The Winningest Woman in Barbecue! After years on the competition trail, Melissa brought her championship flavor back to her community, opening the Memphis BBQ Co. in Horn Lake, Mississippi. She followed up the restaurant’s success with locations in Fayetteville, North Carolina and Dunwoody, Georgia.
Pitmaster Melissa Cookston’s passion for barbecue grew from a childhood in Mississippi spent around pit-fire grills and Southern Delta cooking. Her earliest – and fondest – memories include eating pulled pork sandwiches with her grandfather and making a two hour drive to Tennessee whenever her mother got a craving for Memphis-style ribs. You could say that BBQ is in her genes!
“When my husband, Pete, and I started dating he made the mistake of taking me to a barbecue competition. I was instantly captivated by the whole hog contest,” remembers Cookston. Merging her interest in barbecue with her ultra-competitive nature, she decided to take on the challenge as a competitor on the male-dominated barbecue contest circuit.
“No one really treated me any differently,” says Cookston. “I was just one of the guys hanging out and cooking barbecue. Pete and I entered a few contests and we did really well. There was a lot of trial and error, but once I got my timing down everything else just fell into place.”
For the next ten years, she competed in a few contests a year until she entered the barbecue circuit fulltime in 2007, and success followed. Melissa Cookston is the only female Barbecue World Champion, and is known as the “Winningest Woman in Barbecue.”
Between 2010 and 2012, Melissa’s “Yazoo’s Delta Q” won three consecutive whole hog titles at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and also took home two grand championship titles. “I just preach the gospel of barbecue,” Cookston says. “I do what I love.”
Cookston shared some of her favorite competition recipes in her first cookbook, “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” while her new book, “Smoking Hot in the South” is more about grilling and baking. “I really wrote this for the backyard cooks. There are a lot of southern ingredients and we use them in very unusual ways; the recipes in this book are my interpretation of ‘New Southern’ cooking.”
“The Big Green Egg was obviously my first choice for the recipes … with the Big Green Egg I can cook just about anything – pizza with a green tomato sauce, smoked chicken and some truffle crema. I even baked a coconut cake, start to finish, on the EGG. I mean, that’s just unheard of with any other grill. There is such an amazing variety of things you can create on the EGG … which to me is right up my alley because I’m always trying to do something different, and the EGG never disappoints!”Here are her recipes cooked on a Big Green Egg