The Smokestack Lightning Interview Tapes: Cleveland Rib Mafia

Here we have another segment from the Smokestack Lightning interview tapes. Jim Quessenberry tells his story of locking horns in Cleveland over ribs, and how his ribs went missing like Jimmy Hoffa.

The Smokestack Lightning Interview Tapes: Jim Quessenberry’s BBQ Origins

I have recently come across some amazing recordings that I believed were lost to time. But, I did a little research and uncovered these amazing treasures. I reached out to author Lolis Elie, and he directed me to the Southern Foodways Alliance. He had donated all of the cassettes to them. There is more to come… Listen below as dad tells Lolis Elie and Frank Stewart a little about his beginnings in BBQ. -Michael Quessenberry

Interview with Jim Quessenberry by Lolis Elie and Frank Stewart

Lolis Elie: [00:00:01] Well, how did you get into this barbecue business? And, you can go back before the sauces themselves… the sauce and rub…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:10] Um… It’s been basically a hobby all my life, and…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:16] Actually, BBQ has been a big part of… uh…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:21] Most of our family… uh… celebrations… be it Easter,

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:28] Fourth of July, all your three day weekends, like your labor day, and Memorial Day, and that type of thing, you know?

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:37] Um… Even Christmas.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:39] Somebody’s always barbecue and something, you know, my brother-in-law over here. He always prided himself and doing a wild goose. I think it’s wild… maybe domestic… he always does a goose for Christmas and you know, I’m always doing something Christmas a big fresh ham or something, but…

Lolis Elie: [00:00:56] You say fresh ham, you mean green or like…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:59] Yeah Green ham. Yeah. I didn’t know you knew what a green ham was man.. Where you been learning all this shit?

Lolis Elie: [00:01:04] I used to read Green Eggs and Ham, man.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:04] *laughs*

Frank Stewart: [00:01:05] He’s a smart boy.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:06] Yeah he is.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:13] You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what a green… what green meat is.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:17] Oh no, I, We… The people at Craig’s and Duvall’s Bluff.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:21] Yeah.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:21] I was trying to figure out if they were doing green or slightly smoked, so I got the terminology. But I can tell you where I got it from. The guy at Cozy Corner, Ray Robinson… When you go talk to him, tell him, Uh.. you know, tell him you know us. In fact, we told him we come here to see you.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:34] Yeah.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:34] We told him about you.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:36] Yeah, I want to meet him.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:37] Also, he has a totally different style from everybody else… If we even talk about food… half… shoot… At this point, half the time it’s not about barbecue. It’s one of our stop off points. If we finish, you know, doing Memphis in May, We will crash there for a minute.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:51] Yeah, I’m gonna check him out, but I need me a new place to stop.

Frank Stewart: [00:01:54] Oh Yeah. He’s efficient. He closes at 7.

Jim Quessenberry [00:01:54] Oh really?

Lolis Elie: [00:02:02] Yeah.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:02:02] Independent type dude… That’s what I like.

Frank Stewart: [00:02:03] Opens promptly at 10, and closes promptly at 7.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:02:03] That’s great!

Frank Stewart: [00:02:03] He is not open on Sunday and Monday.

Lolis Elie: [00:02:03] Right.

Jim Quessenberry’s Prime Rib

Jim and his Arkansas Trav’lers cooking team took the grand prize and first place for his prime rib recipe at the Irish Cup Invitational Barbecue Festival in Ireland in 1985. Timing is important on this one; practice makes perfect!

1 5-pound standing rib roast,
nicely marbled

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 bottle of Sauce Beautiful – White

1/4 cup olive oil

Freshly cracked black peppercorns

With a boning knife, carefully separate the rib bones from the roast, keeping them in one piece. Then remove the lip, or fat, layer in one piece. This will leave you with three pieces of meat: the ribs, the lip, and the ribeye.

Sprinkle the ribeye with garlic powder, then reassemble the three pieces and tie them tightly with butcher’s string, binding each rib. Brush the roast generously with olive oil, then cover the entire surface with cracked pepper. Insert a meat thermometer in the center of the roast.

