There have been some discussions this week on some of the bbq forum message boards about the primary reasons why competitors participate in sanctioned bbq contests. Answers to that question have ranged from learning to cook better, spending time with family and friends, for business opportunities, and to earn prize money. After considering these discussions for a couple of days I have reached some conclusions of my own.
1) Learning to cook better: My quest to learn how to cook southern style barbecue started on the internet almost 7-years ago after a visit to Smokey Hale's barbecuen.com website. I used my kettle grill, Kingsford charcoal briquettes, and an aluminum pie pan filled with water to cook some pretty good pork roasts. I still like a good pork roast with a mustard based bbq sauce. Cooking in contests have helped me flatten the learning curve and focus my efforts to improve the final product. My bbq has improved dramatically.
2) Spending time with family and friends: I cook in bbq contests with my wife, Linda. She's been there with me from the beginning. She has been there for all the Saturday and Sunday afternoon practice cooks. She has been there for all the contests we've cooked and she has been there as we have spent a large portion of our discretionary entertainment budget on bbq supplies, equipment, and tools for these past five or six years.
I've met some great friends at bbq contests. Weapons of Mass Barbecuing, ZZ Que, Pork of the North, All Day Smoke, HomeBBQ.com, and Kick the Tire Light the Fire immediately come to mind.
My familly has also been supportive of my efforts. Besides my brothers and mother who have helped me market The BBQ Guy's spice rubs my dad has also spent a lot of time helping me convert a run of the mill cargo trailer into a rolling bbq contest kitchen.
3) Business opportunties: My contest efforts are coupled with promotion of TheBBQGuy.com and my bbq blog. I continue to be surprised at the ability of the internet to cross social barriers and territorial boundries to promote bbq to thousands of people across the country and even around the world through my websites. There are many websites about bbq. I'm just happy to have two of them that are somewhat successful. I attribute their success to my participation in bbq contests.
4) Earning prize money: Let's face it, bbq contests are very expensive for the average competitors. The typical team will spend at least $250 on meat, $200 in entry fees, $200-500 on transportation, food, lodging, and supplies to attend an event. These figures can vary a little by region of the country and distance traveled, but they are typical based on my own experience and research. Without the ability to earn prize money and recoup some of these expensives, participation in bbq contests would be cost prohibitive for me and many others. As long as there are entry fees, travel costs, and meat expenses, I believe there has to be prize money. If I don't win some money, I simply cannot afford to compete as much.