In Cooked, Michael Pollan asks, “For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?” Pollan explored the “Creatures of The Flame” by training under accomplished pit masters. It was there he got “acquainted with cooking’s primary colors- animal, wood, fire and time- and found a clearly marked path deep into the prehistory of cooking: what first drove our protohuman ancestors to gather around the cook fire, and how that experience transformed them.”
This summer, pit masters from around the country competed in the first-ever McCormick Grill Mates® and Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) Match-Up, a multi-series competition to see who could master the flame using the bold and unique flavors of McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning. McCormick asked me to cover their Nashville stop at the Music City Festival and BBQ Championship 2014 on August 22-23 2014.
Walking into the festival, there was the McCormick Grill Mates tent. They were treating attendees to a grilled burger that showcased their Montreal Steak Seasoning.
The McCormick seasoning was used in a match up on Friday evening. “As the largest BBQ society in the country, we know what it takes to get great flavor on the grates – and together with McCormick Grill Mates, we’re giving people a chance to compete and get creative in a brand new beef category,” said Carolyn Wells, Executive Director of KCBS. Many talented teams entered the Grill Mates Match Up competition and “That Just Ain’t Right” won!
While #GrillMates was all a twitter (McCormick hired Corbin In The Dell to tweet the festival), the musk of machismo was in the air. Even still, the almost freudian power was overshadowed by a sense of family and its code of honor.
Take Leslie Roark from Yazoo, Mississippi. She and her daddy, Garry, are Ubons Barbeque of Yazoo. At 19 years of age, Roark was the first female to win Grand Champion on the Memphis circuit in 1992. “It’s about socializing, family and keeping traditions alive…the whole spirit of family,” explains Roark. “Think about it this way,” she continues, “fire and meat are what started social circles.” Ubons Barbeque of Yazoo took 5th place in Whole Hog.
Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker says you have to bring a bit of “barbetude” to the competition. “This isn’t what we serve at the restaurant. Competition is barbecue bastardized. The judges are looking for what they were taught to look for,” explains Bringle. “We love this Nashville event and we love seeing our friends,” Bringle continued.
Jesse Doeinck and Garland Stone were Peg Leg Porker team mates, until this year when they decided to expand the family circle with Boom Boom Que. Proud for his former team mates, Bringle said, “If I can’t win, it’s great to see my friends on stage.”
Michael Pollan asks “Is there anyone alive who actually enjoys chopping onions?” “Oh, there may be some Buddhists who give themselves over to the work, even to the tears, on the principle that, when chopping onions, just chop onions,” Pollan says. “Chopping Onions” is exactly what Boom Boom Que did. They won second place in pork and when asked what set them apart, Doenick said it came down to “passion and attention to detail.”
Whether you are a pit master, a backyard grill aficionado or someone who just prefers to bring the beer, barbecue offers time to “chop the onions” and commune with your fellow humankind. Time to visit, reflect and celebrate is what the Music City Festival and BBQ Championship was for me. Thanks McCormick Grill Mates for asking me to come along for the ride!