This Alabama BBQ Restaurant Wins Big at the ‘World Championship’ in Memphis


A well-known Alabama barbecue restaurant won a portion of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis this weekend, beating out competitors for first place in the pork shoulder category.

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ in Decatur has won 15 world barbecue titles, including hog, brisket, ribs, and chicken. Executive Chef Chris Lilly also returns to Alabama with a third-place finish in the Kingsford Tour of Champions category, which is decided by the public.

Big Bob Gibson’s, established in 1925 by Bob Gibson, who began cooking for friends and family with a hand-dug BBQ pit in his garden, is famous for its smoked chicken with white sauce. Last year, Food Network voted it Alabama’s greatest BBQ restaurant.

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Many Alabama residents will recognize this year’s grand champion from the Memphis tournament. The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was voted grand prize winner on Saturday after hundreds of committed pitmasters sweated through the smoke to be judged the finest in pork. The eatery won the whole hog division and was crowned grand champion in Memphis, Tennessee.

The tournament, which began in the 1970s, is regarded as one of the best cooking competitions in the United States. However, as the so-called culinary sports grew beyond local home cooks, the rivalry became fiercer than ever.

More than $150,000 in prize money was presented in a variety of categories to 129 cooking teams from 22 states and four international nations competing in one of three primary categories: ribs, shoulder, or whole hog. There were additional ancillary competitions for hot wings, poultry, beef, and seafood.

But in Memphis, pork is always the primary attraction.

Winners Brad Orrison and Brooke Lewis, siblings from Ocean Springs, have been participating as The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint team for 17 years, named after their restaurant. They have now won the Grand Championship three times.

“This is the Super Bowl of swine. “This is the trophy that everyone wants,” Orrison stated.

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On Friday, Orrison, Lewis, and their team prepared two Duroc hogs, each of which was carefully marinated and placed on a bed of butter and bacon. They return year after year to the cooking competition, which is part of the Memphis in May festival. It’s like a family reunion, with people from all around the country who share a love of barbecue.

“It’s like fierce buddies, but more fierce on the competitive side. Right? So we all support each other, but that ends on Saturday,” Lewis explained. “Saturday you can hear a pinprick in the park.”

“What makes Memphis in May so difficult to judge is that everybody cooks the best food in the world, and they’re all here,” Orrison stated. “So a judge could run into three teams that have made the most ultimate dreamy bite of barbecue.”

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