Patience, timing and a good piece of meat â€“ thatâ€™s what it takes to make award-winning barbecue.
Jerry Burgin of Alexis learned this over 15 years of cooking and that knowledge recently earned him first place at the National BBQ Festival in Douglas, Ga.
Although he has a history of cooking with family members, Burgin never entered a barbecue competition until Hog Happeninâ€™ in Lincolnton last year.
After taking home first place in the tailgate challenge, he was encouraged to go to the national competition.
At the event, which took place Nov. 3-5, Burgin set his small cooker next to more impressive outfits. He left his one award at home, but all around him were competitors who had 8-foot tables full of trophies.
He said he heard a few snickers and a look or two that asked â€œWhat are yâ€™all doing here?â€ but overall the mood was supportive.
â€œYou donâ€™t meet a stranger down there as far as Iâ€™m concerned,â€ Burgin said.
Friendly competition filled the air of the festival, and once people tasted Burginâ€™s meat, they knew he was a serious rival.
â€œEverybody wanted to know where our restaurants were located and how many we had,â€ said Burgin.
He replied that barbecue was just a hobby for him and being a building contractor was his profession.
That said, rave reviews throughout the festival gave him a sense of confidence.
He and his three-member team, which included his brother-in-law, niece and her boyfriend, worked diligently to create meat that excelled in appearance, taste and tenderness.
In the end, the team walked away with $550 cash, a gold medallion, numerous gift boxes and a massive supply of bottled water.
After taking home two first-place wins in a year, Burgin has started to daydream about opening a restaurant. Any mention of it, however, is immediately followed with a â€œmaybe someday.â€
As a father of two, husband, son, building contractor and neighborhood barbecue cooker, he has enough on his plate right now.
Even so, he does enjoy barbecuing as a hobby and is considering entering more competitions using the same recipe and technique.
â€œBecause weâ€™re doing pretty good, I donâ€™t think weâ€™re going to change anything right now,â€ he said.
Family members are all supporters of his hobby. His two children, Jeremy, 9, and Candace, 7, both love the barbecue sauce, although they get â€œkind of boredâ€ waiting for the meat to be cooked.
His wife doesnâ€™t share the same passion for barbecue that Burgin does, but she offers her wholehearted support.
â€œHe enjoys it, thatâ€™s what I like,â€ Pam Burgin said.
Besides a barbecue-loving family, the award-winning cook also credits Mt. Zion Baptist Churchâ€™s reverendâ€™s barbecue sauce and Harris Teeter meat.
While he enjoys all aspects of barbecue cooking, he does have a favorite part.
â€œI like to eat,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ll be honest with you.â€
Jeremy Burgin, 9, takes a messy bite of ribs. The barbecue sauce is his favorite part. Sarah Grano / LTN Photo
by Sarah Grano