were filled with Canadian pork and ice cold Canadian beer. We quickly made friends with our neighbour Jim Loggins who was cooking for Tucker Family Cookers. Looking at their site we quickly realized that Memphis in May was more than just cooking BBQ, it was about the show. So we set up of banner and flags and made the most of our site, sharing stories cold beers, and even a little Jack Daniels with our new friend and neighbour.

 

The Black Pig BBQ site 2013

The Black Pig BBQ site 2013

 

Across the electrical field I could see a large Canadian flag waving proudly on a tent, so my wife and I headed over to see who was there. It was our now great friends Mike and Barb of Black Pig BBQ team. They were there competing the in the whole hog division, one of the 3 major categories of the event. After being waved in by their security guard we made our way into a much larger site than ours. It was huge in comparison, they had their trailer parked in the site, plus 4 or 5 smokers lined up neatly. But the best thing they had that we didn’t was 3 ft fans to stay cool. We were given a beer and started chatting with Mike and Barb about Memphis in May. This wasn’t their first time at the event. They had been competing at Memphis in May since 2010, and every year they made it up on stage with a call in various categories. After the beer we went to excuse our selves because they were going to be busy prepping for various dinners for their sponsor. Instead of showing us off, they asked us to stay and help them prep. We were both more than happy to help them, because they had the fans and we both love to cook. We helped Mike, Barb and their team with the sponsor dinners and watched the Black Pig BBQ works it’s magic in the tent for their hungry guests. The week progressed in 2013 and we found our selves at the Black Pig BBQ site more and more, yes they had the large fans but Mike, Barb and the rest of their team were great people.

 

Our small Char Griller Smoking Pro, on the right.

Our small Char Griller Smoking Pro, on the right.

The big day came where it was time for Uncle Richie’s Hillbilly BBQ to fire up our grill for the poultry side category. We made bacon wrapped duck breast, with a pecan maple stuffing. It sounded and looked good to us, but the judges didn’t think so. We scored in the bottom 10% of the category. But that didn’t stop us. We were in the Patio Porker division of Memphis in May, so we had to cook our hearts out and make the best ribs we could for the judges. We made some of our best ribs ever, but sadly the judges didn’t agree and we finished 27th out of 38 teams. We weren’t sad though we had made some amazing memories and started a friendship that grew into something wonderful.

Flash forward to Memphis in May 2014. Team Canada BBQ has been created and the team stepped onto the hallowed grounds of Tom Lee Park in Memphis. The Black Pig BBQ and Uncle Richie’s Hillbilly BBQ along with other great cooks are now together under one team to cook whole hog together for the first time as Team Canada BBQ.

Tean Canada BBQ logo

In 2014 I was still amazed to see the park full of BBQ teams once again, having over 250 BBQ teams in one spot is just amazing to me. 2014 I had a different feeling being at Memphis in May. I was on a team that people knew. In 2013 other teams would say “Oh you’re one of the Canadian teams” That year we were THE MAIN CANADIAN team at the event, which was a proud feeling. Much like 2013 my wife and I were helping to prep for the sponsor dinners, but the difference in 2014 I had written the menu for the dinners. Even though it was a colder than normal week in Memphis, everyone on the team worked tirelessly to make sure our sponsor dinner went off with out a hitch.

It was time to fire up the grills in 2014 for the side categories again. But being on Team Canada BBQ meant we were cooking every side category. That day was a blur of action, from prepping meats and sauces to being under pressure to make sure every little detail was perfect. In the end all of the hard worked paid off. The team received a first place call in the Tomato BBQ sauce category for our Spicy Maple Whisky sauce.

Our praying pig from Memphis in May 2014

Our praying pig from Memphis in May 2014

 

 

Instead of prepping a few racks of ribs as Uncle Richie’s Hillbilly BBQ, Team Canada were prepping 3 hogs for the whole hog category. It was incredible to see the detail that was taken to make sure the hogs were all prepped identically. After a long night of cooking, it was time for something that I had never experienced before. On site judging. This is where 3 judges come at set times to judge the team, your area and your BBQ. No detail is left untouched. We make sure our site was perfect, from the time the judge enters to the time they leave. In 2014 we had 3 great judges, and out of 34 whole hog teams we finished 12th. A great finish considering we were competing against some of the best whole hog cooks in the USA.

Now we are only a few weeks away from Memphis in May 2015. Team Canada BBQ will load up the trailer, and set up Canada House at H219 this year. We still be cooking all of the side and sauce categories with the hope of a repeat win. Plus cooking amazing hogs with the hope of a top 10 finish in the whole hog category.

Follow along our adventures down south on our social media outlets.
Twitter: @TeamCanadaBBQ
Facebook & Instagram; Team Canada BBQ

 

 

Chef Sean Vodden

Chef Sean Vodden
Sean Vodden is the BBQ Chef for Team Canada BBQ, and one half of Uncle Richie's Hillbilly BBQ. Mixing BBQ with fine dinning is a true passion of Sean's.

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