Sevierville barbecue competition heats up

The Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctions over 400 barbeque contests coast-to-coast throughout America, including the upcoming competition at Bloomin’ BBQ and Bluegrass in Sevierville, Tennessee

KCBS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and enjoying barbeque, and is the world's largest organization of barbeque and grilling enthusiasts with over 15,000 members worldwide. 

On May 18-19, 2012, cook teams from all across the United States will come to Sevierville, Tennessee to compete for $15,000 in cash and prizes in the Bush’s Best Tennessee State Championship Cook-Off. had a chance to talk with Mike Davis of Lotta Bull BBQ and John Swift of Wild Bunch Butt Burners about what it’s like to fire up the big grill and compete for best barbecue. 

Mike Davis/Lotta Bull Cook Team 

Mike and Debbie Davis

Mike Davis says his first attempt at a real barbecue contest was “humbling.” 

“It was in 1994, in Palestine, Texas,” Davis said in the phone interview. “Me and my brother-in-law had been cooking backyard barbecue for some time and we thought ‘How hard can it be?’ Well, we found out how hard it can be and it was a humbling experience.”

Since that time, however, the team has won many contests including Grand Champion at previous Bloomin' BBQ & Bluegrass festivals . In 2006, they won 11 Grands and 11 Reserve (second) Grands.) Davis set his sights on learning how great barbecue is cooked and seasoned and now his cook team, “Lotta Bull” knows what it’s like to come home with the gold – the Grand Champion prize – for the best barbecue. He has also developed (and markets online) his own brand of specialty barbecue sauce, two rubs, and a steak seasoning.

Lotta Bull won the American Royal Kansas City competition for the fourth time in 2010, but doesn’t take any awards or compeitions for granted.

“When you’re in a competition, it’s still quite a big deal to make it all happen at the right time,” he says. “Big meats take longer than ribs or chicken and typically we start cooking around 2 a.m. for judging at noon. We do have a little time to visit with friends during our routine but when it’s time to get down to business, we do it,” Davis said.

John Swift/Wild Bunch Butt Burners Cook Team

John and Kathy Swift

John and Kathy Swift live in Atmore, Alabama, about 50 miles north of Mobile. Their cook team “Wild Bunch Butt Burners” have won over 431 individual barbecue awards since 2002. They are looking forward to competing in this year’s Bloomin’ BBQ and Bluegrass Festival.

Swift said the Wild Bunch Butt Burners will be cooking Boston butts, chicken, baby back pork ribs, and beef brisket in Sevierville for the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned contest May 18-19, 2012.

Swift also has developed a trademark barbecue sauce that he markets to the public. He says some of his customers come to visit him on the road to buy a case or two of the sauce to last all year. 

“We had some issues with other seasonings and some friends urged us to put our sauce on the market,” Swift said. “It took about four or five months to meet all that government critieria but we finally did get it on the market,” Swift said. “We can’t tell you all our secrets but I can tell you that we add some of our seasonings before we cook the meat, some during the cooking process, and some gets added right at the end before it is served.” 

According to the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the Bloomin’ BBQ and Bluegrass Festival each year, the three competitions on Friday evening include popular categories "Anything Bush's Beans," "Anything Wampler's Farm Sausage" and Sauces. On Saturday, competitions categories include beef brisket, chicken, pork ribs, pork and dessert. Winning cook teams receive prize money and trophies on Saturday May 19, 2012, at  4 p.m.


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