Pigmaster’s BBQ Challenge – Rutherford College, NC
By George DeMartz – Pitmaster of Twisted Pair BBQ, and Chris Schriver – Pitmaster of Brother-Uncle Barbeque
2020 has been a tough year for a lot of BBQ competitors and BBQ contests! Now imagine being a 1st time Organizer trying to put on a 1st time KCBS sanctioned contest in a small town in the foothills of North Carolina! Pigmaster’s BBQ Challenge was just that contest and it was also the first MABA contest of the year in NC. Last year, a small unsanctioned contest was held with this year’s original concept to have a full out Town of Rutherford College run event that included an SCA Steak Contest, People’s Choice Pork, KCBS Ancillary Moonshine dessert, and a KCBS Masters Series Event with some big time BBQ names! Pitmaster Joel Abee of Creekside Smokers – NC and Jessica Bargsley, Town Clerk and Finance Manager, were the driving forces behind this event working with town officials to set the budget, establish the infrastructure, and guide the town staff into setting themselves up for long-term BBQ event success. Jessica will be the future organizer of this contest and was instrumental in the planning, organizing and fund raising. About that infrastructure investment, it was noted and well received that several power stations were made a permanent part of the parking lot surrounding the Town Hall building and extra portable power stations were tied in to make sure the teams had ample power.
The competition was set to be a big success, but then COVID hit. The event was pushed from the spring of 2020 to September 11-12, 2020 as North Carolina was in a high state of containment as a direct result of the COVID pandemic. The organizer and town did an outstanding job in the face of adversity and downsized this year’s event to a non-public, private competition only, and put safeguards and checkpoints in place to ensure that the competitors and judges were provided the safest environment to participate in. There was a fenced-off single entrance into the competition with a temperature check point. Team members were checked against a list of competitors along with the “new normal” guidelines of using masks, gloves, and sanitary wipes.
The eve of the KCBS sanctioned contest started off with an SCA sanctioned steak contest including a burger ancillary. There were 31 strong steak cooks in this field where several of the MABA and KCBS teams took the time from their BBQ prep to cook the steak contest. It should be highlighted that during the KCBS meeting, reps Alan Rothrock and Doug Reid did a fine job of setting out the guidelines for the event, talking the teams through the COVID guidelines and getting everyone settled in. A couple of first time Masters cook teams were present amongst a stacked field of which about 50% of the teams represented had GC’d or RGC’d in the past!
Saturday morning rolled around, and the competitors woke up to a hazy overcast day with smoke rolling on the humid air. You could feel the anticipation from the event staff as they checked on the cook teams to see if anything was needed. They wanted this event to be successful and competitors to be comfortable and welcomed. A produce wagon was brought in where teams were offered sweet corn, melons, and other vegetables free of charge.
As the competition heated up on Saturday during turn-ins, teams could be seen dodging rain drops as they delivered their prized boxes of BBQ perfection to the turn-in station. Shortly thereafter, awards started, just as the rain was settling down for the day and the teams’ fires were dying out. Awards were unique, and custom made with top 5 category places receiving a cool “Thunder Gourd” with overall grand champion and reserve grand champion receiving custom made wooden US flags. Walking away with overall grand champion was Smoke Monster BBQ (Justin Huey) with a 705+ score! Taking reserve grand champion honors was Mcadoo Heights BBQ (Sean Sewell and crew) with a 697+ score.
Two perfect scores would be crowned as well as Hickory Barbeque Company would score a perfect 180 in chicken and Redneck Scientific would score a perfect 180 in pork! The six-month competition hiatus from COVID didn’t seem to faze the teams from putting out quality products. In speaking with the judges afterwards it was noted that a lot of good BBQ was presented that day, and all seemed happy to be back judging again. Thank you to all who helped make the Pigmaster’s BBQ Challenge a safe and successful event. Here’s to making next year bigger and better!