How long have your family lived off the land?
I’m 47 years old and grew up hunting and fishing. My parents grew up in the country. My mother came from a large family that owned a farm in southeast Georgia in a place called Workmore. They grew or raised almost everything they consumed in the way of food. In the 1940s many families from this area were farming and raising animals, and what you didn’t have you traded for with the family down the road. My father grew up in a family that logged so he’s had a lifelong passion for the outdoors. When I was growing up we had a summer home on a large lake not far from where I live now. Fishing was family time as well as a source of great table fare. In the fall we hunted deer, rabbit, dove, squirrel and sometimes quail. This is a way of life that I choose to pass on to my own family.
Your family has great food traditions – do you think that one day you will need to write the recipes down for future generations so they don’t get lost?
Growing up with all of the great personalities that I have known, I took inspiration from Jamie after his visit and have started writing a cookbook. Each recipe has a story about life experienced through the eyes of someone who enjoys every aspect of life.
Aside from barbecuing do you cook?
If you have seen a picture of me you’ll quickly notice I LOVE FOOD! All types of food. I often cook with my wife, Shannon, and I really enjoy the food and time we spend together. Sometimes my competitive drive spills over into my meals and I cook a gourmet meal complete with presentation.
I included a picture of a dinner I prepared for my wife and family. A beef tenderloin with a mushroom and cream gravy, garlic and rosemary red potatoes, steamed asparagus and topped with a fried onion crisp.
Who taught you to barbecue?
I grew up watching my great uncles and grandparents cooking whole hogs over an open pit. I don’t have any better childhood memories than those of watching 150 family and friends gather and enjoy the pig after it had been cooking for 30 hours. These days, competition BBQ is a slightly different situation, to be able to reproduce the end results week after week there must be some science added to the art of cooking.
I’ve included a picture of a 150lb pig cooked and presented in the Memphis in May style. This is a picture of the pig in the hog category at a sanctioned event this year.
I was really interested to hear that you are proud to be a “redneck” and also learn what the true meaning of this is. Why do you think the term has a negative meaning for some people?
The term redneck was used in the past to reference someone who did manual labor outdoors. Because they spent so much time outside, the back of their necks would become sunburned hence the term redneck. I choose to embrace all of the positive things that are embodied by hard working people who spend time outside and enjoy life to the fullest. I am proud to consider myself a redneck. But I encourage you to look deeper than the cap and overalls and see a man that chooses to embrace an ever-changing world, but is slow to turn loose the simple and proud values handed down from his parents.
Family and friends are a large part of your life, is food a big part of this?
This is a simple and complicated answer. I hope you saw the segment that was filmed around my mother’s dinner table before we went to Lakeland to compete. We spend many meals together solving all of the world’s problems and just being together as a family. Just last week, we celebrated my son Lee’s 26th birthday and there were 4 generations sitting around that same table. You should have seen the gleam in my mother’s eyes. I’m sure it’s the same way in families all over the world.
How did you feel when Jamie offered to assist with the costs so that you could attend the barbecue competition?
At the time we met Jamie, diesel was at an all-time high here in the US ($4.85) and Lakeland is almost 500 miles away. It really made it possible for us to travel at a time when money didn’t seem to go very far. The offer to help was a great opportunity for my team. To cook with Jamie was a really special occasion, but I think Jamie walked away with a different perspective of what it takes to cook BBQ at a national level.
Was this a special barbecue contest?
Yes, the pressure was on, having a celebrity chef there and a camera crew filming every move was a little nerve-racking, but team Bubba Grills delivered. There were over 130 teams and most of the best BBQ cooks in the nation. We went to the stage and received 4 different awards. It was a wonderful day for our team, getting to share that with all of Jamie’s fans was great.
Have you ever come close to winning anything before at the barbecue contest?
We have been cooking for about 6 years professionally. So far we have won 7 grand championships and 7 more reserve grand championships, and over 200 awards in 5 different associations, qualifying for the world championships for the last 5 years running. This year we are currently 6th in MBN points. Just this past weekend we competed in Tifton. We won the whole hog category, won the chicken and were fourth in ribs. Not bad for a bunch of rednecks!
What did you think about Jamie's style of cooking?
Jamie is always thinking about food and cooking. I was like a sponge during the time Jamie and I spent together. I really was amazed – he is always thinking outside the box. I even picked up a few tricks while watching Jamie cook the chicken that we adapted to our competition chicken. By the way, with Jamie’s tricks we have won three chicken awards this year alone.
Did meeting Jamie make you want to visit the UK?
Jamie was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. His passion for life and his love of food is contagious to everyone who’s around him. It was truly a great experience meeting and becoming friends with everyone on the crew. We are currently working on a project that will bring Bubba Grills to the UK in 2010.