Masters of the Pit: Mike and Chris Peters
June 1, 2012
The 2012 competition barbecue season is in full swing and Mike and Chris Peters, the husband and wife team behind the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s Great American BBQ Tour are once again out there bringing extra entertainment and education to numerous contests. We caught up with Mike recently as part of our ongoing “Masters of the Pit” series.
Why don’t you get us out of the gate, Mike with a quick tutorial on the Great American BBQ Tour?
The Great American BBQ Tour is a nationwide mobile tour promoting the Kansas City Barbeque Society and their sponsors. Over the past 4 years, the tour has visited over 90 festivals and events and traveled well over 100,000 miles to promote BBQ as America ’s cuisine!
And what are the goals of the tour?
That would probably be best asked to MMA Creative, the marketing arm of KCBS. In my opinion, the goal is to pass on our love of BBQ to the masses and show people how easy it is to grill and BBQ, which brings people and families together. Each year there are different sponsors, which means different experiences for people to come back to.
How long have you and Chris been a part of the tour?
Our good friends Ernie and Linda Poland were the very first BBQ Tour team and started everything off five years ago. Chris and I took over at an event in St. Louis to finish off the majority of the inaugural season and have been the faces of the BBQ tour since then. This is the 5th year for the GABT!
Any favorite contests along the tour route?
It is hard to pinpoint the favorites as each one brings a new and fresh experience. Worland, Wyoming greeted us with a police and fire truck escort our first time to their event. After that, we were like one of the family. Sparks, Nevada and the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff is always a great time. Our first year out, Tommy and Lisa Houston of Checkered Pig took us under their wings and we will be forever grateful for that friendship. Lynchburg, Tennessee and the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational BBQ Contest is always one of our favorites. Partly because it is one of the last tour stops of the season and after 7-8 months on the road, we are usually ready to sleep in our own bed but mostly because of the history and prestige that this contest has associated with it. We have always felt welcome and taken in with open arms in Lynchburg and it is always a great way to cap off the BBQ Tour season.
What are some of the best stories you’ve gotten from the tour?
I had a young man in Worland come back to see me and he brought some sloppy joe mix that he had made up himself and wanted me to try after he had watched one of our demonstrations. It was really touching that we made an impact on his young life. Our first year at Memphis in May, one of the local newspaper reporters came out and asked about KCBS and how we were allowed in Memphis as it was a different sanctioning group. I just told him that we snuck into town in the dark of the night and anyplace that loved BBQ was a place that we wanted to be at! One of the funniest was trying to sneak into Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, Alabama, one year after the Jack on our way to Talladega. It is hard to hide a 30 ft BBQ trailer but we parked in the back of the lot and sat down to eat like everybody else. Shortly after, we saw Ken Hess, Pitmaster and Don McLemore looking out the front door and then scanning the dining area to see who looked out of place. We were picked out quite quickly and had one of the best meals ever! A favorite memory has to also include walking into the 17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro and being recognized by our Sin City BBQ t-shirt I was wearing (Sin City Pitmaster Steve Overlay works out in Vegas at Memphis Championship BBQ, a sister company of 17th Street) and was invited to eat dinner at Mike Mills table. Mike and his daughter Amy’s book “Peace, Love and Barbecue” is one of my favorites and it is great to have Mike and Amy counted as friends.
What about the worst memory from the road?
When we first started, I had quit my job as a banker in Springfield. My banking center had recently been robbed twice in eight days and I was used to “banker hours” M-F, 8-6 while Chris was in management training at a local furniture store which meant her hours were Wed-Mon 8am to 9pm which had gone on for a couple years. From that environment, we were stuck in a pick-up truck, elbow to elbow for 8-10 hrs a day going from event to event and were out on the road for eight weeks straight. I always joke that we were two “chiefs” and no “Indians” and everything came to a head at an event in Des Moines. Ever since then, we work together nicely and really enjoy our travels. Let’s see, we travel for 8 months and put on over 30,000 miles each year so we have seen some of the worst roads in America and a handful of bad hotels. We have learned to bring our own pillows and stay in nicer hotels which helps ease the discomfort.
Considering the relationships that we have formed with our BBQ family, it is all worth it!
Now you’re not only a BBQ ambassador, you’re a competition cook. Tell us a bit about your team, Here Piggy Piggy BBQ.
