It was 1975 and a lot of Houston restaurants were entering the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo BBQ Cook-Off. This was a first for the "Guy’s Market Team" although we’ve been cooking and serving BBQ since 1958 in the shadow of the 'Dome in Houston. So, we paid our fee and loaded up the van with ice boxes full of meat (and not a small amount of beer), one steel drum BBQ pit, wood, lawn chairs, butcher paper for our “official sign”, and a 6 foot folding table. When we arrived we were shown to our assigned spot in the huge parking lot south of the ‘Dome. That’s when we found out just how serious people were about this BBQ Cook-Off stuff. I mean there were teams with huge custom pits on trailers painted to match their pickups. Some were painted with flames and looked like an oil blowout. Many had rolling mobile mansions instead of pickups and some were wearing matching “cowboy” outfits. Whoa! If gear and costumes weighed in we were already out of the game. We did have clothes on but nothing matched as you can see in the picture of the award ceremony. In those days the public wandered around and enjoyed sampling the free BBQ so we began checking out the competition. Hmmm…if taste mattered we were in good shape. After several trips back to the store to get forgotten items, we got the pit started and began cooking. Many, many beers later we hadn’t been told to fold up and go home so we found the judges tent and tried to figure out what was going on. All we knew was we were still in the running. Back to the store for more meat, wood, beer and other supplies. Cell phones would have really been nice. Time passed, the judging teams changed several times but we were still in the running. Finally, it was down to two teams and we couldn’t believe one of them was us. Well, we got second but the trophy was huge and we were happy....and tired. Load’em up and let’s head for the house.
We’ll never forget that experience (and most of us are still working or at least hanging around Guy’s Market after 30 years) but never entered another cook-off. That was for very serious teams with time on weekends to make these trips. We had proved our cooking skills (with a lot of help from Guy’s Seasoning) and left it at that. I don’t think there was ever another BBQ Cook-Off competition that big and well-attended at the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. Cook-Offs were at their peak and Terlingua had become the capital of the World Chili Cook-Off.