World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest officially underway in Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hundreds of teams filled Tom Lee Park for the first time in nearly two years Wednesday, after the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“The pandemic, you know, did shut us down last year, but gosh it is so beautiful to be out here, and we’ve got a gorgeous week ahead of us. We’re here all week, for the rest of the week, enjoying friends and family around the charcoal grill,” said Chris Lily, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ in Decatur, Alabama.
Lilly and his team have won five grand championships and is hoping to take home another this year.
“We’ve been cooking pork shoulder at the restaurant in Decatur since 1925. My wife’s great grandfather started the restaurant. So, to come to Memphis and cook shoulders for the judges, it’s really no big thing for us. It’s what we do every day,” Lilly said.
Normally, 230 teams compete in the contest, but due to the pandemic, only 137 teams signed up this year.
“There’s some give and take, there’s some restrictions, there’s capacity limits. We’re still asking people to wear masks, all the commonsense protocols we’ve grown accustom to over the year,” said Randy Blevins, VP of marketing and programming for Memphis in May.
Teams like “Redneck Express BBQ in Memphis,” the oldest team in the championship say they’re happy they are back to continue competing for the 45th year. The team has three generations of chefs!
“We want to try to continue the legacy of the team,” said Marc Nelson with Redneck Express BBQ.
Judging for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will be Saturday.
Friday’s event is already sold out, and tickets must be purchased online as no tickets can be purchased at the gate.
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