Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Jack

Wow what a time! The Jack is everything that it is made out to be and more. As I was preparing to leave for my trip I was told by a few people that the most important thing to do was to take it all in. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to become something you start to think about until you realize it is almost over… I feel very honoured and lucky to have been included in this year’s competition. Teams come from around the world to be here. In fact, one of the questions that I was frequently asked was how much money can you win? To be honest I don’t know the actual figure, but I do know it is not very much. That however is not that point of “The Jack”. The real prize is just being asked to attend. It is the most coveted barbecue competition on the planet and many teams have been trying for years just to make it in. I am serious when I say that as age sets in and I reflect back on just what it was that I did with my life, one of the memories that I will recall is that I went to “The Jack”. Bucket list again.

The Jack Daniels Barbecue competition is held in the little town of Lynchburg Tennessee, the same town that the distillery is located at. It has a population of 631 people except for the weekend of the competition at which time it swells to 25,000. There are warning signs alerting motorists on the highway coming in to Lynchburg about the congestion to be expected on this particular weekend. This means if you are competing you had better be fully stocked up when you arrive because you do not want to leave and fight your way through traffic back in to town.

There is another quirky fact about the tale of this town, their distillery and “The Jack” and that is the fact it is a dry county. That’s right, no liquor is to be sold or consumed in public. Personal consumption must be at home. Pretty weird for a town that is famous for a drink called the “Lynchburg Lemonade”. There is no lenience as the police are absolutely vigilant in their enforcement of the law as well. I saw one party goer have his keg of beer removed and taken away on the Thursday night that we arrived. I thought to myself, ouch, that had to hurt the pocket book.

I went from being alone to being surrounded by people rather quickly in Nashville. My wife arrived on Wednesday night and then my friend Rob Reinhardt flew in on Thursday to help compete. One day later my friend Shawn arrived to cheer us on and be a part of the event. I rented an RV and then we drove roughly 120 kilometres southeast to Lynchburg so we could set up camp on the competition grounds. We actually did not drive the farthest as that went to the tem from Fairbanks Alaska. Obviously teams that came from around the globe such as Australia, United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, Switzerland etc. travelled by plane.

On the Friday afternoon there is a parade of all the teams through the streets of Lynchburg to the distillery. They have the band who led us through the streets playing as we board an armada of school buses that are waiting to take all the teams up Barbecue Hill. Barbecue Hill is where they built a centre for entertaining the teams and judges who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to be involved. The view from the top looking out over the “holler” as the sun was setting was spectacular. Fried chicken dinner, sweet tea, live band and for those that drink they allow two cocktails at this special party. They also slow cooked a lamb over coals on a spit outside. I wouldn’t want any food to be wasted so I made sure I had a second dinner to help alleviate any problems dealing with leftovers. That was some mighty fine lamb!

The night before the contest as my meat was smoking on the pits, I contemplated sleep. I was tired but had no ambition to give up the night. I was here and I was just taking in the moment. You don’t know when you will be back again. Unlike another contest that you know you can just sign up for next year, this one has no guarantee. Eventually I crawled in to bed at about 3 am. As I laid there, my mind wandered constantly. I imagined what it would be like to win, even just an award. I eventually succumbed to sleep somewhere I presume around 4 am. I was woken up at 5:30 am by rain and scrambled out of bed concerned about the effects of the rain on the cookers. I went out and checked on everything and at that point decided to get the ribs out and start warming them. The first half of the day was a flurry of activity. After cooking all night we had to prepare our turn in boxes for our entries. Our turn in times went as follows, chicken at 12:30, ribs at 1:00, pork at 1:30 and brisket at 2:00 pm. The tension started to build around 11:30 when one of the teams cranked up the volume on the stereo and Ozzy Osborne’s Crazy Train started things off. At that point you could feel it building and I was getting charged. Here we were at the Jack and it was time to go! Our food was awesome and it looked great. By the time the turn ins were done I turned to Rob and Cheryl and said “we have just competed in the Jack!

See how fast you can move when your motivated!

We didn’t win the Jack this year as far as trophies or money goes. That went to a team from Massachusetts. That however is of no consequence to us. Every team that is here is a winner; every one. The fact that we have been invited and competed at the Jack is something that very few people in all of the culinary arts can say. I just hope that my turn comes again. Until next time Lynchburg.

Next stop Douglas, Georgia for “The Best Of The Best” Invitational at the National Barbecue Festival.


  1. Your just teasing us haha

  2. A weekend to last a lifetime, good friends, good food, fabulous charming location and sponsorship by Jack Daniels. So honored to have been given the opportunity to join Justin for this event, He told me I didn't want to miss "the Jack".
    Thanks Justin for being so crazy,my life is never dull with you in it.
    Love Cheryl

  3. See Justin, Cheryl does read your blog!!! (Ha ha) Thanks again for letting me be a part of it. Good luck (x2) in Douglas.