Southern Agenda

Tales from the Pit

“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and this contest brings in the top pitmasters from all over the world,” says Josh Cooper, head chef for Swinos, a Memphis-based rib team and previous champions in the Beef, Sauce, and Exotic categories of the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (May 15–18). “After cooking for five straight days, you need an IV, a vacation, and a detox,” Cooper says about the ongoing party at Liberty Park. His team of more than fifty rib savants knows the competition is intense, with teams vying for more than $150,000 in prize money and the title of world champion. Most pitmasters guard their secrets, but Cooper is willing to offer up one: “A great springtime ingredient is fennel—it pairs really well with pork.”