Saturday, August 24, 2013

BBQ Pitmasters Finale and Blue Ridge BBQ Festival - Tryon, NC

Alexis and I went to the Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival in Tryon, NC back in June but I have been sitting on this post because Destination America was there filming the finale of BBQ Pitmasters Season 4 which airs this Sunday night at 9pm Eastern. 

The Event
This was our first time at Tryon and we were very impressed with the overall event.  Tryon is located in the lush, green rolling hills on the Eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is a small town of less than 2,000 but they know how to put on a big time event.  Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival is a KCBS event so the normal 4 meats (chicken, ribs, pork, brisket) are turned in for blind judging by certified bbq judges and rated 1-9 for appearance, taste, and tenderness.   This event is part of a Triple Crown deal in which the highest cumulative winner of this event, Maggie Valley, and Franklin wins an additional prize.  
Overlooking the vendor and craftsman area on a beautiful summer day.
Much of the competitors areas are situated in the cool shade of tall hickory.  

The Teams
Ninety eight teams brought their pits for the 20th edition of the event.  I was surprised how few Tennessee teams were present but some of our favorites like Rocky Top BBQ and Smoke On This were there.  We also befriended some new teams like Bubba's Backyard BBQ from Alexis, NC.

The Cookers
As with most events, there was a wide range of smokers in use.
"My butt smells better than yours"

There were a lot of stick burners.

Jambo, the Ferrari of pits.

Another Jambo.

A stick burner and an Egg, my kind of rig.

Rocky Top BBQ's Jambo.

A trio of Webers is a fine arsenal and cost thousands less than a Jambo ;)

The Weather
We couldn't have asked for a more "Chamber of Commerce" day with mild temperatures (for the middle of June) and a vivid blue sky.

The Entertainment
At some BBQ contests, there isn't much to do except watch the team turn in their boxes but at Tryon there is plenty of activities to keep the visitors busy.  Two stages of music, carnival rides, food vendors, craftsman, and cooking demos by The Great American BBQ Tour.

 The event hosted a pig pickin' for the volunteers, VIP, and media.  It was quite good!

Someone had too much "entertainment".  As seen at Bubba-Q's site.  

Not as easy as it looks...and it doesn't look easy.

Craftsman working on site.

The food vendor area smelled intoxicatingly wonderful.

Two large tents provided shade and a place to eat.

Mike Peters was there doing cooking demonstrations and giving out samples as part of a 22 event tour for the Great American Cookout Tour.

The Competition
I think the fact that BBQ Pitmasters was on site filming their finale and a shot at the WNC BBQ Points Chase upped the ante because everyone brought their A-game.  I was trying to explain to someone what turn in time is like and came up with this.  It is intense and there is a lot going on but it is oddly quiet, much like being in a car accident.  

The walk to turn-ins at Tryon has a beautiful view!

The Results
1 - Rocky Top Barbecue
2 - Hambones by the Fire
3 - Wild Bunch Butt Burners

1 - Rocky Top Barbecue
2 - The Blue Bloods
3 - Sauced! BBQ

1 - Fowl Butt BBQ
2 - Saucemans BBQ
3 - Smoke In The Mountains

1 - Smoke In The Mountains
2 - Chatham Artillery BBQ
3 - Rocky Top Barebecue

Reserve Grand Champion
Wild Bunch Butt Burners

Grand Champion
Rocky Top Barbecue - Congrats to Walt and Rebekah Moulton who have been on fire in the East TN/West NC region this year.
Photo credit:

BBQ Pitmasters Finale - Behind The Scenes
Ever wonder what really goes on behind the scenes at these reality show competitions?  It is a lot of work by a bunch of people but there is also a lot of downtime.  The three finalists who rose above the crowd on Season 4 are Pellet Envy, Sugars Championship BBQ, and Butchers BBQ.  The final test of their pitmaster prowess is whole hog, a fitting finale.  

Sugars during judging.

Butchers BBQ and Sugars Championship BBQ waiting during judging.

Not exactly the "green room" but it is green.

It looks like the competitors all cooked on Lang cookers for this event.

Rod Gray discusses his whole hog turn in.

And the BBQ Pitmaster champion is.........

Just kidding, you have to tune in the Destination America channel Sunday Night at 9pm!

Tryon put on a fantastic event and I look forward to going next year.  I just don't know whether I'll be doing that as a judge or a competitor.