Cook in a closed barbecue unit (Jim preferred his Weber kettle) over medium (250°F) indirect heat. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, checking frequently after 2 hours, to an internal temperature of 140°F for medium rare. Then wrap the roast tightly in foil and head for the kitchen; it’s carving time. (The foil wrap is important, as it allows the roast a little extra steaming time.) Carve into slices at least 1/2-inch thick There should be a slice to fit everyone’s preference, from the well-done outside tot he rare center. Serve with Sauce Beautiful – White.

Serves 10

Pioneering Days of BBQ

In the early days of competition BBQ, the rules were just being written. It was like the “wild west” days of BBQ. Many techniques were not mainstream, and even some at the time were considered cheating, such as injection. In this audio clip from 1987, Jim Quessenberry gives Ardie Davis a tour of his whole hog smoker, which at one time had a propane burner in it. The main source of heat was the propane, but it was indirect, and allowed for using logs for the smoke flavor. The thing was as big as a camper trailer and cook easily 4 or more hogs at the same time. Listen below…

Jim Quessenberry and Ardie Davis talk smokers and whole hog.

Jim Q: 00:00
Alright, when I built this thing, I built it to take to Cleveland to a rib championship, but cost efficiency is the main thing there, You know? I have this burner here… This 500,000 Btu burner, It came out of one of these green house furnaces. Alright, that burner, See I use instead of a wood box under there… And then I put me a little log in there for the smoke. You dig? All right, see you draw your heat underneath your water jacket, back up, and back across and it pulls that little hickory smoke over and back. Okay… The Memphians and all, had a little problem with the rules. They didn’t want a propane man out here. So… I built that firebox. It does a wonderful job. It’s just a little slower than propane. Hey my man… (talking to a passer by)

Ardie D: 00:53
I didn’t taste any…

Jim Q: 00:54
Alright! Alright! How you doing? I’m Jim Quessenberry. Good to see ya. (talking to a passer by)

Ardie D: 00:57
I didn’t taste any whole hogs worth a smoke that was as good as yours.

Jim Q: 01:00
Thanks… now, part of that is the wood I use.

Jim Q: 01:04
What we do… We cut that hickory…

Ardie D: 01:06
You can see that red ring on it.

Jim Q: 01:08
That’s Sandy… That’s my girlfriend.

Ardie D: 01:09
You got it hands down… or there’s something wrong.

Jim Q: 01:21
Man I appreciate that, but I’m so damn anxious, I don’t wanna know. I don’t wanna disappoint myself if I don’t make it.

Ardie D: 01:21
You can’t. That’s the thing. I mean uh… in a contest like… You can come in last…

Jim Q: 01:26
Well sure…

Ardie D: 01:27
I don’t know… I don’t know what it is. He makes the best that I’ve tasted here. I mean, it is good stuff.

Jim Q: 01:35
Boy, I appreciate that… Grab you a little nibble off that shoulder over there. That’ll give you a little sample right there.

Jim “The Arkansas Trav’ler” Quessenberry: Serious Contender for The Barbecue Hall of Fame®? The BBQ Central Show Thinks So.

Steve Ray standing in for Greg Rempe as the guest host of The BBQ Central Show asked the other embedded correspondents of the show, Doug Shiding, David Huff, and Jon Solberg who they would choose to be inducted into the The Barbecue Hall of Fame®.

Steve Ray and Jon Solberg both gave a nod to Jim “The Arkansas Trav’ler” Quessenberry due to his pioneering career in competition barbecue along with the impact he made on many current barbecue legends, teams, and competitions along the way.

We’re all holding our breath until 2pm CDT May 29, 2019 when Greg Rempe will announce the winners on the show. Wish us luck! Live stream is below:

https://www.youtube.com/user/rdrempe/live

Barbecue Hall of Fame Semi-Finalist Press Release

MEDIA ALERT

Will Gregory

American Royal Public Relations
[email protected]
816-645-6116

Kansas City, MO., May 24, 2019 — The American Royal is pleased to announce the Barbecue
Hall of Fame® 2019 Top 9 Semi-finalists from this year’s nominees.

