All-Star BBQ Team Heads to Memphis in May With Pat Martin and a Canoe



Last year at about this time, ex-Cleveland Cavalier Lebron James held the sports media hostage while he decided where he wanted to ply his trade as one of the premier hoopsters in the NBA. Eventually, he decided to take his talents to South Beach and assemble a team of superstars as a supporting cast to bring a championship home to Miami. So far, the strategy seems to be working as the Heat are still advancing in this year's playoffs.

But King James' elite squad ain't got nothing on what Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q has assembled to compete in the whole hog category of Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. The Fatback Collective has to be the prohibitive favorite to win the category, or at least have the most fun at this year's competition. After extensive study, they have chosen to use Iowa-bred Swallow-Belly Mangalitsa breed hogs for their protein source. These huge Hungarian swine are considered to be the "It Pig" of the moment and should offer quite a unique flavor to the barbecue. You can even take a peek at the (un)lucky hogs while they were still on the hoof if you visit the website of Heath Putnam Farms.

Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is Thursday through Saturday, May 12-14. Check out this list of pitmasters:

This year the folks at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q and friends have formed a team of people with a common belief in the celebration and brotherhood of barbecue. The team is comprised of James Beard award winners, celebrated pitmasters, chefs and Southern culturists to create the team Fatback Collective.

This all-star team includes Jim ‘N Nick’s founder Nick Pihakis (Birmingham, AL), Jim ‘N Nick’s Chef Drew Robinson (Birmingham, Ala.), Chef Donald Link of Link Restaurant Group (New Orleans), Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon (New Orleans), Chef Ryan Prewitt of Herbsaint (New Orleans), Chef John Currence of City Grocery (Oxford, Miss.), Chef Sean Brock of Husk (Charleston, S.C.), Sam Jones of Skylight Inn Barbecue (Aden, N.C.), Pat Martin of Martin’s Barbeque Joint (Nolensville, Tenn.) and Rodney Scott of Scott’s BBQ (Hemingway, S.C.). Fatback Collective will compete in the whole hog category against top pitmasters around the country.

I have blogged poetically about Chef Link and Chef Stryiewski in this space before, and Chef Currance served what may have been my favorite bite of last year. Chef Brock is one of the culinary rock stars of the moment (and a former Nashvillian), and our own Pat Martin is ... well, Pat is one of the most engaging and talented masters of the smoker that I've ever had the pleasure to spend time with.

I'm counting on Pat to keep all those chefs from spoiling the broth while he brings his considerable talents to bear on the Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q smoker rig. I'd also like him to save me a sammich.

The recent flooding along the riverfront in Memphis has caused the competition to move from the traditional site of Tom Lee Park to higher ground at the old fairgrounds. Hopefully, this move won't limit the elaborate tent parties that the pit masters are famous for or dampen the spirits of the competitors. I'm guessing that with the talent represented by The Fat Back Collective, those guys will find some way to keep themselves entertained. ...

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