Steven Hampson is a professional Barbeque cook and the Waxhaw resident made his debut seven years ago in downtown Waxhaw.
But he didn’t even know he would be competing until his wife, Patti, told him about it.
“Waxhaw’s first competition was in the paper and my wife signed me up for it,” Hampson said while cooking a variety of meats on Saturday, Oct. 14. “I didn’t even know about it. She entered me, I competed and I had a blast. I was hooked.”
Hampson, along with his assistants Joe Izzo, Dave Buckner and Tony Raimondo, travel the region competing on the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) circuit and last weekend’s Grill’n and Chill’n BBQ Cookoff at the annual Autumn Treasures Festival is one of the circuits stops. Twenty-nine teams were entered.
Hampson cooked pork butts, brisket, chicken and ribs last weekend, which is standard for a KCBS competition. They started setting up at 2 p.m. Friday and cooked all night and into Saturday morning before sending their plates to the judges at 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
“Depending on what is going around outside (with the weather), it usually takes 10 hours to cook the pork butts and the brisket,” Hampson said. “We put them on around 9:30 p.m. (Friday), and we have been up all night. We have to put one log of wood in the smoker every hour.”
While Hampson can pocket some money from his work, competing is really a hobby with some costs. Hampson now cooks with a smoker that was once a large propane tank that he converted into a smoker. Then there is the portable sink with a hot water heater and basically a small kitchen with all the essentials. And, of course, a trailer to haul it all.
“It’s a very expensive hobby,” Hampson said. “With buying all the meats, the entry fees, the sauces and rubs it probably costs about $600 a competition. I normally enter about eight a year. We try to stagger them throughout the year.”
Hampson said it took almost a year to complete his current smoker.
“The one I have now I built myself,” Hampson said. “I welded it out of an old 250-pound propane tank. This smoker is really what made me want to compete pro because in the pro series you have to either use wood, charcoal or wood pellets. All my other smokers were either gas or wood and I couldn’t use gas.”
Hampson started cooking in his backyard with a friend back in Florida 15 years ago and things started getting a little more serious when he moved to Waxhaw.
“We were going to a place a few times a week to get pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and we said, ‘We can make this,” Hampson said. “I’m originally from New Jersey and I didn’t know anything about smoking. I didn’t grow up around it. We both read a book and we started competing against each other.
“He then moved to Tennessee and I moved here. Then about three years into living here, Waxhaw was having a competition. I’ve been competing for eight years.”
And Hampson has no plans to stop smoking.