The Foothills Country Fair is moving its dates to the month of July and adding a Kansas City Barbecue Society cook-off to the 2012 list of events.
Executive Director Louie Alford said the fair will run July 26-29 with the cooking events held July 27-28 which he hopes will attract 35 teams competing for $10,000 in prize money. With the assistance of State Sen. Mike Bell and State Reps. Eric Watson and Kevin Brooks, Gov. Bill Haslam approved the first-time event as a state championship.
Local businessman and professional barbecuer Bill Wheeler hopes to be on the winning team by the time all the smoke clears.
Wheeler became involved in professional cooking pretty much due to his frustration as a backyard barbecuer and his inability to cook a brisket that was fit to eat.
“I cooked one brisket and threw it in the garbage,” he said. “No one even knew I cooked it. I cooked it, took it off the smoker and my Sue didn’t even know I cooked it. It was so bad, I threw it in the garbage and never told a soul until after I cooked my first real brisket in competition.”
He commented the meat didn’t turn out too bad considering it was his second attempt at cooking the toughest piece of meat on a cow.
Sue tried to correct his math and that’s when he confessed.
But, how to cook a brisket was the only thing Bill and Sue wanted to learn from a class they took a couple of years ago.
“I’ve never cooked a good brisket and I wanted to learn to cook that,” he said. “I never dreamed we’d get to be on a team.”
But, the couple has been cooking on a professional barbecue team for the past two years since they attended a barbecue class in Georgia taught by Myron Mixon.
Mixon holds the record for having won more titles than anyone else in Kansas City Barbeque Society history. The resident of the small town of Unadilla, Ga., population about 3,000, has appeared on several television shows including “Pitmaster,” “Good Morning America,” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
They began cooking professionally a few months later with a competition team named Que’n Stew’n & Brew’n. Scott Smith, of Kennesaw, Ga., is the pitmaster.
“We’ve won three grand championships and achieved the highest score ever recorded in brisket last year,” Wheeler said. “We scored a ‘perfect-perfect 180’ brisket. It was the highest in the state of Georgia and I don’t know at this time if anybody else has ever scored a perfect-perfect 180.”
A sanctioned Kansas City Barbecue Society competition is scored by a panel of six certified judges who rate the meat in each of four categories on appearance, taste and tenderness. Each judge scores the chicken, pork, ribs and brisket on a scale of 1 to 9. The lowest score is dropped. The highest score is 180.
“The way we got a perfect-perfect is because the judges gave all 9’s in every category [for the couple’s brisket entry],” he said. “Normally, you’ll have five judges who give a perfect score and one judge who will maybe give you a seven or eight. They throw the low score out so you can still score a perfect. We’ve scored perfect in brisket twice, but only one perfect-perfect.”
Bill and Sue also have their own team called “Chicken Butt BBQ,” a name that came from their grandson.
“They wouldn’t print that on our T-shirt at Disney World. They said it was offensive because it was a body part,” he said.
The husband and wife team cooked last year in a national competition sponsored by Sam’s Club where only qualified teams were invited to cook for $100,000 in prize money.
Chicken Butt BBQ finished sixth in Birmingham to qualify for the regional competition in Jackson, Tenn.
“We were not in the top five, but Que’n Stew’n & Brew’n was No. 2 so we went onto the national even in Bentonville, Ark., and brought back — nothing,” Wheeler said.
Any part of a chicken can be turned in for judging, but Wheeler said they use Boston butts for their pork entries. Cooking with gas or electricity is forbidden except to start the fire.
The Kansas City Barbeque Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and enjoying barbecue. It is the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts with more than 14,000 members worldwide. The organization sanctions more than 300 barbecue contests throughout America.