Chris Lilly Earns Record Breaking 4th Memphis in May World Champion Title
June 20, 2014
From May 15-17, over 200 barbecue teams assembled on the banks of the Mississippi to once again go head-to-head in the fiercest pork barbecue battle on the planet, the 2014 Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
As with every year, weather was a concern as the storm clouds rolled in late Thursday afternoon, but a little rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the thousands that converged on Tom Lee Park that evening for what is always an epic night of partying (at least for those who were fortunate to find a way in to the countless private beer and ice luge fueled team parties).
While hangovers were plenty in the park the following morning, it was time for some serious cooking business as teams put forth their very best in a variety of “Anything But” categories (i.e. anything but pork which is reserved for the big showdown on Saturday).
In the end, it was Extreme Cookers who took the top prize in the Beef category; Moonlight Smokers in Poultry; Iowa Barn Stormers BBQ in Seafood; Full Moon Smokers in Exotic; Team Canada BBQ in Tomato-based Sauce; Ribdiculous Bar-B-Krew in Mustard Sauce; Too Sauced to Pork in Vinegar Sauce; and the Pit & the Pilgulum II in the Franks Red Hot Wings division.
Another highlight of Memphis in May is always checking out the outrageous lengths teams will go to in the annual Miss Piggie Idol Contest and this year was no different as the Chi-Town Cookers took the top prize for the third consecutive year. Meanwhile, The Moody Ques showed off their best representation of this year’s honor country Panama, taking top prize in the Best Booth contest and Pork O Saurus (home of the smoke breathing boar) won in the Best T-shirt category.
And while Friday night once again saw it’s share of hardcore parties, it was also time for the majority of teams to start focusing on the primary reason they were there – to compete in either the pork shoulder, pork ribs, or whole hog category.
Unlike most contests held across the country where teams turn-in their competition meats to judges in a randomly numbered blind turn-in box then sit back to wait for the awards ceremony, MBN style contests such as Memphis in May require competitors to not only turn-in a blind box but to also present their ribs, pork shoulder or whole hog to three on-site judges.
Across the park Saturday morning, teams scrambled to not only put the finishing touches on their meats but to spit shine their sites for the judges. As the judges made their way to individual sites, beginning first with the pork shoulder entries, followed by whole hog, and finally ribs, a hush fell outside each team site as they gave their very best sales pitch to the judges.
Soon after, officials tallied the blind box and on-site judging scores and teams stood by the front of their sites hoping that the golf cart containing a team of contest officials would stop and let them know that they would be one of only three teams that would move forward to finals judging in each category.
For those who didn’t make the cut, it was time for a cocktail and to begin breaking down their sites. But for the finals team including The Rat Pack, Cool Smoke, and Auto Be Grillin’ in ribs; Red Hot Smokers, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, and Boarhouse Smokers in shoulder; and Cotton Pickin Porkers, Yazoos Delta Q, and British Bulldog BBQ in whole hog; it meant a mad scramble to make set up their sites and make their meat look as beautiful as possible before the four finals judges showed up for one last presentation.
By 6pm all of the presentations had long been completed, the overall scores had been tallied and the awards ceremony got underway on the Memphis in May main stage beginning with the Patio Porkers, a collection of smaller teams that compete exclusively in ribs.
It’s interesting to note that for most Patio Porker teams, the goal is not to come in first place but to come in second as a first place win earns then a mandatory bump up to the big, more expensive primary contest the following year. Earning the automatic berth for next year was Moonlite Smokers, with my good friends from New England the Bastey Boys avoiding the top spot and coming in third place after The More you Drink the Better it Tastes.
In the pork shoulder division, it was Chris Lilly and the Big Bob Gibson team who took the top prize, with Red Hot Smokers in second, and Boarhouse Smokers in third place.
In ribs, Memphis’s own Auto Be Grillin’ earned the top spot, while Tuffy Stone of Cool Smoke took second place in his first year competing in the rib division, and The Rat Pack taking third out of 120 teams.
Finally in whole hog, it was Melissa Cookston of Yazoo’s Delta Q who earned her fourth World Championship title in the category, followed by British Bulldog BBQ, and Cotton Pickin’ Porkers.
It was then on to the day’s biggest announcement – the overall winner of Memphis in May. Big Bob Gibson, Yazoos Delta Q, and Auto Be Grillin’ took the stage once more and shortly thereafter Chris Lilly and the Big Bob Gibson team earned a record breaking 4th Memphis in May Grand Champion title.
In the end it was another amazing year on the banks of the Mississippi, watching the best-of-the-best cook some of the most amazing pork you’ll ever put in your mouth while also getting to spend some quality time with old friends and new enjoying all things barbecue and grilling. Here are a few of my favorite moments captured during four days of food, friends, and fun.
– Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor