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In the 1980’s championship BBQ competitions were a fledgling sport with many amazing and talented competitors fighting for bragging rights. It was a young sport with wild ambitions and huge ideas to unfold over the next 35+ years. Jim and his crew of farmers, lawyers, doctors, cousins, friends, and outlaws began to get known for their crazy antics and amazing food. After a few years they were invited to compete among other world renown chefs from all over the world in the first ever International Cooking Competition held in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland. Jim along with his sister Becky went to Ireland and took home the inaugural trophy signifying the first well known world championship in competition barbecue cooking.
Jim Quessenberry was born on this date (May 3) in 1948 as the second child of three during the baby-boomer era to James and Anne Quessenberry of Birdeye, AR. He grew up between two loving sisters, Becky and Beth, with his work cut out for him and a mischievous grin on his face nearly all the time. He was very much into football and making music with his friends and always sought out life to the fullest. One of Jim’s earliest voyages into cooking food professionally was his stint as the general manager of the famous Britling’s Cafeteria in Memphis, TN. He spent some time in Memphis getting to know new people and began participating in cooking exhibitions and competitions regionally and locally. Jim was one of the pioneers during the infancy of Memphis in May as a competitor with a handful of other aspiring legends under one tent in the Orpheum Theatre parking lot. Since then Memphis in May has grown to become the “Super Bowl” of competition BBQ festivals and has made the careers of Chris Lily, Myron Mixon, and other legendary pitmasters that are seen on TV today.
After winning a second International Cup in 1987, Jim and his crew had amassed several grand championships, 1st-runner-ups, and auxiliary championship wins from Cleveland to Dallas, Memphis to Ireland, and Kansas City to Nashville. Then the boys (my brother and I) started growing up. Once we were able to light a fire and cook a rack of ribs, Dad turned his attention towards family competitions and began to teach us all of his trade skills. He wasn’t in it for the fame, but for the bragging rights and to make people happy. Memphis in May had been a staple of our summer vacation for 16 years when my Dad finally gave it up to focus on the roots of championship BBQ and his family. He began to tout us as the youngest team on the circuit until we were met by a team in Nashville that undercut our ages by a year respectively at 6 and 4 years old. We even placed 5th in ribs while competing in Nashville, TN although we may have actually just used some of Dad’s ribs on our own Weber kettle to take the win. Honestly at the time, Michael and I were more worried with visiting the theme park at Opryland rather than cooking at the competition, but nevertheless, we started young participating in competitions and learning a trade that would become a passion for us.
So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell and now we’ve been using Dad’s secret recipes as the basis of our products and we are able to share our passion with the world thanks to the skills we learned from Dad. Happy Birthday Daddio!