Jimmy Hagood has won barbecue competitions all over the Southeast, from his 2004 first place win at the North Carolina State Barbecue Championship to a 2002 Grand Championship accolade at the South Carolina State Barbecue Championship. But let's get one thing straight: His first competitive barbecue event was at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo some 20 years ago. On that day, Hagood walked away with a second place award for amateurs. Today he's one of the ultimate pit professionals, owner of Food for the Southern Soul, BlackJack Barbecue, and Tidewater Foods & Catering. This year, he's coming back to SEWE to present his very own Cue Camp to eager participants.
"It's pretty neat to know I'll be presenting on the site of the same place I did my first competition," he says. And in the heart of the city he grew up in too.
"I was raised in downtown Charleston, and there wasn't really any barbecue here," says Hagood. "Since we're on the coast, of course, I grew up eating mainly seafood. It wasn't until I went to college and met some people from Augusta that I learned about barbecue."
And what a relief he did. His simple interest in barbecue competitions spawned a hobby that developed into a dry rub and sauce empire that also sells other distinctly Southern products like grits and Carolina Gold rice. Hagood is also the creator of Jack's Cosmic Dog Sweet Potato Mustard, one of the best damn sauces you can put on a tube of pork. Head up Highway 17 past Mt. Pleasant or go toward Folly Beach to get your hands on one of these delicious dogs.
When Hagood takes his grilling act on the road, he rides in style with his two-story Big Red Rig barbecue bus, which is sort of like a British double-decker but with tasty smelling exhaust — or so we imagine.
"In the past we've served SEWE guests as just a vendor, but this year we decided to do something different," Hagood says. "We're going to show folks how we do it at a competition. We're going to do a pork shoulder, and I'll teach people different techniques for doing a rub or an injection. We'll do some ribs, and I'll also show everyone how to time everything."
Hagood also plans to give his guests a lesson in the various types of barbecue sauces — mustard-, tomato-, vinegar-, or even, um, mayo-based — an often contentious point between states. In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, we favor mustard-based sauces, while the Upstate and North Carolina favor vinegar- and tomato-based sauces. While the Southern states as a whole share styles, mayo-based barbecue sauces are pretty much limited to Alabama.
Audience participation is encouraged. Hagood plans to pull members of the crowd up to the grill to teach them the intricacies of quality 'cue preparation.
Attendees will have the opportunity to not only watch the pitmaster in action, but to also enjoy the fruit of his labors. Following the presentation, Hagood will dish out his pork shoulder slathered in BlackJack Barbecue Sauce, along with sliced beef brisket, pork ribs, and, of course, plenty of sweet tea and cold beer.