Memphis in May

There is nothing like setting yourself an impossible challenge. Repeating the same style of cooking, taking on the same people time and time again doesn’t give you a chance to improve and measure your skills against the best in the world. With this in mind I decided to compete at Memphis in May, the world pork championships and in an even crazier decision decided to cook whole hog.

This was going to be a long trip with days of preparation prior to the event. I pulled together a team to help me out, Alan Low, Ed Tory, Richard Coleman and Derek Hardy. We all headed to Memphis at different times. I arrived first to prepare the rubs and sauces which needed a few days to gel after being mixed. The hotel room looked like a local grocery store but that’s half the fun!

We entered all of the side categories but the main focus was on whole hog. 2 x 160lb pigs were trimmed, rubbed and injected and went onto the Ole Hickory Pits CTO Double Wide at about 4 pm. Cooking over hickory, oak, apple, and with a night of people trying to entertain us with all sorts including several bottles of homemade moonshine we let the cooker do the work.

We were running a little late and the blind judging box was rammed with pork. I didn’t know what the judges were looking for and wasn’t particularly happy with the texture but the judges seemed to like it!

3 judges came round to the pitch for onsite judging. This was completely new to us so just decided to be honest, explain our cook and talk about flavour profiles. Once that round was done we relaxed. We didn’t think there was a chance of progressing to the final, let’s face it all of these teams were pros, the rules and judging system was completely new and more importantly I hadn’t cooked a whole hog before!

Halfway through buying t-shirts for the kids I got a tap on the shoulder by an excited team mate; “we are in the final” I won’t repeat what I said but was completely thrown!

An hour later we were visited by 4 judges at the same time to decide the top 3; another hour later we received the news on stage that we came 2nd!!! This is the highest ever finish by an international team in the events 37 year history!!

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