Myron Mixon is the winningest man in competition barbeque and the star of Destination America TV’s BBQ Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars. He is the Executive Producer and host of BBQ Rules. He’s currently a 4-time world barbecue champion, with 200 grand championships resulting in over 1,800 total trophies, 30 state championships, 8 Team of the Year awards, and 11 national championships. Myron’s team, Jack’s Old South, has taken three first place whole hogs at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbeque Competition. Myron is also the author of several cookbooks, including Smokin‘, BBQ Rules and Everyday Barbecue.
Myron’s Cooking School has been teaching people the ins and outs for several years now. People who have taken the classes have gone on to everything from praise at family get-togethers for their barbecue to considerable success on the competition circuit. Myron, who is and always been a Georgia boy at heart, believes in family and barbeque. I had a chance a while back to catch up with Myron and ask him a few questions.
Myron, is Jack’s Old South really a family business?
“Jack’s Old South is most assuredly family. My dad taught me how to barbeque, his dad taught him and his dad taught him; I mean the Mixons have been doing barbeque for generations. When I started Jack’s Old South, both the team and the brand that we sell a lot of our products under, it was started and named after my dad. We began the team to promote our family barbeque sauce business. So it’s all based around family”.
“Today, when she can, my wife still goes with me. As a matter of fact, she and I went down and won a Grand Championship at one of the Sam’s Club events in Daphne, Alabama this year. My brother works for me here at the compound where we do the cooking schools every day. He’s on my cook team. Of course my youngest son Michael, he’s on my cook team, so my team, like a lot of others, revolves around family. It revolves around close friends, that are really not ‘blood kin’ as we call them, but they might as well be because they are almost like my brothers. That’s what it’s based on. The thing is, it’s based on having fun, but also serious enough to get out and win. It’s based on friendship and that’s what counts”.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching classes to instruct people on barbecuing the right way?
“When I got into teaching classes, I always knew that being the winningest man in barbeque competition, I knew there was an endgame to this somehow. In other words, being in the barbeque business you could make a living doing things other than competing, so barbeque classes was my first venture into doing something in the barbeque business besides selling sauces and rubs, which we’ve been doing. Also doing catering and things like that, but it was our first venture for us and it was peachy! It got to be more than making money. I realized that I was good at it and the way I gauged that was especially that the students who were coming to my class because they wanted to start competing. They wanted to go to a barbeque event, get into that barbeque lifestyle and start competing”.
“They had a lot of sense, they still do today; they start competing, they go get that first Grand Championship and I’ve got on my website a Wall of Fame where students who come to my class that never have won anything, when they win their first Grand, they can put their team name and their name on my Wall of Fame. We have well over a hundred students who have done that. That makes me realize that what I’m trying to teach, they’re getting, and I’m putting it out there in a way that they understand it. That’s a good feeling, you know. I’ve been able to take all my experience, everything that I’ve done in barbeque and I can make someone else understand that. That’s a real good feeling. It’s a good thing when people get what you’re trying to teach them and show them”.
What’s the story with sauces and rubs?
“Sauce and rubs I use on every meat that I deal with, as far as every meat I deal with, that would be poultry. pork, beef and ribs. A lot of these things people don’t do, they say it’s simple, but then why aren’t you doing it? And a lot of times they are things that make a difference. A difference in competition and most of the time things that are done in the final moments. You know, when you make adjustments, when you taste that meat and it needs to have a little dust put on it, a little rub or salt or a little brush of sauce. Let’s just say it’s a given that everybody’s going to get the meat tender and done the day of this contest. Then it’s going to get down to being a flavor contest. If everybody’s equal other than flavor, you’ve got to come up with that WOW! factor, you’ve got to get that POP! That’s generally at the very end when it’s decided”.
“Another little thing when we talk about sauces, always heat your sauce up before you apply it. Whether you’re putting it on ribs or chicken, one thing you don’t want to do is put cold sauce on hot meat, period. You don’t want to do that anyways, but by heating it up it thins it out, so when you apply it thin it leaves a fine film of barbeque sauce and not a big glop. You don’t want a big glop of sauce on there when the judge or your friends are eating their barbeque. They bite down on that rib or bite down on that chicken thigh and it’s just a big mouthful of sauce before they get a little meat. You want to make sure that the sauce is heated and it goes on very thinly and smoothly”.
Why is barbeque so popular?
“It’s a very simple food. Good barbeque recipes are very simple also. You don’t have to have exotic ingredients to make good sauces and good rubs, it was never intended to be anything fancy or white-tablecloth type food. Any body can do it, you can get out in your backyard and you can do it. All you need is a little bit of patience. I’m not saying you’re going to be successful your first shot out, but the more you do it the better you get at it and the thing is it’s fun, it’s something you can share with your family and friends and that’s what it’s really all about. It’s about the biggest piece of Americana I think we have left in this country”.
Do you think that the regional differences in barbecue styles have an impact on teams that travel throughout the country?
