The BBq Man
Surgical Tech Leads Pigs on the Run to BBQ Victory
When it comes to cooking up finger-licking, sop-up-the-sauce, pass-me-another-helping champion barbecue, John Atkins has it covered. The UVA Surgical Technologist is a grill master who, along with his team Pigs on the Run, has won 70 awards in barbecue competitions across the nation. So what’s his secret? “There really is no secret,” he claims. “Once you figure out the basics, anyone can win.”
Atkins may be a humble guy, but he has very strong opinions on the best way to barbecue. “Gas is cheating,” he says. That’s right … you won’t find a fancy auto-ignite grill amongst the Pigs on the Run crew. They use a basic wood and charcoal fire and a 17-foot smoker to cook their meats to perfection. Getting it just right requires some of the same skills required of him in the operating room, according to Atkins. “Paying attention to the details is key,” he says. “You have to know what you need before you need it.”
The Pigs on the Run team consists of five primary members, but that group can grow to include as many as 25 depending on the event, each of them participating not for payment but because they love it, according to Atkins. One of those members is Atkins’ 11-year-old son whom he says can talk a big game. “He loves to smack talk when we’re at a competition,” says Atkins. Spending time with family and friends is one of the reasons Atkins got hooked on barbecuing early on. “I used to barbecue with my grandfather when I was a boy. [It] brings back memories of good times,” he says. “Sitting around outdoors with family and friends is a wonderful feeling.”
Hours and hours of grill-tending can pay off in the end. Pigs on the Run has won many cash awards and trophies (including an 86-pound wooden pig, shown above) over the past six years. They’ve also used their culinary skills to draw in crowds at charitable events, including Qing for a Cure that benefits St. Judes and the UVA Children’s Hospital. Team founder John Atkins has turned his love of good food into a thriving venture. He now runs a catering company with his wife and has become an expert on barbecue how-to, appearing frequently on local news stations and in regional publications. Take a look at a few of Atkins’ top tips for barbecue safety at right.