KCBS Pro Cooking Contest
Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ team
returns to defend KCBS title
The Columbus, Ind., team competes
to honor his late father
(August 2015) – James Tindell got started in barbecue competitions after his father died unexpectedly in January 2009. Barbecue was something his father loved, and it is something that has become almost a second job for Tindell.
• 2014: Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ, James Tindell, Kempis Wilkerson, Lisa Madden, Columbus, Ind.
• 2013: Moonswiners, Chad & Christine Hayden, Taylorsville, Ky.
• 2012: Getta Que, Buddy and Cheryl Schneider, Fairborn, Ohio
• 2011: Buttrub.com, Byron Chism, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
• 2010: Moonswiners, Chad & Christine Hayden, Taylorsville, Ky.
• 2009: Smokey D’s BBQ, Darren and Sherry Warth, Des Moines, Iowa
• 2008: Ulcer Acres, Randy and Zack Twyford, Jacksonville, Ill.
• 2007: Moonswiners, Chad & Christine Hayden, Taylorsville, Ky.
• 2006: Bar-B-Quau, Mike and Beth Wozniak, Brimfield, Ill.
• 2005: J-Mack Cookers, Aaron and Christy Storey, Bardwell, Ky.
• 2004: Music City Pig Pals, Lee and Bobbie McWright, Nashville, Tenn.
• 2003: Hoosier Hogs, Fred Edwards and Ron Marquardt, Valparaiso, Ind.• • 2002: Smokin’ in the Dark, Larry Randolph & Brad Rapp, Springfield, Mo.
“Barbecue was one of his favorite things,” said Tindell, who also works for the Sheriff’s Department in Bartholomew County, Ind. Competing in barbecue events is “a way to keep his memory alive.”
When Tindell discovered the Backyard BBQ Blast, the amateur cooking competition portion of Madison Ribberfest, he decided to enter. That was in August 2009, and he won first place in brisket.
Tindell’s team name is Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ and is comprised of himself and fiancé, Lisa Madden, and friend, Kempis Wilkerson. Madden, who works for the school system in Bartholomew County, focuses on desserts, while Wilkerson, a construction inspector, joined the team in 2012.
Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ plans to return Madison on Aug. 21-22 to compete in the Madison Ribberfest’s pro cooking contest to try their hand at winning two consecutive titles. They were last year’s Grand Champions in the 13th annual Madison Ribberfest Indiana State Champion-ship Barbeque Cookoff, held Aug. 16, 2014, in Madison. The contest is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the world’s largest organization of barbeque and grilling enthusiasts.
Tindell’s team collected its winning points by placing third in chicken, sixth in pork ribs, eighth in beef brisket and second in dessert. Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ is only the second Indiana team to win the event.
In the dessert category, the team tied for first place with a perfect score of 180 with Madden’s s’mores bread pudding, said Tindell. They finished second due to the tie-breaker.
The Madison Ribberfest victory qualified Big J.T.’s to compete in the World Food Championships in Las Vegas on Nov. 12-18, 2014. There were nine categories, including barbecue, in this event with 550 competitor spots.
Last year’s KCBS Grand Champion, Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ team of Columbus, Ind., accepts its trophy in Madison, Ind. Team members are Lisa Madden (second from left), James Tindell and Kempis Wilkerson (far right). Tindell’s mother, Julie Tindell, is at far left. They return this year as the team to beat.
The team was not able to go to the World Food Championships last year because registration had already filled up by the time they won the Madison Ribberfest. Tindell said they are eligible to go to this year’s event, which will be held in Kissimmee, Fla.
Winning the Madison Ribberfest also enabled Big J.T.’s to be entered in a drawing to determine their fate at the 26th Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in October 2014 in Lynchburg, Tenn. “We did not get pulled to go,” he said.
The Madison Ribberfest barbecue contest and blues festival is held annually in August along the Ohio River waterfront. “The field is made up of 65 teams compared to 60 last year,” said Ken Schneider, the Madison Ribberfest KCBS chairman. Cash awards and trophies will total between $12,000 to $12,500 this year to the top 10 places in four categories.
Local woodworker Ed Bladen creates the cutting board trophies that are also awarded to the top two places. Last year the Grand Champion received a butcher-block cutting board in the shape of the state of Indiana.
A special addition to this year’s Ribberfest will be a booth set up by Operation BBQ Relief. Schneider said this organization was created when a devastating tornado went through Missouri.
“Basket items will be raffled at Operation BBQ Relief’s booth,” he said. Baskets will contain Ribberfest souvenir items, food items from downtown business and cooks will donate to the baskets as well in an effort to “raise funds to go toward different relief sites.”
Photo by Don Ward
Judy Bixby displays a box of meat to be judged during the KCBS competition at a recent Madison Ribberfest.
Schneider said Ribberfest was the “first KCBS sanctioned event in the state of Indiana.” Over the years, barbecue competitions have grown in popularity. “There are 20 competitions nationwide on our weekend. When we first started, there were only three.”
The Madison Ribberfest is a stop on the Hoosier BBQ Cup. “To qualify for the Hoosier Cup, you need to compete in at least three of eight Indiana competitions,” said Schneider. A team’s three highest scores are counted for the Cup.
“We are the sixth event of eight,” he said. “We have three of the top seven competitors” entered into the Madison Ribberfest. They have consistently been in the top 10 all year.”
Serious as any competitor, Big J.T.’s will go on to compete in the American Royal Invitational in Kansas City, Mo., later this year. Billed as the biggest barbecue in Kansas City history, the event began 36 years ago in the parking lot of the Golden Ox Restaurant.
For 2015, this signature event will be held in Arrowhead Stadium at the Truman Sports Complex. In 2014, the American Royal Association was able to give $1.4 million in scholarships and educational awards.
“You have to win a Grand Championship to get into it,” Tindell said. Winning it would be “huge. It’s one of the best of the best.”
“The American Royal is the crown event of the KCBS Sanctioned Contest Network,” Carolyn Wells, co-founder and executive director of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, has been quoted as saying. “Kansas City has earned its reputation at the epicenter of the barbecue universe.”
Tindell said his team competed in 24 events last year and so far this year, “We’re on our way to 20.” Being part of Big J.T.’s Smokin’ BBQ team is “almost like another full-time job.”
But it’s one he enjoys. Tindell said the Madison Ribberfest is “one of the best competitions, as far as scenery and the people who put it on. Ken does an amazing job. Everyone goes above and beyond to provide for the cooks. It’s one of the best in the nation.”
Schneider said he “expects a great competition this year. Several of the teams that are competing have placed high in other competitions.”
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