How the 'winningest woman in BBQ' prepares for the World Championship Cooking Contest

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Melissa Cookston is the master chef behind the Yazoo Delta Q's team at the World Barbecue Championship Cooking Contest.

She's been Grand Champion twice and placed first in whole hog four different times.

So before the World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest got underway, we talked with her last Friday about what goes into all her cooking success.

With the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest set to get underway, the lunch crowd has packed Memphis Barbecue Company.  The "winningest woman in BBQ" built this restaurant, and behind the scenes, Melissa Cookston is preparing for another year of competition.

"Well, it takes a lot of work to get ready because I don't compete a whole lot anymore. When you're competing every weekend, you have it all together. For me, it's where did I put that?" Cookston said.

Melissa has been competing in Memphis in May for 21 years, and the walls of her Horn Lake restaurant are covered in trophies. Look around and you'll see first place and World Champion over and over again.

You might think all this success makes competing mundane. Not for Melissa.

"Every time is like the first time," Cookston said. "And I still get nervous. Right now, I'm a bundle of nerves. I'm like a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs."

To win so much, there must be a huge advanced BBQ Cooking team, right?

"I have a huge team! It is comprised of two people," Cookston said with a smile. "It's always been a family affair for me. We do it for the love of barbecue. It's been my husband and myself all these years. My daughter has grown up in it and now she is old enough to help."

Win or lose this year, Cookston can't wait for the atmosphere.

"There is nothing like walking down by the river, the smell of barbecue, the sounds that you get from the happy people and the camaraderie," Cookston said.

You can catch Melissa Cookston's family team competing in the whole hog competition, going for yet another trophy for the restaurant's walls. Cookston said it takes more than 24 hours to cook a whole hog. That means she'll start cooking Friday afternoon for the Saturday competition.

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