  • John “Big Daddy” Bishop, Tuscaloosa, LA
  • Aaron Franklin, Austin, TX
  • Meathead Goldwyn, Chicago, IL
  • Michael Ray Higgins, Mesquite, TX
  • James Lemons, Chicago, IL
  • C.B. Stubblefield, Lubbock, TX & Austin, TX
  • Wayne Monk, Lexington, NC
  • Jim Quessenberry, Memphis, TN
  • Desiree Robinson, Memphis, TN

Each year, the Barbecue Hall of Fame has the pristine honor of inducting three individuals that have
impacted the world of BBQ. For a full calendar year, nominations for this honor are sent in from
individuals throughout the world and this year, we received over 50 nominations. At the close of the nomination period, each individual nominated is reviewed by the Hall of Fame
Nominating Committee and the list is reduced to the top nine. The nine semi-finalists are then reviewed and voted on by Hall of Fame voting members. Voting members include the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and all living Hall of Fame Inductees.

The three 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees will be announced on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Barbecue Hall of Fame Induction ceremony and events will take place during the 40th American Royal World Series of Barbecue® held at the Kansas Speedway, September 13 – 15, 2019.

 

About the American Royal Association

Woven through the history of Kansas City since 1899, the American Royal provides opportunities for
youth and adults from around the country to compete in our Livestock Show, ProRodeo, Horse Shows,and the World Series of Barbecue®. These events allow the American Royal, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization, to give over $1 million annually for youth scholarships and support agriculture education programs. In 2018, over 101,000 attendees attended American Royal events generating over $60 million of economic impact.

To learn more about the American Royal visit AmericanRoyal.com.

The Beautiful Imperial BBQ Stew

This is a recipe that uses a Dutch Oven, it could be modified for a Crockpot, but I’m not sure how the timing would work out.

  • Serves 4-6
  • Cook time: 55 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients

The recipe takes quite a few ingredients including beer so get ready for a hearty meal.

  • 2 lbs of Stew beef, chuck preferably
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 medium white potatoes (skinning optional) chopped into 1” chunks
  • One large onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 11oz of Imperial Porter Beer (a smoky malt is the best)
  • 5oz of Jim Quessenberry’s Sauce Beautiful
  • 2 Tablespoons of Grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • Ground sea salt, ground pepper, seasoning salt, smoked paprika to taste

 

Instructions

  1. Put the dutch oven on a medium burner with the grapeseed oil.
  2. When the oil is rippling put in the stew beef and turn until evenly browned, add the garlic and flour in halfway through this process.
  3. Dump the Carrots, Potatoes and Onion in the dutch oven, add salt, pepper and paprika.
  4. Add Imperial stout, careful it may froth up.
  5. Add Sauce Beautiful
  6. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes or until simmering. Turn on oven to 350°
  7. Set dutch oven on a middle rack for 20 minutes.
  8. When 20 minutes is up check on stew, if it is not thickening enough, cook for the last remaining 20 minutes uncovered.
  9. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

 

Serve in a bowl with a glass of the same porter beer and a hunk of hearty bread to sop up the broth.

Jim Quessenberry Remembered

The big young man in denim overalls, baby blue polo, curly red hair from head to chin, and baby blue eyes sat there in his team booth at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Tom Lee Park on the banks of the Mississippi. I happened by on that sunny day in 1987 as he was holding court. He beckoned me to “Come on in!”

We had instant rapport. His Southern drawl; the mischievous twinkle in his eye, and his knack for telling stories that were believable and full of chuckles bonded us as friends for life right there and then.

As Jim told me about his hog—how it was nurtured by Mennonite pig farmers with the best of diets and tender loving care—not even allowed to wallow in mud—he handed me a cold beer and shared a few racy hearsay anecdotes about Arkansas Governor Clinton, along with some Elvis jokes. When I thanked him for his hospitality and said I needed to move on, he said, “You come back tomorrow afternoon and help us eat the rest of this hog when the judges are done with it. I guarantee it’s best tasting hog you or any of the judges have ever eaten.” I did return the next afternoon, and I swear to this day I have never tasted a more tender, flavorful, seasoned-to-perfection barbecued hog in my lifetime. That hog should have won Jim the Grand Championship. I’ll never understand why it didn’t.

