Saturday, June 11, 2016

Scenes From Memphis In May 2016

Last month we competed at the Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest - or as I like to call it, "the Sodom and Gomorrah of BBQ" because of the sheer spectacle and excessiveness.  I was fortunate to have been invited to cook on Team Grilla which was made up of several great teams including Draper's BBQ, Charcoal Cowboys, Crow Creek BBQ, Susquehanna Smoke BBQ, Brother's BBQ, and a few other folks.  

I could write a book about our experiences but I'll leave it to a big photo summary.  But the long and short of it, I had a great time with friends, learned from my teammates, and oh yeah.....we got on stage with a Second Place in Tomato Based BBQ Sauce.  

Here are shots of some of the cookers that teams were using.

Memphis in May 2016
Tuffy Stone rolled into Memphis with his shiny new double barreled Jambo.  Pretty, isn't it?

Johnny Trigg, The Godfather of Ribs, came to battle in the biggest category at Memphis in May.

This rig has a little wear on it but it looks like it can handle it's own.

I thought this offset smoker looked pretty bad ass.

This stainless steel smoker is HUGE. I think the diameter was about 4 to 5 feet.  

We used a pair of Tucker cookers, an Old Hickory, and Grilla's new Kong kamados.

The Kong is Grilla's entry to the kamado grill market and it's what we used for our Ancillary Categories entries.  At 21+ inches across the interior, this is a huge kamado!  As shown they are $799 delivered to your door, shipping included.

Team Booths
At most BBQ contests, "team booth" means a few pop up canopies in a 10x20 space or a trailer by itself.  At Memphis In May everything is bigger, wilder, and just a bit ridiculous.  "Team booths" are often multi-story structures with professional lighting and sound systems.  Ours was on the small side and had an event tent with subfloor, a trailer, and two pop ups.

Since this is a World championship, each year there is a "host" country named and this year it was Canada.  So you will see a lot of Canadian references in the themes this year.

See what I mean?  This is a "team booth".

I think the subtle imagery makes a big impact too, like this pig on a simple wood fence in front of a team's booth. This was one of my favorites.

Of course, it's not a BBQ contest without double entendre. 

Canadian Mountie Bacon!

Don't worry....that's just a mannequin stuck up on the right side.

How cool is Swino's new logo? They were right across from us and when the storm winds came in Saturday morning, their cabling reminded me of the lyric "the wind in the wires makes a tattle tale sound".

Porkosaurus was back once again.  The pig head blows "smoke" but this was early in the morning.

Big Moe Cason was there.

Nashville's Peg Leg Porker was also on hand.

Multiple time World Champions Big Bob Gibson's BBQ was cooking pork shoulder.

Why yes, that is a hog wearing roller blades, a wig, and a hockey jersey.

It is hard to see in this picture but that white part near the middle is actually a flowing waterfall.

The porkapotamus.

I used to do triathlons and long distance rides in the 90s.....these days this is more my style of cycling!

Yeti was there with their full line of premium priced coolers.

Big wheel keep on turning....

Being on the banks of the Mississippi, Memphis in May has the well earned  nick name of "Memphis in Mud".

On Saturday, Alexis and I got a brief break so we showered and headed to Main Street.

We had lunch at OSHI Burger - fantastic menu and execution.  Their homemade tater tots are ridiculously good.

Weber was there with their spokesman, Jamie Purviance, doing demos. 
Yep....pretty accurate.

Another of my favorite pictures, I caught this team working on their display and it cracked me up.
Welcome To The Jungle - Grilla Grills
Grilla Grills was at Memphis In May, not only to compete, but to do their big reveal for their new line up of grills - their original Grilla (pellet cooker), the Silverbac (pellet cooker), and the Kong (kamado).

It rained mid-week, making the decorating "fun".

Alexis and Rhonda did a jungle theme with greenery, tiki torches, monkeys, grass skirts for tables, and stuff like that.

I took this picture focusing on the Grilla logo but noticed Rhonda and Alexis messing around our "executive washroom" and laughing.....what were they up to? 

Hilarious!  Best washroom decorations of the event!

A lot of park visitors stopped by to check out the new line of Grilla Grills. 

I loved the rope light palm trees, they really accented the decorations at night.

Brother's BBQ brought the liquid refreshments.  We were a very mild team - no drunks, no fights, and no arrests.  ;) 

We cooked all of our ancillary entries on Grilla Grills. 

Working on a duck breast recipe.

Oh yeah, besides everything else going on, we were videoing and shooting every recipe while it was happening. Fortunately a lot of our team has cooked on TV before.

For my Wing entry, we made an amped up version of our Thai Sticky Wings that added an additional Thai rub and a second finishing sauce.

Of course we had a gorilla walk our turn in boxes to the judging area...

My sister Rhonda is always straight laced and all you can tell ;)

The Kong - I have a full review coming up on this but it was a solid performer and it's an absolute steal at its price point.

The Grilla - This is their original pellet cooker.  It was only the second time I have cooked on a pellet grill and I was very impressed.  It was a breeze to cook on this thing.

The Silverbac - Their newer pellet grill.  I didn't get to cook on this only because there wasn't enough time to do everything that I wanted to.

Tasting our sauces and making final adjustments.  No egos and honest feedback are vital.

Prepping our two hogs took two full teams.

Breaking down the hog takes a lot of hands.

I wasn't on the hog teams because Alexis, Rhonda, and I were doing the team meal of ribs and chicken.  We used a case of Cheshire Heritage ribs cooked on a Tucker offset cooker. 
Alexis mopping the roasted chicken breasts on the Kong.

Rhonda saucing the ribs.  She might be a kamado cook but she knows BBQ and did great using an offset for her first time.

The chicken breasts finishing up.

Jim and Shane making final adjustments on our hogs the morning of the judging.
What awards look like from the crowd when you don't win....

What awards look like when you win and get called up on stage.  We won Second Place for Tomato Based BBQ Sauce.
My mom's orangutan LOVED the trophy.

Night time at Camp Grilla.

I'd like to say the contest ended with a beautiful sunset over the Mississippi.....

But as all competitive pitmasters know, the contest really ends when you get back home, get everything cleaned up, and the trailer restocked.
Another great Memphis In May is in the books and we are already looking forward to next year!  


  1. I enjoyed each and every image. This event is on the bucket list for sure.

  2. Walking an entry across a parking lot while dressed in a gorilla suit has got to be nerve wracking.

  3. Thanks so much for this post! Awesome pictures. We are trying to decide if we want to compete in a friends/family event in October. We took 1st in ribs last time but it has been a few years. Thinking of a team with cousins and your pictures gave us some neat ideas - for us the humor is a big thing. Nice to see Big Moe's set up - we got to spend time with him a couple weeks ago at a KCBS event we were judging in Coos Bay, Oregon - one really nice guy. Glad you had a good time!

  4. The creativity is just amazing! Last year the mister and I said we would go - we didn't. We are so great and NOT going anywhere! This year, after seeing your pics and reading about it, we have vowed to go next year...would be a bucket filler for me! Great pics and post Chris!!