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Local BBQ chefs Stacy Underwood and Ryan Waters place at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

Local barbecue enthusiasts Stacy Underwood, owner of Uncle Shug's BBQ Place, and Ryan Waters, made a sizzling mark at the Memphis in May International Festival World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Competing with top teams from around the globe, the duo showcased their culinary skills, earning impressive placements and bringing pride to their community.
Ryan Waters (L) and Stacy Underwood (R) at Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place on Main in Statesboro, GA

Stacy Underwood, owner of Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place in Statesboro, GA, Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place in Brooklet, GA and Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn in Statesboro, along with Ryan Waters of Statesboro Transfer and Storage, recently showcased their barbecue prowess at the Memphis in May International Festival World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

The duo, representing Bulloch BBQ, combined with other teams to join Lonnie Smith’s Bubba Grills team, which earned placements in one of the most revered BBQ competitions globally, competing against teams from five countries and 22 states.

Bubba Grills team with 2nd place hog trophy (Ryan and Stacy are on the back row). Special

The Competitive Journey

Ryan Waters, a seasoned competitor, first entered into the world of BBQ competitions in 2014 with his friend Cory Rushing.

"It all started with a local competition in Tifton," Waters recounted. "The environment was so enjoyable that it sparked a passion in both of us."

Waters and Rushing, founders of Bulloch BBQ, have navigated their way through various BBQ competitions, participating in Georgia BBQ Association-sanctioned events and achieving professional-level success. Their journey has seen them transition from a basic pull-behind smoker to a custom-made smoker, a piece of equipment signifying their seriousness in competing at the highest level in the BBQ world.

Their collaborative efforts culminated at the Memphis in May International Festival World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. When Cory and his wife Faren could not attend, it opened the opportunity for Underwood. 

The World Championship BBQ Competition

Waters and Underwood joined forces with the Bubba Grills team, which in addition to their Bulloch BBQ team,  included several other notable BBQ teams like Tim Coleman, Black Dog Spice Company, Scotts Smoke Shack BBQ, Peckerwood Country Club Cook Team, and Mike's Garage Door Company.

Together, they tackled the rigorous competition schedule, that included cooking 45 slabs of ribs for the Kingsford Tour of Champions and another 45 slabs for the Cattleman and McCormicks Hog Crawl.

Kingsford Charcoal winners. Special

The highlight of their participation was their remarkable placement in the whole hog category, where they secured second place in the world. Additionally, their chicken recipe, a collaborative effort led by Underwood, placed 14th out of 96 entries. Their combined efforts led to an overall third place in the world championship, out of 129 teams. 

“To place so high in such a prestigious competition is an incredible honor,” Underwood said.

14th in the World Chicken cooked by a team including Stacy Underwood of Uncle Shug's fame. Special

The contest spans several days, with competitors arriving early to set up and prepare. “We got there on May 15th and spent the next few days getting everything ready,” Waters explained. The team participated in various ancillary competitions, including poultry and beef, but their main focus was the Whole Hog category.

“Our main event was cooking a 242-pound hog, which we started on Friday morning and cooked for over 20 hours,” Waters said.

The team also competed in the Kingsford Tour of Champions and the Cattlemen’s VIP event, showcasing their skills to a select group of judges and sponsors.

2nd place Hole Hog cooked by Bubba Grill's team with local members including Ryan Waters and Stacy Underwood. Special

Taking in the Experience

"Walking up to the competition for the first time was surreal," Underwood reflected. "One of the first people I met was Myron Mixon, a five-time champion and the Godfather of Competition Cooking. Learning that his son attended Georgia Southern University right here in Statesboro was an amazing connection."

The camaraderie and sportsmanship at the event left a lasting impression on both men.

Stacy Underwood (L) and Ryan Waters (R) with 2nd place world champion hog trophy. Special

"What impressed me the most was when we were in the final three for the whole hog, the competitors next to us brought things to help us," Underwood said. "That true sportsmanship is what makes this community special."

Waters echoed this sentiment, adding, "It's such a friendly atmosphere. People are genuinely trying to help each other, offering advice and support. It's a real family atmosphere."

More Competitions in Their Future

Looking ahead, Underwood is excited about future competitions.

"I've been bitten by the competition bug for sure," he said. "Ryan and Cory have invited me to the Pig Jig in Vienna in November, another prestigious event. If we win there, we’re headed back to Memphis."

Despite their competitive success, both Underwood and Waters maintain a love for BBQ that goes beyond the competition.

"I enjoy cooking more than eating it most of the time," Waters admitted. "Any cook is a chance to improve or try something different."

Underwood, who owns the Uncle Shug’s restaurants, sees these competitions as a way to enhance his offerings.

"Having a BBQ restaurant means we're competing every day. Our judges are our customers who love our food enough to keep coming back," he said.

Unforgettable Adventure

Their journey in Memphis was not just about winning but about experiencing the pinnacle of BBQ competitions and forging connections with fellow BBQ enthusiasts and celebrities.

"Walking across the stage in Memphis is described as the pinnacle," Underwood said. "The song 'Walking in Memphis' truly captures the essence of this experience."

For Underwood and Waters, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest was not just a competition; it was an unforgettable adventure that celebrated their passion for BBQ and the vibrant community that supports it.

Visit Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q to judge their now "World Famous" BBQ for yourself.