From then on we were brothers in smoke for eternity. Memphis, Des Moines, Kansas City—we cooked, partied, philosophized, drank, smoked, and had fun—year after year, and kept in touch with phone calls between times. We worked on a Barbecue Whole Earth Catalog that never saw publisher’s ink, but we had fun working on it and dreaming about what a success it would be.

Ardie Davis and Michael Quessenberry catching up at Memphis in May 2019.

Jim Quessenberry is an American Original. Jim and Arthur, his right hand man, plus Donna, his wife, and Lee and Michael, his sons—they know barbecue, and I am elated that Jim’s legacy lives on from father to sons. Today Jim smokes heavenly hogs while Lee and Michael smoke hogs and other meats here on Planet Earth. Kudos to them for picking up Jim’s tongs, firing up his pits, making and marketing his fantastic Arkansas Trav’ler sauces and rub, and giving Jim’s many fans a double dose of red-haired Quessenberry magic! Blessed are they who knew Ques. Long live his legacy!

Bonjourno! Like I Said, “Third Best!” Sauce Beautiful Gold Takes Third in “World’s Largest” American Royal BBQ Sauce Contest

Bonjourno! So we did a little thing and entered our brand new Gold Sauce in the KCBS/American Royal “Best Sauce on the Planet” contest and took third place in the mustard based category! The “Best Sauce on the Planet” is an honor given as part of the Annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue® tour and is the largest contest of its kind in the world. It featured nearly 400 entries from 36 states and 8 countries.

Break it Down

Category winners took top honors in five unique categories with an overall winner taking the “Best Sauce on the Planet” overall win. Congratulations to all the winners. We’re honored to be among friends as well as the best of the best. We look forward to seeing you all in the future.

  • Entries were all received by April 26th, 2019.
  • The categories were Mild, Hot, Vinegar, Mustard, and Specialty.
  • Sauces were individually tested in a blind taste test on unseasoned pulled pork.
  • The top awarded sauce in each category was crowned first place in the category where the highest overall score was named “Best Sauce on the Planet.”

 

Category Winners:

HOT TOMATO
1st Place – Pine Ridge Jalapeno Barbecue, Herbadashery LLC – Casper, WY
2nd Place – Q Barbeque Hot Zing Sauce, Q Barbeque – Glen Allen, VA
3rd Place – Meat Mitch Whomp! Competition Sauce, Meat Mitch – Shawnee Mission, KS

MILD TOMATO
1st Place – BONZ Barb BQ Sauce Original Flavor, J Pope Unlimited – West Lafayette, IN
2nd Place – Buckingham, Spicewine Ironworks – Columbia, MO
3rd Place – Triple Crown Organic BBQ Sauce Classic, Acme Organics LLC – Minneapolis, MN

MUSTARD
1st Place – Pine Ridge Sweet Mustard Sauce, Herbadashery LLC – Casper, WY
2nd Place – TD’s Brew & BBQ “Southern Mustard”, TD’s Brew & BBQ – Lovington, NM
3rd Place – Jim Quessenberry’s Sauce Beautiful – Gold, Bluff City BBQ Supply, LLC – Memphis, TN

VINEGAR
1st Place – FireFly Competition Sauce, Firefly Barbecue Limited – Glossop, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
2nd Place – Memphis Mop BBQ Sauce, BBQ Buddha – New Egypt, NJ
3rd Place – Rob’s Sweet Sophistication, Rob’s Smokin Rub & Frog Sauce – Manteca, CA

SPECIALTY
1st Place – BONZ Barb BQ Sauce Bold Flavor, J Pope Unlimited – West Lafayette, IN
2nd Place – JR Okie Smokie Gourmet BBQ Sauce – Chipotle, JR Okie Smokie LLC – Edmond, OK
3rd Place – Raspberry Tequila Lime, New Venue LLC ( Down Under BBQ) – Fridley, MN

 

What it Means to Us

We were thrilled to be a part of history and are even more thrilled to further cement Jim Quessenberry’s legacy in the history of championship barbecue. Using this honor to bolster our fanbase, we intend to continue our expansion of sales with online sales and local grocers. We’d like to take a few minutes to thank our fans, friends, and families for enabling us to grow even as we continue to press on with our busy schedules and day to day lives. It’s truly awesome to continue on with a legacy while paving new roads into the future of barbecue.

