Tag Archive: Mark Gibbs

  1. Mid-Atlantic Teams Do Well at “The Jack”

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    by Mark Gibbs, Pitmaster of The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    The Jack Daniel’s World BBQ Championships is in the books for 2017.  This was the Checkered Flag 500 BBQ’s first trip to the hollow and it was a great experience.  This contest is a huge event with a lot of ancillary competitions and side events for the competitors to do.  96 teams from around the world came together to compete and name the World Champion.

    Tuffy Stone and Cool Smoke took home the Grand Champion honors for the 3rd time in the last 4 years.  He has the mojo at this contest for sure!  On a side note, why isn’t our friend from Richmond, Virginia a member of the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association?  The next time you see Tuffy make sure you ask him and hand him an application!

    MABA was very well represented this year at this prestigious contest.  MABA members took some walks to the stage and gathered up some trophies for the mantel.

    Sauce This – 4th Overall


    Wolf’s Revenge BBQ – 12th Overall


    Chix, Swine & Bovine, bbq – 14th Overall

    BEERBQUE – 22nd Overall

    Checkered Flag 500 BBQ – 28th Overall

    Redneck Scientific – 29th Overall

    Aporkalypse Now – 49th Overall

    Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ – 63rd Overall


    Game On BBQ – 72nd Overall

    Finn’s Finest BBQ – 83rd Overall

    Until this year, I did not realize how big this contest really was for folks that have been there.  This contest has the addictive properties of crack.  The first thing that you think about on the trip home (no matter where you finished in the standings) is how am going to get back next year?  Here is to the competitors of the 2016 Jack and to everyone with hopes of making a trip to Lynchburg in 2017!

  2. Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ Shares His Tricks of the Trade to a Full Class of Eager Students

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    by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ

    Checkered Flag 500 BBQ has been on a tear lately.  Pitmaster Mark Gibbs, along with his wife Sharon and lovable hound Sterling, are on a grand championship tear, earning them an automatic spot in this year’s prestigious Jack Daniel’s World Championship in Lynchburg, Tennessee in October.  Mark had a gap in his busy schedule and decided it was time to offer a true tell-all competition class, teaching EXACTLY what he does to win and win often in the Mid-Atlantic.

    Twenty-three students, all competition cooks from as far away as North Carolina, were in attendance.  And the quality of cooks in attendance was strong…many with grand championships of their own.  Most of us knew each other well, and that made for a really fun time, catching up and learning in an environment free of the stress and busy schedule of a competition weekend.


    Mark began stating he was nervous, never having taught a cooking class before, but he dove right in like a seasoned pro and held the attention of the room for the entire night.  On this first day of the class, Mark would teach us how he trims, selects, and pre-seasons his meats.  About four hours of instruction and lots of great interaction from Mark and the students ensued and seemed to go very quickly.  The class was then treated to an awesome dinner highlighted with Mark’s secret recipe of crab cakes accompanied with delicious ribeye steaks!  Big thanks to Dan McGrath, owner of Galvinell Meat Company for providing and cooking a great meal.  Also, big thanks to John Layton for cooking as well and being Mark’s right hand man the entire weekend.

    Saturday morning came and Mark ran this day on a KCBS schedule, modified two hours since his normal timeline starts super early.  After a tasty breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits, everything came together splendidly and again, Mark’s instruction and techniques were great and held the classes attention close!  Turn-ins were actually right on time and the food was fantastic.  As a judge too, I can see why Mark has had so much success.  And true to his word, Mark held nothing back…every little trick and twist was given.

    I left the class inspired and eager to try several things I learned.  I know everyone else too was quite happy with their investment.  If you’re thinking about taking a class, you can’t go wrong with attending Mark’s next class!

  3. Interview With the Champs – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

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    by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ

    Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.13.38 PMMark and Sharon Gibbs of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania have been tearing it up on the KCBS trail over the last calendar year with many big wins in the Mid-Atlantic.  I recently caught up with Mark and was able to extract some great nuggets of information that I’m happy to share with you in this month’s “Interview With the Champs!”

