Russell’s BBQ earns four top 10 finishes at world championship | News

LINESVILLE — Jon York has at least four good reasons to smile.

The reasons are four top-10 finishes at the recent Memphis World Championship Barbecue Cooking Competition in May in Tennessee.

“It’s cool to win. It’s truly a team effort,” said York, owner of Russell’s BBQ, a barbecue-focused restaurant in Linesville, and team leader of Russell’s Dam Good BBQ.

The team took home honors in four categories during the multi-day competition held in mid-May.

This year’s competition featured 129 teams from 22 states and five foreign countries competing for top honors in what is being called “the world’s most prestigious barbecue cooking competition.” The competition dates back to 1978.

Russell’s earned seventh place in the seafood category; fifth place in poultry; another fifth place in the stand category; and second place at the Kingsford Tour of Champions.

Being part of the Champions Tour is prestigious because a team must qualify, according to York.

“There were only 18 teams out of 129 total,” he said. “You must either have won a category or be ranked in the top 10 the previous year. If you have already won the grand championship, you are always welcome.

Russell earned the right to be part of the Champions Tour based on his performance in 2023 – his first year of competition. Russell’s smoked chicken wings won first place out of 111 competing teams, while his ribs won seventh place out of 80 teams last year.

“The Champions Tour is truly a crowd-sourced award because it is primarily awarded by judges’ votes” during the competition, York said. “They will judge other categories, or have already judged, or will judge a category the next day.

“A lot of judges come from all over, but they also want the full experience,” he continued. “They are going to register for the Tour (of Champions). A lot of them are executives at Kingsford (the charcoal company), but they don’t tell you until afterward.”

“Everyone on the team helped,” York said of the judges’ arrival. “We told them our story, our history on the process of making our pulled pork. I showed them how we did it. I took sides and chatted with him.

All of this combined to earn second place in the Champions Tour.

“We have already qualified for next year and we won a check for $1,250 for our efforts,” he said. “We were also invited to do the VIP tour which only six teams had the opportunity to do.”

The Memphis competition also helps grow the company as a whole, York said, both by making new contacts within the barbecue and food supplier industries, as well as building a team for Russell’s BBQ itself.

“We had six employees come in and they got to experience what it was like,” he said. “It’s really a competition, not a food festival.

“It’s a lot of work, a different type of work than what we do here at the restaurant. And it’s a lot of fun,” York said.

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