Pat Yourselves on the Back

We’d like to thank the following people for their help taste testing, labeling, bottling, mixing, and developing Sauce Beautiful Gold:

 

Product Development and Taste Testers

  • Jeff Marchetta
  • Patrick Wilson-Marchetta
  • Krystal Quessenberry
  • Donna Hill
  • Aaron Houston
  • Amanda Marks
  • Steven Trotter
  • Crystal Phillips
  • Brad Benefield
  • Natausha Light-Benefield

 

Lock ’N’ Load Tailgate Team

  • Jeremy McGinnis
  • Jim McGinnis
  • Jennifer McGinnis
  • Hannah McGinnis
  • Tommy Rohlfing
  • Josh Melton
  • Jeff Chastain
  • Josh Roberts
  • JoAnn Roberts

 

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Fulfillment

  • Delta Cuisine & Arkansas State University Mid-South, West Memphis, AR
  • Packaging Solutions Group, Jonesboro, AR
  • Arkansas Glass Co., Jonesboro, AR
  • Master Print Group, Jonesboro, AR
  • Hays Food Town, Northeast Arkansas
  • Food Smart, Jonesboro, AR
  • Food Giant, Northeast and Central, AR
  • Harp’s, Jonesboro, AR

Thanks to everyone for making this happen!

 

Lee and Michael Quessenberry

Hey Joe! Where You going with that fork in your hand?

Holy smokes! We’re giving away a Weber Smokey Joe just to see who can step up and claim bragging rights for their recipes involving tabletop grills. Think you have a good dish? Well then dish it out.

Are you the master of bratwurst at your local picnic table? Do you live in a van down by the river but yearn to entertain guests by cooking steaks one at a time? Are you a vegan looking to start small on your journey to real food? If so, the Smokey Joe is right for you. If you already have one and are an ace grillmaster of all things small, let us know. We want to hear about it. Leave a comment below and be sure to check out our latest giveaway.

In the mean time, here’s a simple bratwurst recipe fit for a tabletop king!

Go get some Johnsonville Brats at your nearest grocery store. If you like the cheese ones, that’s cool. We’re going to add a little twist of flavor to them that will set you apart from the rest of your tailgate team. Got the brats? Okay good. Fire up the Smokey Joe with a handful of coal.

Now we need some other ingredients. Crack a cold one. Drink about half of the beer just to get your mind set and then fill the can or bottle back up with Sauce Beautiful to make a 1:1 beer to sauce ratio mix.

This is where the magic happens. Pour that beersauce mix into a sauce pan or some other kind of container where you can mix it up. If you have a baste brush, that’s great. If you don’t, get a spoon and get to mixing. Once the beersauce is mixed well, set the brats in the pan and let them rest while you carve up an onion.

Mince or slice the onion into pieces that are just small enough to be bitesized but not too small that they can fall through the grill later on. Roll up some foil and/or use a camp pot or small pan with a quarter stick of butter and the onion slices. Dash them with Jim Quessenberry’s Steak Beautiful for a nice even seasoning and then sautee them in the foil/pan/pot over the coals of the Smokey Joe. 

While the onions are cooking and making things smell so good, make sure your fire has a nice pleasant orange and white glow but not raging with flames. Lay the brats on and let them warm. DON’T BURN THE DAMN THINGS! I’ll know. Brats are best cooked slow. Eventually the brats will begin to plump over the warm coals. Baste them a few times with the beer sauce mix. Let them warm until they look like they’re going to explode. That way they’re super juicy. Pull a view onion slivers from your sautée pan/pouch and place them over the brats to get a little char grill flavor.

Once the brats are plump, you can serve them. Take them up along with the onions and serve on large hot dog buns. Spread a few onions on top and drizzle with sauce beautiful for a nice summertime treat at the campsite or back yard.

If you’re interested in more information on the Smokey Joe, here’s a brief history from Weber.