Category / Cook-Off


Behind the scenes at the Kingsford Invitational – and a chance for YOU to win!


Room with a view. The mighty Mississippi river and majestic St. Louis Arch as seen from my window.


Back in November, I traveled to St. Louis to be part of the judging panel for the Kingsford Invitational Challenge. This one-of-a-kind cook-off brought together seven of the country’s most elite barbecue teams to battle for an unprecedented winner-take-all prize of $50,000. The event was filmed for a special show that will air on Destination America Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10/9c.

The Kingsford/Current teams masterfully coordinated every detail of the experience. We began the weekend at the posh Four Seasons St. Louis where we met up with fellow judges and a team of journalists and bloggers who were covering the event.


Even the wine was on trend.

Even the wine was on trend.

The chefs at Farmhaus, a newish farm-to-table restaurant, cooked up an inventive welcome dinner. Chris Lilly, world grand champion pitmaster, restaurateur, and Kingsford spokesman, talked about food trends that relate to barbecue and grilling and we enjoyed mingling and meeting new friends. Most memorable course: a velvety butternut squash soup with a jalapeño donut.

SPECIAL CONTEST ALERT: In addition to the barbecue competition itself, the teams also participated in a One-Bite Challenge, made with just five ingredients. In celebration of the show and contest, you can enter the Kingsford One-Bite Challenge contest and win a trip to Memphis in May to hang out with the winner and get barbecue tips from a couple of famed barbecue champions.

Kingsford plant in Belle, Missouri.

Making charcoal.

The contest was held near the Kingsford charcoal plant in Belle, Missouri and the tour was fascinating. My new friend, Mark Damon Puckett, author and travel editor for The Daily Meal, explains it best right here.



Working on set is always fun and it’s fascinating to see what goes on behind the scenes and what goes into producing a show.

The illustrious panel of judges.

The illustrious panel of judges.

My fellow judges were Harry Soo, Brad Orrison, Ardie DavisTuffy Stone, and Meathead Goldwyn {not pictured}. The scoring system used in this contest was the hedonic scale. Very simply, the judges gave each entry a number based on a range of extremely dislike to extremely like. No sub categories for taste, tenderness and appearance, although we took all of those things into consideration. Just a simple number decided the winner. Because we were filming, the judges spent time talking about each entry. Sometimes we agreed; sometimes we did not. There were definitely some lively discussions. I’ll be curious to see what sound bites are chosen for the show.

Host of the Kingsford Invitational.

Host of the Kingsford Invitational.

Chris Lilly did a masterful job of hosting the show.


There MIGHT have been some moonshine involved.


The teams vying for $50,000 were:

Checkered Pig, Kingsford 40k Challenge Representative (team earning the highest score at one of these 15 sanctioned events)

Smokin’ TriggersBBQ Pitmasters television show Grand Champion

Yazoo’s Delta QMemphis in May, World Grand Champion

Motley Que CrewHouston Rodeo & Livestock Show Grand Champion

Lucky’s QSam’s Club National BBQ Championship Grand Champion

Smoker’s PurgatoryGreat Lenexa Barbecue Battle Grand Champion

Pig Skin BBQJack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue Championship Grand Champion

Shiggin’ and Grinnin’American Royal open Grand Champion

Meathead Goldwyn, Melissa Cookston, Tuffy Stone, and me. All smiles at the end of the day.

Meathead Goldwyn, Melissa Cookston, Tuffy Stone, and me. Sorry, Tuffy, for the bad picture of you. Melissa and I looked the best in this one.

All smiles at the end of the day.

Ardie Davis, Meathead Goldwyn, Chris Lilly, and some of the terrific team that put this event together.

Ardie Davis, Meathead Goldwyn, Chris Lilly, and some of the terrific team that put this event together.

The bus ride back to St. Louis provided an opportunity to chat with the masterminds behind the weekend. I can’t say enough about the execution of this entire event. Clever, creative, and flawless. Again, thank you.

Well-designed swag. Warm hats, sweatshirts, and long-sleeved Ts came in handy.

Well-designed. Warm hats, sweatshirts, and long-sleeved Ts came in handy!


Thanks again to Kingsford and Current for including me in this event. I’m truly honored to be part of the group who helped choose this year’s reigning overall champion of barbecue!

If you watch the show, please let me know what you think!



Future Legends of Barbecue

The Future Legends of Barbecue cook-off is one of the most heartwarming events with which we’re involved. The brainchild of Starr Teel, pitmaster of the excellent Hubba Hubba Smokehouse in Flat Rock, North Carolina, and masterfully organized by Starr, Paige Hafner, and a stellar team of volunteers, the event is staged at various summer camps in the region.

October 2012 marked the fourth annual contest, which, along with a Camp for All Barbecue Ball & Auction, helps raise money to send less privileged children to summer camp. Camp helps children build communities, form lifelong friendships, and learn all sorts of life skills. Sounds analogous to barbecue, right?

We’ve watched these children learn and grow leaps and bounds over the past four years — both literally and in their barbecue skill set. Their eyes sparkle as they enthusiastically show us their clever, themed cook sites, explain their processes, and offer bites of food. While their barbecue is on the pit, they spend hours running, playing, and gathered around the fires, enjoying a fine fall day at the base of the gorgeous mountains. No technology. Just fresh air and the smell of smoke.

Their faces light up with joy when they hear their names called during awards. And disappointment shows if they’re not so fortunate. No poker faces with children.

I hope you’ll be inspired to support  this contest. If you live in the region, please consider forming or mentoring a team. Donate money or goods/services for the contest and auction. If you’re a big company, send money and invest in these children.

They are our future.

Future Legends of BBQ (web) from Obsidian Collective on Vimeo.