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BBQ Tour Stop #5: Memphis, TN

May 19, 2010

Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa and was the inspiration for the month-long 2010 Memphis in May festival. As Chris and I loaded into Tom Lee Park in Memphis, you could see the Mediterranean influence with some of the two and three story scaffold structures towering above the over 200 BBQ teams cooking pork shoulder, pork ribs and whole hogs for over $100,000 in prize money.

The Memphis downtown area is convenient to navigate with trolleys, shuttles, and horse drawn carriages, and even had a van that was decorated as a pig pulling two smaller piggies through the streets. Upon closer examination of the pigs, it was not promoting the BBQ event but a local strip club. Since we were staying in a hotel downtown about a mile and a half from the park, Chris and I decided it would be nice to walk to the event. We forgot that the event is a mile long and the trailer location was smack dab in the middle so we ended up with a two mile walk on Thursday morning. The morning walk wasn’t too bad but after thirteen hours on our feet, the two mile walk back to the hotel that first evening felt much longer.

Don with Big Bob Gibson stopped by early in the week and invited Chris and I for pie Friday night. Since we stopped by the restaurant in Decatur last year, Chris has been “jonesing” for more of their fabulous pies so we fought the crowds and hit the Big Bob Gibson party hoping that Don would remember inviting us. Chris had the coconut cream and I had the peanut butter pie while visiting with Amy Mills of “Peace, Love and Barbecue” fame. It was neat to look in the back of the booth and see the legend Mike Mills visiting with Chris Lilly. I could only imagine the conversation that these two BBQ powerhouses were having.

Even though we were in not so familiar territory, we had plenty of KCBS representation around including Chris with the “Let’s All Get Drunk and Que” team that had a booth right across from the trailer. Clint with “Smoke in Da Eye” BBQ stopped by with his media badge and the KCBS team “Ribbed For Your Pleasure” was right behind the trailer. Heath and Brett with “Pork Barrel BBQ” of ABC’s Shark Tank fame competed and stopped by the trailer to say hello. I invited Heath back to compete in Saturday’s GrillMaster contest. Since they are opening a restaurant in the DC area, I wanted to test his prowess and he didn’t disappoint with his lettuce-wrapped chicken tacos with a side of Master of Mixes mini-Bloody Mary’s.  Famous Dave Anderson even stopped by after judging and spent some time visiting.

On Thursday, we kept seeing people walking by wearing good-looking Kingsford polos and found out later that Kingsford had meetings with some of their leadership team the week of the BBQ contest in addition to being one of the main sponsors. Chris was wearing a Kingsford T-shirt and as we were on the long walk back to the hotel, we ran into more Kingsford folks who were so excited to see her representing Kingsford that they pulled out a free charcoal coupon and gave it to her. As excited as they were, we didn’t have the heart to tell them that we promote Kingsford on the BBQ tour. 

We were told that it wouldn’t be Memphis in May unless there was rain and this year was no exception as the skies opened up on Friday afternoon. Since some of the MMA Creative folks came down to help us man the sampling tent, the trailer was full of people so Chris broke out the cards for a marathon game of “Go Fish”.  

Since we were close to the awards stage, you could hear the whoops and hollers going on Saturday evening as awards were handed out. The weatherman was calling for more rain so we were busy packing things away and missed Tuffy getting the call as Memphis in May World Champion in the shoulder category.  We had a wonderful time in Memphis and appreciated all the southern hospitality that we were shown.

Mike (& Chris) Peters

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