Georgia Magazine - August 2017 - 28
HIGH on the
The competitive-barbecue scene
is smokin' in Georgia
BY LAURA RAINES
ome cookers call it a passion. Others call it a sport,
a hobby or an art. Whatever you call it, competitionbarbecue cooking is exploding in Georgia.
The Georgia Barbecue Association (GBA) began in
2007 with the Hambone Jam in Fort Valley. Today, the
group sanctions more than 20 competitions a year. Other
Georgia barbecue festivals are sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network or the Kansas City Barbecue
"TV shows like 'BBQ Pitmasters,' 'BBQ Crawl,' 'Man
Fire Food,' 'BBQ Rules' and 'Smoked' and stars like Myron Mixon [of Jack's Old South, considered the world's
winningest team], Moe Cason, Tuffy Stone and Melissa
Cookstone drew attention to Southern barbecue and
helped it grow," says Danny Meadows, president of the
Georgia Barbecue Association.
But the roots have always run deep.
"Growing up in South Georgia, every Fourth of
July my family would cook a pig over an open pit. My
mother was an Aunt Bee kind of Southern cook, so
there would be tables of side dishes for about 150 family members, with kids running everywhere. There's no
better childhood memory than that," says Lonnie Smith,
owner of Bubba Grills in Haddock. "Not everyone plays
golf or likes to bass fish, but everybody likes to eat, so
food festivals are always popular."
An engineer and barbecue enthusiast, Smith and his
Bubba Grills smokers are known all over the world. His
family competes nationally and has won more than 35
"What better way to promote our product? And I
love all the people I meet through barbecue," Smith says.
Once, while Smith was judging a contest in Plains,
former President Jimmy Carter stopped by his tent to
thank him for some food he'd sent to the Secret Service
and to talk barbecue.
The camaraderie is one of the best parts of competing, says Jack Fallin of Captain Jack's Freedom BBQ
and owner of 41 & Main restaurant in Tifton. Captain
Jack's will compete in every GBA event this year. The
team won the grand championship and the coveted "Star
Trek"-themed "Starship Anterprise" trophy at the Fire Ant
Festival in Ashburn in March.
"Barbecue cookers are a close-knit family. The
friendships are more satisfying than winning the contest,
but the competition is real. It gets stressful at the end.
You always want to walk last [to collect the top prize],"
He takes great pride in what he's accomplished.
"After developing the recipes [and] the methods,
marinating and rubbing the meat and cooking for hours,
seeing the result is always rewarding," he says.
Eric Neumeister of the Qmeisters prepares for the Boss Hog CookOff chicken competition. The Evans resident competes along with
his wife and sons.
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org