Smokin’ Yankee’s BBQ was formed when Chris Juencke, Owner and Pitmaster of Smokin’ Yankee’s BBQ Competition Team, saw the “All Star BBQ Showdown” TV series on the Outdoor Live Network back in 2006 where all his future BBQ heroes were featured (Mike Davis – Lotta Bull BBQ, Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson's BBQ), Myron Mixon (Jack’s Old South BBQ), Eddie Maurin (Fast Eddy BBQ), Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ) just to name a few.
Chris was intrigued with the idea that these professional pitmasters show up to cook on this show not knowing what they’ll be cooking on or what meat they’ll be cooking. While watching each and every episode several times over he was reminded every episode of the times growing up when he was smoking beef jerky with his Uncle Rube and how everyone would clamor for it at family gatherings. It was like gold, making everyone happy and desperate to get some before it’s long gone. The longing to follow in his favorite Uncle’s footsteps by smoking jerky was strong and it far exceeded jerky. As fate would have it, he discovered that Chris Lilly, the host of the All Star BBQ Showdown and World Champion several times over, was hosting a BBQ Competition class in Los Angeles sponsored by the California BBQ Association, CBBQA, . So we became members of the CBBQA and registered for the class which led to ordering our first smoker.
Chris drove to Los Angeles to take the class and while there, he learned that the BBQ community is like a brother/sisterhood, family even. He was drawn to the friendly atmosphere and comradery they had with each other which fueled his desire to join the ranks of these fine pitmasters, we now call our BBQ family.
Not long after returning from the class in L.A, the new smoker arrived and the practicing began. After deciding we wanted to compete in Kansas City BBQ Society, KCBS, sanctioned contests only, we immediately started practicing the 4 meats that are required as entries in the KCBS sanctioned contests. Chris started with pork butt, aka, pork shoulder, brisket practice came next, then pork spare ribs, followed by chicken. We, and our families ate a lot of test chicken, pulled pork, brisket and ribs for several months and I must say, some of it was not great. It was trial and error, relentless experimentation…..And then ... we finally felt ready to compete, so May 2008 we headed off to Modesto for our very first contest.
We had never been to a contest before and didn’t know anyone who had, so we were on our own! Our team at the time was, Chris, myself, my awesome father-in-law, Fred, our oldest son, Chris, and our good friend Joe. As we pulled into the contest venue we were instantly overwhelmed by all these other professional teams (47 of them). Some of the teams had their fancy RVs, set ups and smokers and were well versed and experienced in competition BBQ. We felt for certain we were going to get our butts thoroughly kicked, and not just our pork butts.
We were star struck to see Ray Lampe, one of his BBQ heroes there as a guest judge for the contest. Ray would also be presenting the trophy’s at the awards ceremony the following day. One of Chris’ favorite California idols, Pitmasters Brent and Kim Walton from QN4U BBQ (CBBQA Team of the Year) were there, which made us even more nervous and intimidated to be among such BBQ royalty. But we were in it to win it ,,, or at least win somethin’!
That night we prepped our meats and got our briskets and butts in the smoker to start cooking. By the next morning we were high on adrenaline and low on sleep but it was no matter because we had some nervous energy to get out and some serious BBQ ass to kick so we tackled each meat category, one entry at a time and were relieved after all 4 turn ins were completed and turned in on time. We finally collapsed under the canopy to take a deep breath and awaited anxiously for the awards ceremony.
We were thrilled to get a call for 5th place Pork, 7th in Chicken with a 6th place overall out of 48 teams. We were over the moon excited and got to accept our award from Dr BBQ, Ray Lampe himself.
We immediately became addicted to Competition BBQ. WE WON SOMETHING! OMG! WE WANT MORE! So it began ...