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|Byron Chism, one of the top competitive barbecuers on the pro circuit.|
"When it gets down to it, it's the heat and the meat," said Byron Chism, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America who is now making his living touring the country at competitive barbecuing events. "It's really not that complicated." But it is. In fact, it's really very complex. It certainly isn't easy to cook ribs for seven hours and get them exactly right. Judges will be checking for too much smoke, too much salt and too much tartness. And in KCBS-sanctioned contests, there are strict rules. You bring your own meat. You're allowed to trim it, but you can't pre-marinate or pre-season it. And absolutely no recipes can be in your hand. It's one thing to cook for your family. It's another to be doing it for $25,000, OLN's prize money. That's believed to be the single biggest monetary award in competitive barbecuing history. Chism, who was one of the last chefs standing in Saturday's televised finale, has won four state championships this year (Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia), but he doesn't rely entirely on the prize money. The dollars also stream in from sales of his "Bad Byron's Butt Rub" -- a seasoning blend of salt, pepper, onion, garlic, chipotle and paprika. Chism's trademarked motto? "A Little Butt Rub Makes Everything Better."
|Squeal of Approval, an up-and-coming team of competitive barbecuers.|
"I was once asked to cook a Thanksgiving dinner," Lampe said. Among the stars on OLN's show is a group of three women amateurs who barbecued their way into the finale. Betsy Coleman, Lana Hall and Alison Murphy call themselves "Squeal of Approval." (Got to be one of the best names in the sport, along with "Dirty Dick's Legless Wonder," "Two Hog Nuts," and "The Staggering Chef." The "Squeal of Approval" women wear hot pink tie-dyed shirts. "I actually [stink] at cooking indoors," Coleman said to Page 2. But outdoors, the "Squeal" can certainly cook a mean chicken, and that means the sponsorship dollars are pouring in. They get free beer from the Boulevard Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Kansas, and free rub from Smokin' Guns BBQ. If all goes well, they'll be featured in stores soon on cardboard cutouts. And trading cards could be just around the corner. Darren Rovell, who covers the competitive eating beat for ESPN and ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.Rovell@espn3.com.