Meet our Winning American Royal Rub Teams
For 72 hours, Kansas City’s Arrowhead will host over 600 teams, 180 certified judges and nearly 50,000 patrons in what many see as barbecue heaven. This is the World Series of Barbecue, the most popular and highly attended event on the professional barbecue competition circuit.
The elite of the elite will give their burnt offerings up to the barbecue gods in hope of winning the grand finale of the competitive barbecue season. The teams who produced our four rubs will once again be competing. Let’s meet the teams.
This family team from Carthage, Missouri consists of Chad and Nicole along with their children Brett and Cole. While they have been competing since 2007, this will be their 8th year at the American Royal. And they had some success, “We’ve earned 10 category awards including first place in chicken” Chad says, “and even picked up a first place in pork with a perfect score.”
They believe the perfection of their own rub recipe made everything happen. After years of practice and perfecting the rub, they finally started to gain recognition. The year they won at the American Royal was eventful before they were even announced as champions.
“During the 2010 American Royal Open contest, I had just set the final sauce on our chicken. It looked beautiful. Chad continues with a sly smile, “I was taking the chicken into the trailer and dropped the tray. We cooked 24 pieces of chicken that day and only 6 pieces didn’t hit the ground. We turned in the only pieces we had left — didn’t even have a piece to sample. It all worked out okay though because we won 1st place with an almost perfect score”.
Lotta Bull BBQ
Head Cook and his wife Debbie have a secret weapon to their team, Gabbie Sue their miniature schnauzer. These full-time, grown-up, professional pit masters travel the country competing and promoting their sport.
Yes, this is a sport. If Parkour and Lawnmower Racing can be a sport, BBQ can be a sport. Besides, it’s much tastier than Lawnmower Racing.
And Lotta Bull BBQ seems to have their priorities straight, “We serve God first, then family then BBQ.” Amen and pass the sauce, Debbie. That viewpoint as resulted in a lot of success at the American Royal. As three time Open Champions, Invitational Champions and Reserve Grand Champions, Lotta Bull has garnered a lot of respect.
The kind of success leads to some much-deserved television notoriety. The team has been featured on Chopped Grill Masters, The Food Network, The Cooking Channel and The Travel Channel. Even with all that national recognition, they don’t let their BBQ fame go to their heads. At least Gabbie Sue doesn’t.
Loot ’n Booty
Sterling and Molly Smith from Scottsdale Arizona have been competing since 2009. It all started with a company BBQ competition. After that they were hooked. They both now travel across the country competing in 10-12 events annually. “I’m a very competitive person.” Sterling says with a smile.
That competitive spirit has brought the team considerable success. Last year Loot ’n Booty took 1st place chicken with a perfect 180 score. That same year they placed 7th in ribs. Their rubs have been an ongoing experiment to find the right blend.
“After every competition I would tweak and modify the recipe based on the flavor and results. Spices and rubs taste different after applied to meat and heated on a smoker or grill. A lot of people taste “rubs” straight out of the bottle and say it’s too salty, smoky, spicy, etc. It is hard to judge rubs straight out of the bottle as all those flavors, spicy, sweet, smoky will change when applied to meat and vegetables and then cooked.”
But Sterling’s BBQ beginnings weren’t as flavorful or successful. When he first got the “BBQ bug” as he puts it he rushed out to a local big box home improvement store. Without research, planning or a lot of thinking he grabbed an entry-level grill, mesquite wood chunks and lighter fluid. On his way home he bought a pork butt at the grocery store. He set it up, covered it in lighter fluid and lit it up.
“The smell was terrible. I had smoke billowing out of everywhere! I tried to maintain the temperature but it was a lost cause.” Sterling adds shaking his head. “The worst part is that my wife and I invited her parents over for dinner that night for some slow smoked pork. It tasted like straight mesquite wood and charcoal and was tougher than a UFC fighter.”
Molly’s parents still come over for BBQ; today the results are much, much more enjoyable.
Lucky Dawg’s BBQ
Jason Ragsdale and Bryan Gorden hail from, New Bruanfels, Texas. While competing for seven years, they have been putting their skills to the test at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue for three. Their success has been incremental. Finishing 58th overall with pork in their first outing, they placed 3rd overall in brisket last year.
“We have always loved to cook and both of us were backyard grillers. Jason says, “We thought we could take what we were doing and compete. Little did we know there is a pretty steep learning curve from backyard to competition.”
Both Jason and Bryan see attention to detail as a vital facet in BBQ success, “The main thing I see from back yard to competition is the lack of focus while trying to rush temperatures during the cooking process.” Jason advises. “Always remember that each layer of flavor should compliment the next.”
Their rub was developed the old fashioned way, through trial and error. At times, they ended up with a lot of error with, as Jason describes as “Not so great BBQ”. In the end the small tweaks garnered the pair a rub they believe is the best out there.