Grilling more than 50 pounds of beef, chicken and pork for a group of six people seems like a lot, but for the husband and wife team of Robert Vanderipe and Lex Vanegas, it's a typical event.

Vanegas and Vanderipe are fairly new in the world of competitive barbecuing but are beginning to build up quite a reputation.

"We've been competing in the Kansas City Barbeque Society professional division since March," said Vanegas, a contractor working with the Army Contracting Command Chief information Office, G6.

"So far, we've competed in 13 professional contests including the Decatur (Ala.) Riverfest and the Whistlestop barbecue competition in Huntsville (Ala.). Prior to that, we competed in four backyard contests starting in September 2011."

Known as the Smoke Me Silly BBQ Team, the duo has captured three first-place and three second-place finishes, as well as 17 top-10 calls in the various categories. The competitive barbecue season is between March and November.

Their best showing was at the Stand By Your Grill Competition in Fulton, Miss., where their pork scored a perfect 180. The team was recently ranked as the third-best professional barbeque team in the state of Alabama, on the Alabama Barbecue Trail, by the Alabama Barbeque Association.

"We have done really well for our first year in competition," Vanegas said. "We have finished overall in the top 10 in six of the contests that we have entered, and have never finished lower than 19th place in a contest. "

Since March, the two have competed in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

"We may venture farther out in the future, but we are working to get our recipes and processes down first," said Vanegas.

The couple started their charcoal-fuzed adventure after Vanderipe was asked by his company to help out after they entered a barbecue contest.

"In addition to helping out with the logistics, we were also in charge of cooking the chicken," said Vanderipe. "Even though we didn't do well, we had so much fun that we were hooked. Barbecue competitions seemed like tailgating with a purpose."

Declaring chicken and pork as their best categories, the couple said their brisket is getting better every contest.

"Lex is in charge of putting together the turn-in boxes, which take about four hours to complete, and I'm in charge of the set-up and running the smokers," Vanderipe said. "We are both involved in the overall cooking process of all four meats. We are a team.

"We don't do any grilling for competition. All the cooking is done indirectly on the smoker," Vanderipe said. "We normally cook 18 pieces of chicken, 4 racks of ribs, 4 pork butts, and one brisket."

Moving up from New Orleans about four years ago, the couple thought barbecue competitions would be a great way to explore the surrounding areas and also meet new people.

"We see many of the same teams at the competitions we have done throughout the year, and it's amazing how willing the other teams are to help the new teams out," Vanegas said. "Barbeque teams refer to other teams routinely seen on the barbecue trail as their extended barbeque family."

Page last updated Wed September 26th, 2012 at 14:30