By Barbara J. Woerner
Pork, chicken and brisket sizzled on grills and smokers last weekend at the Chesapeake Jubilee as 30 teams competed for the Virginia state barbecue title.
Pigs on the Run team members, who took the past two year's grand championships at the competition, scurried Saturday to prepare the next round of tasting for the judges. The succulent pork ribs tasted like warm sweet delight on a bone.
"We're trying to take the grand championship for the third year in a row," said Ricky Atkins, whose brother John, heads up the team. "We compete 10 weekends out of the year."
They spend at least $1,000 on the meat and enlist the whole family to help.
"I'd say what makes our barbecue different is our passion," Atkins said.
Dave Welch, from Laurel, Md., with Free State Smokers, the 2006 reserve champion at the Jubilee BBQ Cook-off, prepared brisket to send over to the judges.
"We're like a gypsy caravan because we cook all over the country," said Welch, as he continued preparations. "And we're all friends."
Welch went to culinary school and worked in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he served President Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger.
Welch went into the hot dog business and then catering. That's when he started doing barbecue.
"It's such an American thing," he said. "No one else cooks a tough piece of meat like a brisket on top of a stove for 16 to 18 hours until it falls off the bone like we do here in the states."
Harry Bonner, from Ms. Marian's Restaurant in Greenbrier, worked his pulled pork barbecue.
"This is the first year we've come out here to compete," he said. "I came to represent Chesapeake and bring the award back home."
Bonner, known for Harry's Famous Barbecue, teams up with his wife, Marian, in running the restaurant.
"I've been in barbecue for 50 years," he said. "I'm really enjoying this."
In the end, it was Lee Ann Whippen and her Wood Chicks crew that brought the Reserve Champion Honors home to Chesapeake. Wood Chicks also took first in pork and fourth in ribs. Whippen, fresh off her Food Network "Throwdown" win over Chef Bobby Flay, was thrilled.
"It's always great to win anywhere, but here in your hometown it's even better, " she said. "I'm excited to win here."
It still fell short, though, of the state title, which she had earned in 2003 and '04 while competing in cookoffs elsewhere across the Commonwealth. She was outdone this year by a band of pirates.
Tom and Christy Adams and their Virginia Barbecue Pirates from Springfield captured the Grand Championship and an automatic invitation to the American Royal national competition in October in Kansas City.
Barbara J. Woerner,
best in BBQ
Virginia Barbecue Pirates, from Springfield, Va., was chosen Grand Champion and Wood Chicks Barbecue of Chesapeake was named Reserve Grand Champion at the third annual Chesapeake Jubilee BBQ Cook-off last weekend. Here are the top finishers in individual categories:
1. Dirty Smoke, Malden, Mass.
2. Serial Grillers, Yorktown
3. Texas Ribs & BBQ, Centreville, Md.
1. Tar River BBQ, Newport News
2. Smokey Bottom Boys, Bel Air, Md.
3. Chef Herb Productions, Fort Mill, S.C.
1. Wood Chicks, Chesapeake
2. Chad's Dad BBQ, Shacklefords, Va.
3. Guts' Smokehouse BBQ, Pa.
1. Pigs on the Run, Palmyra, Va.
2. Uncle Jed's BBQ, Wrentham, Mass.
3. The BBQ Guru, Warminster, Pa.