    Congrats on winning your 7th contest and getting that all important Automatic entry into “The Jack.” So, which contest was the clincher?

    Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.14.23 PMMark Gibbs, Checkered Flag 500 BBQ:
    Thanks!  It is just an honor to be able to go to Lynchburg and represent our region this year.  I have to be honest, it did not really hit me until the draw happened.  I knew we were going, but when I saw our team name on the list with 7 other teams that have won 7 GCs I actually got a little choked up.  I would have been thrilled with a draw in, but winning 7 to get in still has my head spinning!  The clincher was Smoke on the Mountain in Galax, VA.  Was lucky enough to get an entry from Luke Darnell that he won at the MABA banquet.  They cooked in New York that weekend.

    To what do you credit this great run your on this year?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    Consistency.  Looking at the great cooks that we have here in MABA, I asked myself what they are doing that I am not on a week to week basis.  We always see new names near the top of the list, but there are always about 6 to 8 teams that you can count on being there at every contest.  I have worked really hard this year at sticking to a timeline and doing the same processes.  If something goes wrong, I can pinpoint it and try to fix it.   My pit temp debacle in Laurel was one example.  My pit was 150 degrees over my cooking temp for 3 hours.  I thought my pork and brisket were torched, but I was able to salvage them and come out of there with a strong finish.  I also have to say that having the new trailer and Deep South Smoker has made a ton of difference too.  It is great having Sharon and our Lab, Sterling with me every week.  Creature comforts help a lot when you can get rest and take a nice shower at a contest.

    Tell us a little more about Checkered Pig 500…who makes up the team and how long have you been doing competition bbq?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    Well, the Checkered Pig 500 would be a combination of myself and Tommy Houston.  I would not mind that combination at all!

    [Editor’s note…Ok, I can’t be the only one to have ever made this mistake…Mark rolled right with it like a pro, so I kept it in!]

    The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ team consists of myself, my wife Sharon and our dog Sterling (the real boss of the team).  We have been blessed to have my good friend John Layton of Red Brothers along with us on a bunch of occasions.  This season we have also added two new associate team members, Kim Darnell of Old Virginia Smoke and Mark Kenney of Sauce This BBQ.  They stepped up and helped me while Sharon was recovering from her ankle injury.   I have to give a shout out to our other associate team members, Leigh Anne Terry of Old Virginia Smoke and David and Cindy Bryant of Covington Cork and Pork fame.  The three of them stepped up when Sharon fell and had to go to the hospital at Buckhannon, WV and did all of my turn ins and clean-up.  They got a 3rd Place overall finish for us that day and I will never forget their kindness and love!  We have been competing since 2012 and we just completed our 77th contest in our career this past weekend in Bel Air, Maryland.  We love being around our BBQ family and as long as it remains fun we are in for the long haul!

    So, judging by the name, you’re a racing fan, right?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    We both love to watch NASCAR races.  The sport is evolving and we are not as attached to it as we once were but we still enjoy seeing a good race when we can.

    Who’s your driver and what’s your favorite event?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    My driver was Dale Jarrett for the longest time.  He retired and I latched on to Kevin Harvick.  I like the bad boy attitude and he is a winner.  Sharon is a Carl Edwards fan and I don’t hold that against her.  We have been to two Daytona 500’s.  The carnival atmosphere there is really a lot of fun and you can really sense the speed of those racecars there.

    This year you debuted a fine looking new rig…can you tell us more about it and how it’s made a difference?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    The new trailer is a 28’ Southern Dimensions Trailer.   It has made a huge difference in our contest life this year.  It has AC, a bathroom, shower, satellite TV and a porch for the smoker.  It is really all of the comforts of home in a box.  Dan Hixon told me in 2012 that getting sleep is one of the most important things to build in to your competition timeline.  It was really hard to do that with 2 EZ-UP canopies.  We moved to a Class C RV for two seasons and that was nice, but it was not a competition setup.  I was able to custom spec this unit out and it really does make a world of difference in our timeline.  Sleep is my friend at a comp these days.

    Now that you’re qualified for the Jack, what other special events do you have planned for the rest of the year?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    We were planning on cutting back from the 22 contests we did last year.  That did not happen!  I have 29 on the schedule and we are in the middle of an 18 week out of 21 week run of competitions.  Sharon is taking a couple of those weeks off under my orders because I know she will wear herself out trying to keep up with the crazy schedule I created for us. We will be doing our first American Royal in October, the Sam’s Regional in 2 weeks and hopefully the finals in Bentonville.  There are just so many contests that we love to do that we could not knock them off of the schedule this year.  We will be concluding with the Queing in Cumming contest in Cumming, Georgia the weekend before Thanksgiving.

    Ok, I always ask our winning pitmasters this…what’s the one tip you have for those teams to help them break through and win their first GC or up their game in competition BBQ?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    I think that the most important thing a new team or a team that is trying to get over the hump in competition BBQ should do is take a class.  I was two contests into my competition life in 2012 and I did the 3 Eyz “experience” where I cooked the contest with them at Pork in the Park in Salisbury.  I believe that they finished 19th in the contest (Dan said I was not bad luck they never did really well there), but I took away some valuable information that I still use today in my timeline.

    Anything else to add before we sign off? (Feel free to plug your class here)

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    Thanks Brian, it has been a blast getting to chat with you about what has been going on with us this season.  Still a long way to go too!  The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ is hosting our first ever tell-all competition class September 2nd and 3rd.  It is Labor Day weekend, but it was the only one that I had available until November.  The response to the class has been great and we do have some room for a few more students.  I am going to really give you every step that I use in my competition process and I am holding nothing back.  It is going to be a fun time and we will be supplying dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday.  There may also be a supply of adult beverages on hand as well!

    Congratulations to Mark and Sharon and continued good luck the rest of the season!

  4. Tip From the Pros by Mark Gibbs

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    by Mark Gibbs, Pitmaster of The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Mug Shot Mark Gibbs
    Pitmaster Mark Gibbs

    The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ has hit a nice stride this year.  People have asked, “What has changed?”   When are you going to have a class (self-serving plug my first class is September 2nd and 3rd and there are still spaces available!)  But seriously, much of the success can be attributed to finding consistency from week-to-week and producing as close to the same product as possible as a result of simple, repeatable, proven processes.  There is an old saying, “the cream always rises to the top”.  I have heard that for years in both business and in sports.  I really saw that saying in action in the BBQ world here in the Mid-Atlantic region.  How is it that the same teams can always be found at the top of the results list week after week?  3 Eyz BBQ, winners of many contests and numerous MABA ToY honors are always right there every week.  4:20Q, Aporkalypse Now, Old Virginia Smoke, Lo & Slo and too many others to name are always right there even if they have taken a few weeks off.  I wondered what they did to always produce winning results and here are my thoughts and observations that I have put in place in my own competition BBQ program.

    1. Repetition of a GOOD process results in consistency.  When you find a process that works with a meat category, write it down!  Put it in a spreadsheet and commit that process to memory.  Successful teams did not start out cooking all 4 meats great.  Most conquered one meat and repeated the process of finding that success with the other categories.
    2. Remember to do all of the “little things” consistently. Little things might be as simple as setting up your work area at the same time at each comp, loading your pit with fuel at the same time or lighting your pit at the same time.  I noticed that successful pit masters could be in the midst of a conversation with me and just say out of the blue, “gotta run….I have to do something back at my site.”  I realized I could set a clock to some of these guys doing the little steps each week.  I try to do all of those things I mentioned above and more at the same time each week.  That includes something as simple as tearing aluminum foil for everything on Friday after I trim meats.  Consistent prep practices are your friend!
    3. Have you ever asked a top competition BBQ team how they did before awards and they respond with, “well, we hit all of our marks, so we will see”? Those guys just told you that they did everything according to a preset timeline that they repeat on a weekly basis.  When a team can do that with a proven process, they will be successful more often than not.  For me, hitting my marks is not like KCBS turn-in times.  There is no five minutes before the mark and five minutes after that mark.  If 3am is the time to put meat on the pit, that is my mark and I shoot for it every time.  As a solo cook, you will rarely hear me say I hit my marks because it sounds self-serving, but teams with multiple members that are successful set and hit marks like a well-timed dance routine.
    4. Don’t be afraid to measure rubs, sauces and wrap ingredients (honey, sugar, agave, butter, etc.) until you find the process that works for you. I was a baker for a lot of years.  Commercial baking uses formulas, not recipes to make breads and sweets.  Recipes have room for change and are open to interpretation.  Formulas are more precise.  Competition BBQ results can hinge on a little bit of this or that in the wrong place making a big difference in your final product.  Use shaker cups and measuring cups when measuring out sauces, injections and rubs.  A sauce or rub mix is a formula, not a recipe!  Be precise!  Once you find the right combination, you may stick with those cups and bottles or you may be confident enough to shoot from the hip and measure by eye.  I don’t recommend that, but I am guilty of it sometimes.
    5. Write down what processes worked or did not work on the back of the KCBS scoresheet that you get from a contest. Keep your contest results in a binder or folder and refer back to them when going to contests at those same venues or geographic areas.  There is no substitute for experience at a contest and as the pit master, you have a wealth of information at your disposal after you have some contests under your belt.  If the judges liked that hickory-habanero mint jelly combination on your chicken at the Sons of Italy Competition in New York City, write it down because you probably will not remember that next year!
    6. My final though is that looking back on my 76 competitions at the time I am writing this article I thought that my first GC would never happen. Three years into my competition BBQ career and no GC’s.  I had category wins and a couple of RGC’s but I never saw my name at the top of the list.  Well, financial advisor Dave Ramsey says, “Nothing happens without focus.  Don’t try to do everything at once.  Take it one step at a time!”  Rarely does a new team or a team that does not compete much have a run of GC’s or top calls.  It happens, but it is rare to see it.  Focus on your competition program one step at a time.  Build on successful processes, repeat them, learn from them and watch your competition program step up to new levels!

    Most importantly have fun!  That is what the sport of competition BBQ is about first and foremost.  Success will follow if you keep it fun!  I look forward to seeing you all on the BBQ trail soon!

  5. Chillin & Grillin In The Glades – Wise, VA

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    by Luke Darnell, MABA President and Pitmaster of Old Virginia Smoke

    (This post is mostly satire)
    Chillin’ and Grillin in the glades was held July 8-9 in beautiful Wise, VA. The contest was fantastic, in a fantastic town with great people. A huge congrats to Big Show BBQ Team on the GC.

    But much head turning and corner-whispering was done due to Mark Kenney, of Sauce This fame, cooking alongside Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500. Checkered Flag 500 would have a phenomenal day, finishing with RGC on the day amid a torrid streak of top 3 finishes.

    Are the two a new couple on the BBQ circuit? Does Danny of Sauce This need to be worried about losing Kenney? Stay tuned to the MABA newsletter.

    Pic of Mark and Kenny sharing a margarita
    Mark and Mark…just a couple of fellas sharing a margarita!

    Ok, on to the serious stuff…the results!

    First Place Winners:
    Chicken – Big Show BBQ Cookin’ Team
    Ribs –Big Show BBQ Cookin’ Team
    Pork – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Brisket – Q Factor

    Grand Champion –Big Show BBQ Cookin’ Team
    Reserve Grand Champion –Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Check out the full competition results here.