Alabama BBQ master defies storms, floods to win big in Memphis
Tasty BBQ shoulder, courtesy of Big Bob Gibson's Chris Lilly.
May 16th, 2011
12:46 PM ET

Alabama BBQ master defies storms, floods to win big in Memphis

To win one of the biggest barbecue competitions in the world and walk away with $20,000 tucked into your apron, you have to know one thing.

"The greatness of a pit master is determined by the size of his ash pile. You gotta let that wood and charcoal burn and burn," said Chris Lilly, the newly crowned king of the Memphis in May World Champion Barbecue Contest. The Tennessee city, threatened by potentially historic flooding, adopted the last-minute contest theme "Come hell or high water."

Lilly, the owner of Decatur, Alabama's Big Bob Gibson BBQ, knows a thing or two about cooking at all costs. He spent most of early May "dodging a heck of a lot of tornadoes."

"My wife and two kids were in Tuscaloosa, so Memphis in May was a breather from all the doom and gloom," he said.

Lilly, who has won the prestigious championship multiple times, learned how to smoke his winning 20-pound pork shoulder from his wife's father. Her great-great-grandfather founded the restaurant in 1925.

The family business has grown over the years. Lilly today operates two Big Bob's in North Carolina and two in Alabama. The demanding job requires that he get to work before 6 a.m. every day to stoke the pits.

"They never get cold," he said. "By the time we open for lunch, that meat has got to be falling off the bone."

The restaurant is known for its barbecued whole chickens, which are dipped in a vat of tangy, peppery white sauce made from mayo, apple juice, peppered horseradish, ground black pepper, lemon juice and cayenne.

Asked whether his $20,000 will go to buying more pork shoulder or chickens, Lilly laughed. "No, I've got two kids in college," he said. "That money is probably going to the University of Alabama."

Post by:
Filed under: Alabama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Joey

    Yay for barbecue!
    This was a big part of growing up in the South. Three barbecue parties every summer for all club members. One night as hosts.
    All you could eat.
    OMG that was fun!

    May 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey

    I also grew up saying, "come hell or high water."
    I've forgotten to say it since I got on the train to come north. Still live it, though.

    May 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |

    The white feminists and those whites who a long history of embracing white supremacy will soon discover it will not be easy to get rid of andre himes.Neither SATAN(the king of the hiphop and the antebellum nation) nor will the demon rulers of this world will be surprise by andre himes miraculous survival in the future since by looking at andre ' forehead they knew what the feminist and those whites who a long history of embracing white supremacy did not know.Under racial profiling many black americans were arrested and were either martyred within the prison system or were deported to africa where many of them were martyred there and were buried in mass graves in the congo and in the sudan.

    May 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    There's nothing like a good BBQ. Congratulations on winning, Mr. Lilly.

    I say "come Hell or high water" *now*.
    Sometimes it's both.

    May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Canadian Genius

    Good timing. Lunch time!

    May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy


    May 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy

    I would love to Joey!

    May 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    Can I come too?

    May 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. pete

    Me first!

    May 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pete

    You can come anytime you want, Cesar!

    May 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      You can dip your meat in my vat of creamy white mayo sauce anytime Pete. I like your name peter.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joey

    Good post, yes boy, GOOD boy, good, good post! Good boy!
    Now roll them up and SIT
    on it.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ikb

    His bbq was delcious– its just too bad the prize money will be going into the university of alabama............

    May 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat2u

    Tastes so good !!!!! Makes your tongue slap your brains out trying to get to it !!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mmmmm

    This article was so mmm-mmm good. I'm going get me a bake potatoe stuff with BBQ

    May 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Goldback Gorilla

    Hey CNN, I don't want to be "that guy", but the picture above is ribs not shoulder. Shoulder is a large chunk of meat that is generally used for pulled pork sandwiches and stud like that. Im not going to ever let the news media make me have an opinion of anything ever again. Why should the general public ever believe a word you say when your articles are always containing flawed information? Why should Americans ever endorse military action based on information that the media has given us? How much are you paying your editors? I certainly couldn't do any worse and I'd be less costly.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Goldback Gorilla

      (Correction "stuff" not stud. Lol)

      May 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
1 2