The Original Barbecue and Grilling Magazine!

BBQ Profile: Tillman Lee Nelson

T. Michael Garrison

The Flying BBQ Judge

[email protected]

We usually see this month’s BBQ Profile in the Winners Circle at the end of a contest. He is a constant and proud winner. Tillman Lee Nelson has a very impressive list of accomplishments for such a short time in BBQ Competition. Both his Father and his Grandfather cooked Q over both charcoal and wood from as far back as he can remember while he was growing up. As soon as he could, he joined them in their cooking duties, always on the prowl to learn the fine art of open fire cooking. As he grew older, he acquired a 22-inch Weber kettle and used this to learn the fine art of BBQ and always on the search for a better way to prepare meat over an open fire. As he experimented with various cooking methods, he needed more room and a larger cooker. At this point he had an offset stick burner built. He was an auto mechanic and on Mondays they would bring the weekend BBQ to the auto shop and the mechanics ate very well. His BBQ was always voted the best, which further fed his fire to go beyond with his BBQ development. One day a friend brought him a newspaper clipping about an upcoming local BBQ contest and told him he should enter. This was June 2013 and not a sanctioned event. It was nevertheless very intimidating. At the end of the day, he placed first in the Pork category, and was hooked. After that experience he was on the hunt to find a sanctioned contest to enter and see if he really was learning to cook BBQ. In October 2013, he found a contest in Pompano and entered the contest as a Pro team. He didn’t even know there was a Backyard category. Lee ended up capturing 1st place in the Brisket category and hooked for life at this point.

Lee is a Certified Judge with the Florida BBQ Association and plans to become certified with KCBS. He is a member of both organizations. Lee is the Head Pitmaster of Tillman’s Barbecue along with his wife Amie. He has not organized a BBQ event, but has been asked to organize a new contest in his hometown of Margate, Florida and plans to do that soon. His team cooks about 18 contests a year and has participated in about 100 events to date. This is pretty impressive in a little over 10 years. He is a certified judge but prefers to compete. Lee has given back to competition BBQ and served on the Cook Team Committee. His Grandmother had a family sauce recipe; “Grandma’s Red” and they all used her sauce until he got serious into the competition cooking. He needed a more complex sauce to be competitive and has developed a BBQ Sauce and Seasoning company, “Tillman’s Barbecue”. His goal is to eventually be full time with this business and this will allow him the opportunity to travel the country and compete in BBQ and teach the art of competition BBQ.


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