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Texas High School BBQ Championships

Kell Phelps NBN PublisherBy Kell Phelps

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From pit building, raising cattle to inventing recipes; Texas high school students are learning every aspect about barbecue.


TexasHighSchoolBBQ1Ever wonder if the future of barbecue is safe? I am happy to tell you that Texas is working to make sure it is as safe as it can be by training up the next generation before they even graduate high school. For the past three years, Chef Mike Erickson has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground and keeping it growing in a positive manner. From the looks of the program, I am betting most high school kids across America would love to get involved in something like this.

I asked Chef Mike to share a little more information about the event and he told me “Every year we have a BBQ Educational Symposium to attract adult cookers and industry partners to our event to help educate and inspire these kids. As a teacher, my goal is to engage and inspire kids to want to learn.”

Chef Mike also gave me a few examples of how the program is working. He said “I can tell you this event has started a fire burning in many kids over the past three years by keeping them in school, getting them involved in a team, many for the first time, getting them excited about the next school year, and for many winning and being recognized for their hard work for the first time. BBQ is democratic and all these kids learn while competing on an equal playing field. The first two years we had an all-girls team, The JALAPENO HOTTIES. They won out of 14 teams and the 2nd year we had a one-girl team, The JALAPENO HOTTIE, as she cooked by herself. She won by a tiebreaker with another school because she had the higher brisket point score out of 27 other teams.”

This year the event had 42 teams from across the State of Texas competing. They started with 62 but lost teams because of proms, end of year testing, lack of funding, and a few teachers were just scared away because they have never done anything like this. The true fact is that 70 of Chef Mike’s students and 50 of their teachers have never done anything like this before so it is a learning experience for all of them.

Chef Mike told me that the event started three years ago as a partnership as a Capstone Project between the Culinary Arts Department, Agriculture Welding, and FFA (Future Farmers of America) at Burnet High School as a way to host the best high school BBQ teams in the State of Texas. He also told me that any high school in the State of Texas is invited to compete with students from Culinary Arts, Agriculture, Welding, Family Consumers Science, or Foods classes. They had 12 of the teams this year that welded and built their team BBQ Pits in class during part of the school year, cooked on them, and were judged with awards and prizes being given out to them also. This was a new addition to the other food competitions.

This event is unofficially sanctioned by the Lone Star BBQ Society who is also located in the Burnet Texas community. Teams are made up of a maximum of 5 students from each school’s Career Pathways (Culinary Arts, Agriculture, Welding, Family Consumers Science, or Foods classes). Students competed in Brisket, Ribs, Chicken, Beans, Sauce, Chefs Choice, Dessert, and Potato Salad categories with judges being school administrators, teachers, community representatives, local media, sponsors, and a few other guests and parents.

The whole event is very unique because it focuses on education and learning that coordinates with educational objectives. These students are learning every aspect of barbecue from meat identification, cooking techniques, raising animals and stock show, and welding. The event allows the students to have an end of year event where they can collaborate with other students to show off the fruits of their hard labor while comparing it to others achievements. Did I mention that this is Texas and BBQ is very important to everyone there…regardless of age!

Next year’s event is already showing some big signs of expansion as well. Curt Sheard (recent winner of a million dollar investment from A&E’s Rooster and Butch reality program) from Big Bois BBQ Sauces and Rubs told Chef Mike that he plans to bring a team from Ft. Myers Florida to compete and show the Texas kids how to really barbecue. Being very gracious Texans, they all said “Come and take it” or like their motto was for the 2018 event “Come and eat it”! They are also in the process of creating the Texas High School BBQ Cookers Association with a website that is now active at The National Barbecue News has already started the process of making sure every kid involved in the event gets a free subscription and will continue this process for as long as they will let us.


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