An official barbecue competition isn't exactly a picnic. Competitors travel many miles for contests, stay up until the wee hours perfecting meats beforehand and sometimes head home with leftovers instead of prize money.
But they do it anyway. The S.C. Barbeque Association lists more than 30 competitions across the state. The latest is the High on the Hog BBQ Competition, which will be held June 8 and June 9 at Whitehall Plantation on Lady's Island. There, about 15 competitors from across the Southeast will vie for the moniker of Best in Ribs or Butts and prize money. The money is nice, but most competitors don't cite cash as a main reason to compete. To find out why they do, three of the local competitors shared their stories about why they became pit masters.
BARBARA AND QUENTIN TEDDER S'LOWCOUNTRY Q
About two years ago, Quentin was looking online for things to do in South Carolina. The Beaufort couple came across the S.C. Barbeque Association and decided to train to become official judges. To become senior judges, they first had to cook with teams to learn the process. Soon they branched out on their own, starting the S'Lowcountry Q team and traveling to competitions. Quentin had cooked full pigs before, but nothing with the intensity of a judged cookoff. They're constantly tweaking their recipe for the perfect pig. But the adventure is half of the fun.
"You end up traveling to all these places that you may not have been," he said. "And you'll meet some of the nicest people you'll ever meet."
A former chef, the Beaufort resident has cooked at places like the Haig Point Club. But he's had a thing for barbecue since he went to his first pig roast as a child. He's wanted to compete for decades but never had the time or money. He finally took the plunge two years ago and now goes to five or six contests a year with two friends who help out. He hopes to one day be able to travel and cook -- a way to see the country via pork.
"I was 6 the first time I went to a pig roast. That flavor was etched into my brain," he said. "The competitions can be intense, but they're like a giant tailgate. But it's all about the food."
Harmon, an Okatie resident, has quickly become a rising star in the local barbecue world. His first full year participating in S.C. Barbeque Association competitions was last year. He placed third in the state championships, out-cooking many with decades of experience. He started cooking Palmetto Smokehouse barbecue and ribs to sell at service stations. Last month, he opened Palmetto Smokehouse restaurant off S.C. 170 in Okatie. He still travels the Southeast to compete, always searching for a higher level of competition. Cooking is fun enough, the challenge of being the best is what drives him.
"I love it," he said. "I'm also very competitive. I like to win."