Sam's Club crowns the 2014 National Champions!September 29, 2014
The scene was perfectly set for the highly anticipated weekend of the Sam’s Club® National BBQ Tour Championship – unseasonably warm weather gave way to a sweet reminder of summer and the blue skies seemed to echo the victorious hope held by each of the 50 teams camped out in the Sam’s Club Headquarters’ parking lot. This wasn’t just any contest. This contest, part of a tournament-style series across 31 events, required multiple rounds of wins in order to secure a spot at the grand finale – the National Championship – where one team would walk away with a minimum of $50,000. Talk about high stakes, high emotions and high hopes.
The mastery of such an event relied upon the cooking talents of the pitmasters and their respective teams coupled with the articulateness of the Master Certified Barbeque Judges who have trained and refined their techniques over many contests in efforts to deliver the most accurate and fair results.
“It is all about fun, but it’s serious fun,” said Jackie Collins, a master judge for the championship. Prior to judging beginning, Collins mentioned getting yourself (as a judge) in to the right mindset.
“You’ve got to clear the palate,” said Collins. “Any other events [are] all gone away. This is a new, fresh start and we’ve got to give the teams their due respect.”
And so the turn-ins began: Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork and Brisket. The teams placed their carefully packed clamshell boxes on the turn-in table where they were both greeted by the friendly face of Carolyn Wells and the playful taunts of Tuffy Stone who posted up next to the tent just to give his friends grief.
Inside the judging “tent” (this time located in the Sam’s Club cafeteria), the judges made their careful notes. Within a matter of hours, the scores were expertly tallied while the teams began to pack up their rigs and smokers in efforts to pass the time before awards.
At precisely 4 o’clock, series director Michael McDearman took control of the stage to begin one final awards ceremony for the 2014 series.
The top 10 teams in each category were called up to the stage to receive their checks, ranging from $100 to $4,000. First place calls went to Spitfire (Chicken) with additional shout outs to Swiggin’ Pig both nabbing a perfect 180, Insane Swine BBQ (Pork Ribs), Caveman Cuisine (Pork) and Bringin’ the Heat (Brisket).
And then, the long-awaited moment arrived as McDearman read off the overall results.
Receiving a check for $25,000, the Reserve Grand Champion title went to Gettin’ Basted. With an astounding score of 703.9776, made possible by calls in each of the four categories, the Grand Champion title of the 2014 Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour Championship, and a whopping check of $50,000, went to iBQ’n@TheBBQSuperstore.com.
An immediate flood of emotions swept across the audience – teams, judges, contest reps and curious onlookers. The barbeque community is perhaps one of the more humble communities out there – each person and team offering sincere congratulations, knowing the same would be offered to them whenever their big moment came around.
“I am just ecstatic,” said Richard Parker, pitmaster for iBQ’n. “The day started out just great. I thought my big meats were the best I had cooked, but I was really shocked to get a chicken and rib call.”
iBQ’n, a team comprised of two couples - the Parkers and the McKinnons – was quickly caught up in post-awards (and $50,000 richer) excitement, which included several celebratory cheers and marked by a few tears as well. It was even rumored that someone may be getting a new truck with a portion of the winnings.
And so the 2014 tournament came to an end. Whether or not the teams in Bentonville took home a top placing call, but having made it all the way to the final round, they can still regard themselves as one of the top teams in the country – and that’s something you can definitely sink your teeth into.