The Kingsford® $40K Challenge
The $40k Insider
Firefighters Torch DC
Jun 23, 2012
When Michael Skahill, Sean Moffatt and Donnie Adkins, otherwise known as Firefighting BBQ Team, showed up in DC with their secret weapon, more than a few heads turned. Wood Chicks BBQ pitmaster and Chicago ‘que restaurateur Lee Ann Whippen agreed to join up with the Firefighters and burn the Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle down to the ground. And that’s exactly what they did.
When the smoke settled at the end of the two-day Washington D.C. event, Firefighting BBQ Team were Grand Champion. And not just any old Grand Champions, they won a contest that saw Smokin Triggers, Jack’s Old South, Serial Griller, Cool Smoke and Pork Barrel BBQ all finish in the top 10. This wasn’t a lazy weekend out in the middle of a field in Kentucky, this was an all-star lineup of teams looking to win.
“For us, on our home turf, it’s a very important event,” said Michael Skahill. “Everyone wants to win the Royal or the Jack. But on top of our list is Safeway National. We gave it everything we had.”
Skahill points to a little celebrity lady as the secret to their success.
“I’ve got a Backwoods competition cooker that’s called Hot Mama,” said Skahill. “You can recognize her by her flames on the bottom and her big red lips up toward the top. I swear she had to have had her picture taken about 3000 times over the weekend!”
It’s that kind of fun that makes cooking competition BBQ so enjoyable for the Firefighting BBQ Team. Skahill says they’re simply out there to have a good time. With wins like DC, good times are easy to have.
“Pork was on Sunday,” said Skahill. “And I was pushing things to the time limit trying to get everything perfect. Lee Ann didn’t waste any time telling me how bad it looked. I told her that looks can be deceiving but she had already taken over. She starts yelling out for the money muscle and other things. By the time I looked down and she had finished, I saw the prettiest box I’ve ever seen!”
That pretty box was good enough to take second place. Along with second in pork, Firefighting BBQ finished third in brisket, fourth in chicken and eighth in ribs. An all around dominant performance by the team in general, but it didn’t always feel like a sure thing.
“Going into the judging we knew we had a good product, but you never know,” said Skahill. “When they called our name as Grand Champion I screamed like little girl!”
To compete in the Kingsford $40K Challenge you have to use Kingsford Charcoal. Not using Kingsford was never an option for Firefighting BBQ Team.
“I use Kingsford all the time,” said Skahill. “I like how fast it lights. I can get a lot of heat really quick from Kingsford. And the flavor has a strong presence, it’s something you’re not used to and it helps set us apart from the rest of the field.”
Firefighting BBQ Team and Lee Ann Whippen are now looking ahead to competing together at the American Royal, the Jack and the World Food Championships this fall. The combination seems to be working out with great results for the group.
“It’s three pitmasters,” said Skahill. “No one has to take charge. Everyone does their job. When someone needs help there was someone else there to help them!”
Old foes make great new teammates and this new version of the Firefighting BBQ Team seems to be one worth keeping an eye on this year.