10 Questions: Mike Davis

Davis is kinda like Richard Petty or the New York Yankees, at least in the world of competitive barbecue.

Since he began working the pit in 1994, this Marietta, Oklahoma, native has claimed 66 grand champion titles, including last year's World BBQ Cook Off in Munich. He's even featured on the cover of BBQ World magazine this month.

Hopefully there's no Sports Illustrated-style curse associated with such publicity, for the BBQ king arrives in the Dallas area this week to take part in the Prilosec OTC BBQ Shootout Series competition at Texas Motor Speedway--an event benefiting the NASCAR Foundation.

He will also hold a barbecue demonstration at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Roanoke on April 1 from 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., with Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton on hand from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. So what's he think of guys who like to mash the gas...?

1. Just what is it that makes barbecue so popular?
I guess it's the concept that it is all done outside. There are the 'my brisket is better than your brisket' or 'my ribs are better than your ribs' arguments that just show it's something everyone can do.

2. Which style is your favorite?
We kinda like to mix it up. We do a Kansas City style with a sweet sauce. But we start off as Texas style, slow cooking, then finish Kansas City style. It works real well for us.

3. Can you do Carolina style pulled pork?
Oh absolutely. In the society we cook in, we do all four meat categories.

4. So what's your secret?
[Laughs} I wish I could find a way to make a dollar for every time someone asks that. In all honesty, there aren't any secrets. The rubs we sell are what we use in competition. If there's a secret, it's how you tweak it.

5. So, last year you won Squealin' on the Square in Murray, Kentucky, and the World BBQ Cook Off in Munich, Germany--amongst others. Which of those two was a more satisfying win?
The one in Murray--really. That's a small town. We are treated with such great respect there. People come by and visit with you. They're happy when you win. Overseas, they're not so happy when you beat their guys.

6. Do Germans know barbecue?
Yeah, they know their barbecue. I have to say, though--we put on classes and had about 200 people come through. I think we made believers out of some.

7. If you had to buy sauce from a store it would be...?
Uh...probably Head Country. They're out of Ponca City--a very good product.

8. Everyone wants to challenge you. To keep winning, do you have to change up your recipe?
Well, that's a difficult question. We don't really change anything for a competition. But to stay ahead, we do have to tweak things from time to time. But we don't just make changes if we don't win. We're very methodical.

9. What about guys who cook with gas?
If I'm in competition against them, I'll buy it for them. But it doesn't matter to me what other people cook on. Gas grills are just like an oven. They're fine, they just don't add anything to the flavor.

10. So for this event, you'll be at Texas Motor Speedway. Think the exhaust fumes will affect the judging?
[Laughs] We hope it doesn't. We hope the judging tent is far enough away. But if they can't tell the difference, we don't want them judging.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries