Local barbecue team headed to World Food Championships in Dallas

Lynchburg’s vet Dr. Bryant Morton (far left) and The Barking Pig BBQ team members Duane Regynski (middle) and Tripp Kingree (right) pose in Gadsden, Alabama on April 9. Their combined high score at Smoke on the Falls earned them a “golden ticket” to the World Food Championships in Dallas this weekend. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

FLAT CREEK, Tenn. — It’s Monday afternoon and local veterinarian Dr. Bryant Morton’s trying to get his ducks in a row – or in this case cows in a row – before he leaves town. He’s always a busy man but this week, he’s especially busy as he and his competition barbecue teammates, Duane Regynski and Tripp Kingree, pack up and head to Dallas, Texas for the World Food Championships (WFC).

Dr. Morton self-describes as a vet, local beef producer, and 24/7 foodie. He launched his competitive barbecue team back in 2017. He and his wife, Wendy, bought a competition rig in 2018 and the team qualified for the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue’s Shade Tree division in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Dr. Morton spends his days caring for the dogs, cats, and farm animals of Lynchburg and more often that not spends his weekends barbecuing –– competitively and for the public.

The Barking Pig BBQ team earned a “golden ticket” to compete in the WFC last April at Smoke on the Falls. And what’s funny is that Dr. Morton says he didn’t even realize that the Gadsden, Alabama barbecue competition was a qualifier for the prestigious cooking competition.

“They made a really big deal about the fact that an amateur team had won that “golden ticket,” Dr. Morton told us back in April. “Once we started looking at the resumes of some of the other teams that have won the World Food Championships before, it really hit home. There are some impressive teams on that list.”

On Wednesday, the trio and their entourage will pack up and make the over 10 hour drive to Dallas to compete in the Ultimate Food Fight. The Lynchburg Times caught up with Dr.Morton on Monday afternoon to talk about what his team’s been doing since April to get prepared for the event.

LT: So since qualifying in April, how many barbecue competitions have you cooked in and how did you use those events to get ready for this weekend?

Dr. Morton: “We’ve competed in four. We cooked in a Moose Lodge competition in April then headed to Poosa Q in Montgomery in May. We came in second in dessert there. We placed well but didn’t get any other calls. After that, we headed to Whistle Stop Weekend in Huntsville in September. We just got back from Railyard BBQ & Music Festival in Madison, where we won our first professional grand championship. If there’d been just four more teams at that event, we’d would have qualified for The Jack draw in 2023. We would have also qualified to compete in the American Royal World Series of BBQ in Kansas City, which is the largest barbecue contest in the world.”

LT: Tell us a little bit about the logistics of getting to Dallas. What’s involved?

Dr. Morton: “There are six of us going. Myself and Wendy, Duane, and Tripp as well as Deborah Sample. She and Wendy help us plate things. If we get to compete on Sunday, the plating is a big deal. Ron Stevens will also go with us. He’s part of another professional team. He volunteered to drive the RV and he’ll also help us cook. He’s got a lot of good ideas and experience.”

“We’ve rented a house for the weekend and we’ll also take the RV. Since we have to get up so early in the morning to cook, the teams will probably sleep in the RV. The WFC requires everything in the competition trailer and the RV that we use to cook for the event to be brand new, unopened, and in the package. It’s not like going to a regular barbecue competition where you can take little bits of things you like and mix them all together. We’re cooking chicken, ribs, and brisket for this event … no pork. We plan to leave Wednesday and get there a day early in case we run into any surprises. We’ll compete Friday and Saturday and if we move forward, we’ll get to cook on Sunday.”

LT: So you basically have to cook three competitions in three days? That’s pretty intense.

Dr. Morton: “Hopefully. Well, we at least get to do two. It is pretty intense but we’ve prepared a lot for it. At this point, it becomes a little bit of muscle memory. On Saturday, we’ll cook according to International Barbecue Cookers of America (IBCA) rules, which differ from Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) rules. We’ve never turned in boxes the way they require teams to turn in boxes before. There’s no garnish. It’s just meat in a box. They also require teams to cook two half chickens. I’ve never done that before in a contest ever. You’ve got three different pieces of meat in a half chicken: dark meat, breast, and wing. The challenge is to get each part cooked the way it needs to be because they all cook different. That will be an interesting challenge.”

“Our team seems to do best when we’re nudged outside the box. I think we’ve got a really good game plan. Tuffy Stone says something in one of his books and I wrote it down and posted it in our competition RV. He says: You plan your cook and you cook your plan. That’s what we’ll do and the chips are gonna fall where the chips are gonna fall.”

LT: Tuffy Stone, who just left Lynchburg after serving as an unofficial master-of-ceremonies at the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Championship Barbecue in October, will be one of the celebrity pitmasters at the event. I know you’re one of his biggest fans. What do you think the odds are that you’ll be able to connect with him this weekend?

Dr. Morton: “He’ll be one of our judges. Tuffy Stone, Chris Lilly, Harry Soo … there are some big name barbecue folks that I really look up to who are gonna be there. He’s very easy to reach out to and super approachable. If I see him, I’ll certainly make an effort to connect.”

LT: You told us in April, that cooking at The Jack is really your ultimate goal. Do you think the process of getting ready for this competition has moved you closer to that goal?

Dr. Morton: “I just think our team’s getting better all the time. We’ve got all the right pieces in the right places. We just need to keep competing and keep doing what we’re doing and I think The Jack is a realistic goal at some point. There’s also a lot of luck involved with that. We’ve got a great team and great equipment. All the pieces are there. Now, it’s just about being consistent and getting lucky.”

The World Food Competitions will take place over several days in Fair Park located in Dallas, Texas. If you want to learn more about it, you can visit their website by clicking here. If you’d like to follow the Barking Pigs BBQ’s journey along the way, you can like their Facebook page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}