“You do have barbeque regions, you have the Carolina regions, you have Kansas City, you have Texas, you have all those regions, but competition barbeque, that’s a whole different animal. The reason I’m saying that is you have competition teams that travel all over the country to compete. Most of us don’t stay in one area. Well, judges are doing the same thing. Granted, I’m not saying there will be a pile of out-of-state judges at a California contest, but you will have some judges that will travel to California to judge. With that being said, you’ll have some teams that travel from other states to be in California and vice versa. Once you find out in competition barbeque that you’ve got to get something that is a middle of the road, something that everybody likes, that nobody is offended by”.
“What you’re looking for is flavor profiles; how the sauce works. Is the sauce a combination of say Memphis style, with a sweet, hickory tomato base, and say Kansas City style, which is basically the same thing but with a little more smoke. If you look in any supermarket nationwide and go down the sauce aisles, most jars of sauce on those aisles are based on a Kansas City/Memphis style barbeque sauce. Tomato based, hickory flavored, sweet…..that’s pretty much what everybody in this country associates in some fashion with barbeque. And that’s what you will see in competitions, whether they’re in California or New Jersey”.
Myron, what about the traditional types of barbeque in the country? How does it differ from competition barbeque?
“Most people, they come to cooking schools, I teach them how to cook competition barbeque and that’s one of the flavor profiles we use and I’m not the only one who takes pride and uses that flavor profile, so it gets passed on to other teams from all over. I believe a team from Georgia could win a competition in California, just like a team from California could win a competition here. The regions are more prevalent in the restaurants. If you go to a Carolina restaurant, they’re going to have the vinegar sauce and the mustard sauce and those kind of things. Even with that being said, restaurants aren’t as regional as they once were. The simple fact is that people have migrated from California to Georgia, from Alabama to California, so they’re taking their own styles with them and they get integrated into what’s already there. It’s not a bad thing, everybody says “why don’t they stay traditional?. Well, everybody’s got their own idea of what’s traditional and I really believe barbeque is constantly changing and growing, because if it wasn’t, I believe it would die. That type of lifestyle would die, it would go away. So change is not a bad thing”.
So many people are great fans of yours, it must be impossible to greet them all!
“I love everybody who watches our shows, I appreciate them so much and I make sure that I shake every hand and take every picture. appreciate so much the people who watch the show, I appreciate those who buy my product. If they take an hour of their time watching our BBQ Pit Wars and BBQ Pitmasters shows and they buy some of my product, I can take a little of my time and let them know how much I appreciate them”.
Myron, what about at a contest? How can you juggle fans and keeping up with the demands of competition barbeque?
“Sometimes that gets in the way of me doing the best I can do in the contest because at certain times you need to be doing certain things and it’s just hard for me to turn my back on anybody and walk away because I’ve got to go flip ribs or poke meat or whatever it is I’ve got to do. That’s been the hardest thing as far as competition, just being able to get the things that I did prior to all of this done like you used to. We’ve worked it out, though, I’ve got it figured out. Most of the time I’ve got my trailer that I’m in, I generally get inside of it and if I got an hour or so where I know I’m not going to be busy doing things I’ll come out of it for the folks. Many times, when it’s 12:30 or 1pm, I’ll stay inside the trailer until I get things done, and when I get done at 1:30 and I’m finished making the last turn-in box, I come outside and I see everybody. That’s been the biggest challenge for me in a national competition.
How do you juggle the roles of entrepreneur, chef and judge these days?
“Sometimes I wonder that myself! I think about how much more simple my life was when all I had to worry about was the next contest I was going to and win prize money. Nowadays there’s a lot more going on. Besides the cooking schools which I do once a month, we also do some product classes, products are not included in the regular classes so I’ve got a few of those coming up here in the next month or two“.
What’s coming up in the future for you?
“I’ve done a new cookbook, Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules (Abrams, 2016), which came out in May 2016. We’re working on some other product lines we’re coming out with, we’ve got our pre-cooked barbeque which we’re selling in Costco now and hoping to get into some of the other big box stores, Myron Mixon Brand Barbeque. We’re working on some franchise ideas for our barbeque. There’s just so much going on for us, There’s just so much going on for us, it’s what we’re actually doing with sauces and rubs, taking it to another level. We’re putting them into some of the larger grocery chains. There’s a lot of different things happening and when I started competing in 1996, I never dreamed all this would be going on. Like I said, I was just worried about getting to the next contest, I wasn’t worried about anything like this ever happening”.
Myron, what’s the state of barbeque in this country?
“The thing about it is, barbeque’s been taking off so much as far as the trend food, the thing that everybody wants to be part of, but it’s a lot more fun to understand it and know how to do it and being able to pull it off. It’s one thing to say I can do it, it’s another thing to say I can do it well. When you have people who attend classes, read books, go on the internet to get information and do that, then they have a lot better fun, a lot more fun than if they were just watchers rather than participants”.
Thanks, Myron and keep up with that delicious barbecue!
Since 1996, Myron has been participating in barbeque, but he’s also become the Ambassador of Barbeque, encouraging and teaching people the joys of smoked meat. These days, Myron Mixon is truly the winningest man in barbeque.