Two teams competing in this year’s Brenau Barbecue Championship will also be selling their pork to hungry visitors at the event. But it’s almost by accident that either team exists.
Rick Shaw of Rick’s Smokin’ Pig in Gainesville said he’d been smoking chicken, pork and steaks since the 1960s. But after tasting success with a first runner-up finish for pulled pork in the inaugural Brenau barbecue event, Shaw decided to open a restaurant on John Morrow Parkway in Gainesville.
Rick Godfrey of Dixie Que BBQ in Macon said his first attempt at competitive cooking didn’t go well. But the failure spurred him to learn more about cooking techniques and cuts of meat. Now his team is a regular winner on the barbecue circuit.
Both Smokin’ Pig and Dixie Que will sell pork plates and sandwiches to customers on Friday and Saturday at this year’s Brenau Barbecue Championship. Both will also be competing in the competition, where they have previously won awards.
Choosing the vendors who’d be allowed to sell to the public was a deliberate process, said Jim Barco, coordinator of the Brenau Barbecue Championship.
“You want to look at who does barbecue, but more importantly who does barbecue well,” Barco said.
Barco said both teams will make world-class barbecue for sale, and he’s particularly proud that a local team was chosen.
“It behooves our event to support local establishments when they can help you fill a need,” Barco said. “We didn’t want to just go with out-of-town vendors.”
Shaw said he’s grateful for the opportunity. He credits his team’s success in the 2009 Brenau Barbecue Championships for his decision to open a restaurant.
“We gave away 400 samples of sandwiches that year, and the reception was amazing,” Shaw said. “We had a lot of friends who encouraged us to open a restaurant, and it all come about because we competed at Brenau.”
But smoking meat is nothing new to Shaw, who started the technique as a hobby in the 1960s. Naturally, being from Gainesville, he smoked a lot of chicken. But he also worked to perfect pork and beef cuts, too, and eventually went into catering.
“Catering business is really what we try to get,” said Shaw, who does the cooking for the restaurant while his son, Steven, helps run the business side of the operation. “We can cater just about anything you want, not just pork.”
Shaw describes a three-day process to get his barbecue to a customer’s plate. The first day is all about meat preparation. The second day is for cooking. Day three is for serving.
Godfrey’s Dixie Que BBQ team is much newer to the competition circuit. Six years ago, the team, which is made up mainly of family members, entered a barbecue competition near Macon.
“It didn’t go well,” Godfrey recalls now with a hearty laugh.
But the team, which includes Godfrey, his wife, his brother-in-law and his mother-in-law, enjoyed the cooking and failure wasn’t an option. They devoted time to learning as much as they could about all aspects of competitive cooking. Now the team is a regular winner at competitions.
For Godfrey, spending so much time on the barbecue circuit has been rewarding. It’s allowed him to travel and make friends with common interests.
“It’s been great spending time with some of the best cookers in the world,” he said.
In addition to selling their barbecue, both Rick’s Smokin’ Pig and Dixie Que BBQ will be competing. Godfrey said Dixie Que will compete in every category, three in the Memphis Barbecue Network competition and three in the Georgia Barbecue Association competition. Shaw said Smokin’ Pig will compete in the three GBA categories.
Barbecue won’t be the only food for sale. Burgers, hot dogs and sausages will be available, too, as well as a variety of snacks and drinks. Other vendors will be selling crafts, art, jewelry, soaps and pottery.
The Brenau Barbecue Championship begins with a preview party from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 24. Tickets to the preview are $10. The main event is Saturday, May 25 starting at 10 a.m. Saturday admission is $5 and kids ten and under are free. Both days feature music by local artists, family friendly activities, and a car show Saturday afternoon.