Recognized by USAToday as the “Most Prestigious Barbecue Contest,” the four-day Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC) took place from May 12th through the 14th this year.
This world renown contest features championship pork categories including ribs, shoulder, and whole hog, as well as ancillary competition categories of hot wings, sauce, and “Anything but Pork.”
The Memphis District has been competing in this barbeque contest for years, with the Castle Cookers first participating in the WCBCC in 1991 as the Pork Barrel Barbecuers. This year made year 31, with the team for the Memphis District Corps of Engineers comprising of workers from all parts of the district.
“We’re a ‘for us by us’ team, which plans, fundraises, cooks, serves, and competes in the Memphis in May (MIM) event every year,” Outreach Coordinator Brian Schneider explained.
Representing the Memphis District Castle Cookers this year were: Program Analysis Officer Jennifer Thomas, Program Analyst Sara Waterbury, Program Analyst David Alverez, Outreach Coordinator Brian Schneider (Tomato Sauce and Poultry entries), Work for Others Technical Manager Jordan Bledsoe, Civil Engineer Morgan Cowles (Seafood entry), and Survey Boat Operator Brian Schafer (Crawfish).
Even though the event was held at Tiger Lane this year, Schneider explained that the rich history the district has with Tom Lee Park, which was constructed by the Corps as a protective dike, provides a consistent connection with the neighborhood, community, and region.
“It allows the Corps to give back in a small way during events like MIM,” Schneider continued. “We are proud to be able to re-tell the story each year to the on-site barbecue judges, most of whom have no idea about the connection the Corps has with the park,” Schneider added.
The Castle Cookers normally only compete in the rib division, but this year they also competed in other ancillary categories, including tomato sauce, poultry, and seafood.
The team served and entered some amazing food, going up against the best of the best in the world, so where they placed in the following categories is impressive to say the least. Congratulations, team!
Tomato Sauce: 19th out of 127 (Brian Schneider’s secret recipe)
Seafood: 74th out of 120 (Shrimp, Crawfish, Sausage and grits)
Ribs: 89th out of 104
Poultry: 115th out of 127 (Chicken, Bacon, Buffalo Sauce and Ranch Egg Rolls)
While the event was a contest, at the end of the day, the team fed employees to promote camaraderie and fellowship, boost morale, and to sit down and enjoy great food with great coworkers.
For lunch and dinner, the Castle Cookers served smoked bologna, smoked sausage, beans, coleslaw, pulled pork, smoked chicken, and other savory snacks. Additionally on Thursday night, they served an old-fashioned crawfish boil for dinner.
Before thanking anyone, the Castle Cookers first wanted to recognize the people who made sure they even had a place to make all that amazing food in the first place… so, thank you, thank you, thank you to Mechanic Leaderman Robert Woods and his team from Ensley Engineer Yard.
“While a few of us ‘helped’, those guys did an unbelievable job with set up and take down, as well as with the main castle front,” Schneider said. “The main cookers wouldn’t have made it to the competition without their hard work and sacrifice for the team.”
In addition to thanking the Castle Club Team members for cooking such great food, we also want to acknowledge our retired volunteers, Rob Ridinger and Boyd Mann, for cooking overnight on Wednesday.
Finally, many thanks to the volunteers who helped with set up, prep and with serving: Dale Schmand and wife Marianne, David Slocum, John Wilburn, Jennifer Thomas’ husband Jimmy and friend Carrie, David Alverez’s wife Shelia, and Brian Schafer’s brother Joey.
Congratulations again, Castle Cookers! And many thanks for the great food and amazing memories. We know we’re speaking for everyone when we say we can’t wait for next year’s event!