Go Memphis in May
Chris Culver picked the right barbecue team to join when he signed on with Sweet Swine o’ Mine three years ago.
“My wife and I were ambassadors for Memphis in May and we got to be friends with the team,” he said. “They won in 2009, but this is the first year we’ve won with them. It’s exciting.”
Sweet Swine o’ Mine took home the grand prize trophy on Saturday at the 2013 Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint from Ocean Springs, Miss., won first place in the whole hog division, High Life on the Hog of Cordova placed first in ribs, and Sweet Swine o’ Mine, of Olive Branch, placed first in shoulder. Each team won $8,500 for its division win; the grand champs scored an additional $23,500.
“I can’t believe we won,” said Brad Orrison, 31, who owns The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint and leads the team. “I could die right now and be happy.”
His team includes a couple of older men who dress in brightly colored suits and hats, and come to the festival just to have a good time.
“Mr. Jim and Mr. Gus were the first customers we ever had,” he said. “And I want their jobs when I grow up.”
Diane Hampton, executive vice president of Memphis in May, has something else in mind for him.
“Brad is a great young guy, and a great example of the future of barbecue,” she said.
It was a good night to greet the future, and time to say goodbye to the past. On Wednesday Don Pelts, founder of Corky’s, and John Willingham, who was a former restaurateur and a 33-year Memphis in May competitor, died.
Willingham’s family carried on for him at the three-day festival, and fulfilled his longtime goal to serve competition barbecue to the public with a concession next to its tent.
“For 14 years Dad had been trying to set this up,” said Willingham’s daughter, Kara Wilbanks. “He wanted to give people the chance to eat the barbecue. This was his dream, to get the people more involved.”
The family took comfort in each other and the 37-person team, including cooks from Chicago, Idaho and Seattle, who came to help.
“At home, you’re up and down, up and down,” Wilbanks said. “But down here, you’re around family and friends and we’re happy.”
Jim Holt, Memphis in May president, said Willingham, who last year received a special “Grand Poobah of Pork” plaque, was excited about the opportunity to sell his barbecue.
“We’ve tried for years to do this,” he said.
And now that it’s happened, he hopes to be able to see the trend grow.
“One of the things the public really wants to see here is the chance to eat like a champion,” Holt said. “I can see this possibility opening up to other teams, such as The Shed, Big Bob Gibson’s, a number of them.”
Winners of the 2013 Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest are:
Sweet Swine o’ Mine
First place: The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint
Second place: Yazoo’s Delta Q
Third place: Carolina Traveler
First place: Sweet Swine o’ Mine
Second place: Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q
Third place: Rebel Roaster Revue
First place: High Life on the Hog
Second place: LVOB
Third place: Adribbers
First place: Southaven Meathogs
Second place: Squeal Street BBQ
Third place: Count Bastie Porkestra
Fourth place: 4UWeQue
For a full list of all 2013 winners, go to the Memphis in May website, memphisinmay.org.