It wouldn’t be a complete Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue without a home team of Jack employees vying for the prize. For the third year in a row, Black Label Smokers will compete in the Shade Tree Division this weekend. Made up of Jack Daniel employees Jason Bobo, Joseph Caldwell, Wesley Richardson, and Daniel Smith, the quartet met through work but developed a love of competitive cooking by facing off with one another.
“We competed against each other two separate times,” says Bobo. (Wesley and Daniel on one team and Joseph and Bobo on another.) “Each winning one apiece … after that we decided to join together for a team.”
The blended team became a winning combination. The team finished fifth in pork shoulder that first year. Then started competing locally at other events like High on the Hog and the Lincoln County Fair.
They’ve won a “Top 10 finish at the High on the Hog and first place finish in chicken at the Lincoln County Fair,” according to Bobo and they are just getting started. When asked if they’d eventually like to earn an invitation to compete in The Jack, the answer is an enthusiastic, yes.
“Absolutely!! We would love to make it into the pro ranks,” says Bobo.
They’ve also set a goal to snag a top five overall finish this year with the ultimate goal of being crowned champion.
Preparations for this weekend started over a week ago. Bobo says they used the Lincoln County Fair competition as a test run this year as well as practice cooking at Caldwell’s house.
When asked about their favorite spot in Wiseman Park to set up, Bobo jokes that it’s “anyplace that will seem to be a little bit dry.”
“We found ourselves in a low spot in 2017 and there was ankle deep-water all-around cook site. After that we look at the lay of the land to see if we can find the ‘high ground.'”
Competitive cooking is as much about the smoking as it is about the camaraderie. Bobo says the Black Label Smokers enjoy meeting and getting to know the other teams in all the competitions. He also stresses that the event’s a group effort.
“I am listed as the chief cook for this event but is definitely a team effort. Each one of us has strong points that complement one another. One person seems to do the chicken, one does the ribs, one does the plating, one cutting, one does the shoulder.”
You can follow their journey this weekend by following the Black Label Smokers Facebook page. Good luck guys. •