2009-05-13 / Front Page

In the Boss Hog Cook-off

Mount Dora takes home the bacon
By Elizabeth Billips lizbillips@yahoo.com

The Mount Dora Bar-B-Que crew takes a victory lap after winning the state championship in Waynesboro. True    Citizen columnist Don Lively, behind the wheel, played the part of Boss Hog. The Mount Dora Bar-B-Que crew takes a victory lap after winning the state championship in Waynesboro. True Citizen columnist Don Lively, behind the wheel, played the part of Boss Hog. Mount Dora Bar-B-Que is living high on the hog.

Saturday afternoon, the threemember crew from their namesake hometown near Orlando, Fla., took home the bacon in the fourth annual Boss Hog Cookoff.

They smoked out three dozen teams to win the Georgia state championship title and qualify for a draw in the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational.

But Mount Dora was nearly a no-show at last weekend's Kansas City Barbeque Society cook-off.

"I almost called and cancelled on Thursday because my brisket didn't get delivered," pit master Larry Baker, a contractor and former city councilman, said with a smidgen of disbelief.

But as fate would have it, Baker arranged to bum a hunk of prime heifer from his men- tor and competitor, Myron Mixon of Jack's Old South, and ended up making a run for gold.

Up until the end, last year's grand champs Jus-Fer-Fun looked like they'd take it all with first place trophies for pork and brisket and a second place in ribs. But a low 22nd in chicken dragged down what would have been an otherwise faultless finish.

Across-the-board consistency was the key, and Mount Dora pulled it off with second, third and fourth place finishes in chicken, ribs and pork, and a respectable 12th in brisket. When the points were tallied, they were separated by a threepoint spread.

"I was shocked," Baker said after the RV was pointed toward home. "We'd had a great time no matter what - but winning sure made that seven-hour drive home a lot shorter."

The Mount Dora crew is fairly new to the competition cooking scene. Baker, who describes himself as a man who'll drive 50 miles out of the way for a good barbecue dive, says he's been experimenting with food since he was big enough to stand on a chair in his grandma's kitchen.

After dozens of classical cooking classes, he turned his sights to barbecue - but couldn't quite master it. "Sometimes it was good … occasionally it was great … and often it wasn't worth a damn," Baker laughed, recalling butts that tasted like old socks.

So when he saw an ad for Mixon's famous barbeque cooking classes, he signed right on.

The next weekend Baker practiced his lesson against 43 teams in Lake City. He walked on with a folding table and a pop-up tent and walked off with an eighth place finish and an expensive hobby.

Before long, he coerced his girlfriend Merry Hadden, a Montessori headmaster, and longtime friend and food photographer Debi Harbin into joining his cause.

In their second full year, the crew picked up five Florida wins and decided to try their luck in Georgia after stumbling onto the Boss Hog website.

"When I signed up, I felt like we had a chance because there wasn't going to be a powerful field," Baker said reiterating his disbelief that teams traveled to Waynesboro from as far away as Houston. "When we got there, I realized there was a very powerful field."

While luck is always part of the game, the Mount Dora crew says part of their secret is as simple as wood smoke.

They hauled in more than 300 pounds of cherry, Georgia peach and Georgia pecan, and fed their grills nearly every stick.

"Barbecue is about wood and smoke," Baker said. "And smoke needs to be an ingredient just like salt and sugar."

Now back on the job in Florida, Baker says Waynesboro tops Mt. Dora's list of places to go back to - and would have even if they'd gone home empty-handed.

They said it was the little things that hooked them, like small talk with residents and the classic Boss Hog car that picked them up for a victory lap around the RV circle.

They agree it was one of their sweetest wins yet.

"It was so much fun," Baker said, still reeling. "When we climbed into that car, I leaned over and told the girls "now tell the truth - this is the best day of your life ...isn't it?'"
Grand Champion:
Mount Dora Bar-B-Que
Mount Dora, FL
Reserve Grand Champion:
Jus-Fer-Fun Cooking Crew
McDonough, GA
Wicked Que
Watkinsville, GA
Pork Ribs:
Jasper, GA

Jus-Fer-Fun Cooking Crew
Jus-Fer-Fun Cooking Crew
Pickin Porkers
Clemmons, NC
Burke's Big Finishes
'Boro Boys- 7th ribs
Wastin' Away - 7th pork
Big "J" and the Butts - 9th

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