Chow Town

I’m headed to Memphis in May to check out the barbecue and compare it to the American Royal


Savory clouds of smoke won’t be rising over the Truman Sports Complex — the American Royal Barbecue Competition’s new home — until Oct. 2.

In the meantime, I’m headed to the Memphis in May Barbecue Cooking Contest for a weekend of porcine debauchery. My goal: To get a feel for what makes both competitions similar and different.

After all, the Royal has trademarked itself as “The World Series of Barbecue” while MIM, which starts today, has been dubbed the “Mardi Gras of Barbecue.”

MIM kicked off in 1978 in Tom Lee Park, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. The Royal was started in 1980 in the parking lot of the Golden Ox, then spread to the stockyards area of the West Bottoms, growing into the largest competition in the country.

While Kansas City’s event is fairly omnivorous, Memphis insists pork is king — it’s the only meat allowed for competition cooking. All participants must also compete in a whole hog category. To round things out, there’s a “Ms. Piggie Idol” contest where I’m told grown men don coconut bras, grass skits and pig snouts and go hog callin’.

And if that’s not enough drama, the MIM teams add a unique twist with on-site judging, which I’m told includes elaborate themes and outrageous showmanship.

I’ll be able to hang out with Carolyn Wells and Ardie Davis, founders of the American Royal barbecue and sauce competitions, respectively; both are judging, although, sadly, MIM does not use Ardie to administer The Oath to all judges.

I’ll also check in with KC teams in Memphis competing on Saturday. The teams include Braizin’ Assets and Meat Mitch. Aporkalypse Now, which competes at the Royal, will also be there.

When I’m not hanging out at the competition, I’ll be stuffing myself with still more barbecue from legendary Memphis joints, so watch my Instagram accounts @jillwsilva and @chowtownkc, Twitter at @kcstarfood, as well as Facebook for morsels throughout the four-day event.

Chow Town’s resident barbecue blogger Ardie Davis has a tasty route mapped out (and he will be reporting his finds over the next few weeks), but we’re always up for delicious detours. Barbecue spaghetti, anyone?

And it wouldn’t be a trip to Memphis if I wasn’t keeping my eyes peeled for those all-important Elvis sightings.