We started cooking with a work friend back in 2002. Two ladies and myself. I wanted our team to be called “A Chick, A Sow and a Stud” to cover the three meat categories. Both ladies objected that we didn’t have a “stud” on the team so we decided on “Two Sows and a Boar.” Chris and I started cooking on our own after we started touring.
How did you come up with the name?
Watching a Nascar race one Sunday, Tony Stewart was chasing down another car and commented “Here Kitty Kitty” over the radio and I thought it would be cool to put the BBQ spin on it. After researching forums, KCBS, and all over the Internet and not finding another Here Piggy Piggy BBQ team, we jumped on it. At our next contest at our home event in Springfield, MO, we found out that a local vending company had competed at this one and only event as Queen City Vending Here Piggy Piggy… They were in the process of changing their team name so the following year we were the only Here Piggy Piggy BBQ team at the event!
What would you say is your best category?
While Chris makes all our sauces and rubs, I handle the pork and brisket categories while she takes care of chicken. I must say that chicken is our best category and she nails it every time! Our best placing though was 1st place ribs at Rock’n Ribs in Springfield. The trophy with the Elvis Pig on top is our favorite!
And how about your favorite win?
That has to be Lakeport, California last year. We left Worland and were on our way to Sparks for the 6 day Nugget Rib Cookoff and had a rare weekend off before we had to load into Sparks on the following Tuesday. We called from the road and got into the contest, then called BBQ friends to beg and borrow parsley, injections and rubs. We were so relaxed between turn-ins as we were just grateful to be cooking and enjoying the weekend next to Checkered Pig. At awards, Chris and I sat in the back to cheer on the winners and were shocked to be the only team to get calls in all 4 categories. We were even more shocked as Slap Yo Daddy won RGC and we were called for our very first Grand Championship… In California no less! Kelly McIntosh, the contest rep even commented, “These two travel the country promoting for KCBS but I never knew they could cook.” While it doesn’t count as a “win,” 6 days later our Jack Daniel’s bung was drawn as the “lucky” wildcard!
So how was the Jack experience as a competitor?
Pulling into Lynchburg was a totally different experience this past year, the changing colors of the trees were more exhilarating and my folks and one of our daughters came along to help out and share in our once in a lifetime experience. I ended up sleeping onsite while Chris and the family was at the hotel, which was lucky since I experienced carbon monoxide poisoning from running the generator in the hollow. I ended up being transported to the Lynchburg fire station and was put on a CO device which measured the level in my blood. I was at a 28 where normal is 1-2. They wanted to transfer me to the hospital in Tullahoma but I explained that this was our only shot to cook this contest and I was not going anywhere. When they finally let me out and I made it back to the cooksite, I was told that numerous friends had stopped by to check on me and helped Chris with the cook. Had I known the caliber of cooks, I might have been better off going to the hospital and letting them finish off the meats for me. At the end of the day, we finished 31st and got our name called for BBQ Sauce. That really was our only goal, hearing our name called at this World Championship!
What is your first BBQ memory?
Growing up, my mother didn’t cook very much and when Chris and I got married, she cooked all the time but BBQ was never a staple. With small children, I think that time had a lot to do with it, plus neither of us grew up in a BBQ family. Our first contest is where we got hooked as we got a call in the backyard division of tri-tip. Ever since then, BBQ has been a big part of our life!
What would you like to try to do that you haven’t done?
We have never done a whole hog and would love to. The time it takes to cook the different parts of the pig and have everything come out just right is an amazing challenge. We just have never had a cooker big enough to try. I would also like to take a cooking class but with so many options out there, it would be hard to choose. It is not like they offer Groupon for Championship BBQ Classes!
Why do you think BBQ is important in this country?
BBQ brings people together. It doesn’t matter the style or region of the country, BBQ is the constant. Slow cooked food gives you a chance to bond and get down to a personal level that you don’t typically get to.
Finally, what advice do you have for the backyard grillers?
Don’t be in a hurry, good food takes time. Purchase a good thermometer like an instant read thermometer with a k type probe to properly cook your food, don’t just go by “feel” or time. Try new things to learn what your grill is capable of cooking. Lastly, buy a couple of BBQ books as they will give you some great ideas for recipes and expanding your knowledge base. Peace, Love and Barbecue, Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, Dr BBQ’s Big Time BBQ Cookbook are all on our cookbook shelf and bring great knowledge to a beginner or seasoned griller!
Thanks so much for your time, Mike, and best wishes on the BBQ trail!
- Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor