Friday, July 10, 2015

Up Close & Personal with the King of Barbecue, Pitmaster Myron Mixon

You know the phrase, '...born with a silver spoon in your mouth..?' Well it can be said of Myron Mixon that he may have been born with silver BBQ tongs in his hand! Ok, they may not have been silver, maybe they were stainless steel, but, whatever they were made of, the moment his dad Jack placed them in his hands, the BBQ world and those of us who love good, traditional 'Q' became the beneficiaries! You see, Myron was literally born to be a pitmaster. He was raised in Vienna, Georgia, with over 100 years of family tradition going back to his great grandfather, and even his great, great grandfather. Myron's dad Jack handed down to Myron all the tips, tricks and secrets to not only be a good barbecue pitmaster, but how to be a good man and live a good life as well. Now, those of us lucky enough to know him, or get to eat his delicious BBQ or watch him on TV, get the benefits of a life dedicated to his family, and great barbecue.

His dad Jack Mixon owned a BBQ restaurant and from an early age Mixon's father began teaching him the art of barbecue. Myron recalled with a thick southern Georgia drawl, "There's been a Mixon in that county now over 100+ years. Small town, there ain't but 10k people in the whole county. Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows your business, which can be either be a good thing or a bad thing depending how you look at it. I learned how to barbecue when I was 9 years old in my daddy's BBQ restaurant, Jack Mixon's Takeout. Looking back it was a great education for me and one that I embraced, but for my dad at the time, it was free labor,"he laughed."

"We cooked once a week on Thursdays and served on Friday and Saturday, every week. My dad, brother and I would go get the wood on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We'd chain saw it, split it and start smoking the meat on Thursday," he explained."Now back then I wasn't doing it because I wanted to, or because I had some sort of calling to do it. I did it cause my dad made me do it! In retrospect, I know I didn't realize it then that I was learning something, but I was. I was learning to do pure barbecue without all these gadgets they have now. My dad never used a meat thermometer, he cooked strictly by the feel of his hands, by smell and by sight, looking at the meat. And he taught me how to do that. That was one of the cool things about being brought up in south Georgia. That just the way everybody cooked. Nobody had all these cookers and and such. We cooked on these pits."

Most folks don't realize it, but in addition to being a pitmaster who barbecues meat, Myron is also an accomplished fisherman and knows quite a bit about cooking fish. You see, back in his youth, Myron used to fish regularly with his dad. I asked him to expand on that a bit. He answered immediately, "My dad loved to fish, I mean loved to fish. He made work out of it though. When you went fishing with him you didn't stop. If you were hungry and wanted to eat, you were eating a sandwich with your left hand and fishing with your right. You didn't stop! We caught a lot of fish and he taught me how to cook fish. Not just frying either, he taught me how to smoke catfish and all kinds of ways to cook it. He made fish head stew. Doesn't sound very good but it was delicious."

"Those trips, my dad also taught me and my brother about life. Right from wrong," he remembered, "and he laid down the law with us. He took the belt to us and to tell you the truth, me and my brother deserved every whooping we ever got. I remember one time I got a whoopin and someone told my dad, 'you know, Jack, Myron didn't do whatever it was he got the whoopin for.' My daddy thought for a moment and replied 'Well I know he did something I didn't catch him at so in my book, we're even!' He continued, "All those lessons my dad taught me, in retrospect, everyday that I live my dad gets smarter and smarter. All those things he taught me as a kid when I was growing up, have come around. I wish he'd lived longer, he passed in 1997, so I could have gotten my PHD in those life lessons. One thing I can say," he added, "he never had to bail us out or come get us out of trouble. I was scared of him. Hell," he chuckled, "I was twenty years old before I knew the difference between fear and respect. I thought they were the same thing! That being said, he gave me a great life and work ethic. He's the reason that I now make a living doing what I love."

It was 1996 when Myron started competing at a competition in Atlanta, Georgia. He won first place in whole hog and third place in the pork shoulder competition. He originally only took up competitive BBQ in order to promote his family's BBQ sauce which his parents, Gaye and Jack, had created. Myron named his BBQ company after his dad, calling it Jack's Old South. He offered, "My mom and dad started a sauce company and my dad passed away in January of 1996. We competed in our first competition in Augusta, Ga. in June of 1996 where we took 1st place in Whole Hog, 1st place in Pork Ribs and 3rd in Pork Shoulder. The reason I thought we would do well is my dad taught me how to cook by smell, by feel and by look. No thermometers, no gauges, he stated. "To be a pit master the way I learned, you had to be the real deal and bring it, and I thought with that background, we would win our fair share and it would be a cakewalk."

With his sons when Myron was inducted 
into the Hall of Fame, 2014
That, folks, is an understatement if ever there was one. During the course of his career, Myron has won over 200 grand championships resulting in over 1900 total trophies, over 40 state championships including wins in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Illinois, South Carolina, and Tennessee. They won Team of the Year 8 times, and 11 national championships. He has been named Grand Champion at the Memphis in May World Championship on three occasions: in 2001, 2004, and 2007. Myron is a multi-time Big Pig Jig Grand Champion, having won it most recently in 2012, his third victory in a row. He has also taken three first place whole hogs at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition and his achievements have earned him the nickname "the winningest man in barbecue."

We then turned to the conversation to his hit TV show BBQ Pitmasters and his new upcoming show, BBQ Rules, premiering July 11th, 2015 on Destination America at 10am EST. Now entering it's sixth season, I asked him why he thought Pitmasters was so popular. "Pitmasters has been great for me and I think it's been great for the country because it opened up a lot of eyes to a form of cooking that I believe we had forgotten," he stated. "It revitalized barbecuing and now everyone wants to get on board with barbecue. We have now parlayed that into another show, BBQ Rules which I'll be doing with my son Michael. Rules is basically a show where we film in my compound in my backyard where we do our cooking schools. We are doing recipes and showing folks how to take it from the start to the finish in their own backyard. It's everything you wanna know about how to do good Q. It'll be followed by back to back episodes of BBQ Pitmasters as part of a BBQ marathon, so tune in Saturday, July 11 at 10am EST/9amCST

Among the myriad of products that Myron has available, from his Myron Mixon Smokers & Grills, to his BBQ Sauces, to his cooking school, all of which can be accessed on his website store, he has a new partnership with my good friends Mike and Scott Staib from Ergo Chef Cutlery. The new product is called The Myron Mixon Pitmaster Grill Tool and it's the first tool to deliver a style and functionality that says “Game On!” I asked him about this unique grilling tool.

"It had to be real," he stated, "something that is authentic and something that I designed. And not just a gadget, it has to be something that really works. This tool, it works! It's got the end on it where you actually can do the flipping of the meat, it's got a great blade like all Ergo's blades, with a sharp edge. The thing that my son Michael loves the most is the built in bottle opener so you can pop the top of your favorite beverage while your grillin'. If you tune in, you'll see I use this on Pitwars and on Rules, we use it on every episode." He continued, "I like the red handle. I was insistent about that. I wanted to make sure that when you looked in you knife drawer, my tool stood out!"

According to Ergo, 'The 3 in one design was specifically developed and tested for easily flipping all your proteins and large veggies on the grill with the patented flipper hook. A good sharp knife is a must to slice up your mouth watering Q, hence we use the “Workhorse” an 8” Chef knife size blade with 7" cut for slicing up your meats and veggies, from prep to serving. The blade is high carbon stainless steel for superior durability, ground precision sharp for perfect slices. It boasts an ergonomic non-slip grip handle over a full-steel tang for strength and balance, so cutting is effortless with ultimate control. Last but not least is the bottle opener, built into the blade to keep you cool, sipping your beverage of choice.'

• Tool Weight: 8.5 Oz.
• Blade & Hook Thickness: .100"
• Blade Height: 2.200"
• Blade Length: 8" w/ Precision Sharp 7" Cutting Edge
• Flipper Hook: 2.750"
• Handle Size / Material: 5-3/8" long / Non-Slip TPR
• OAL: 16.125"
• Blade Material: One Piece Carbon Stainless Steel (5Cr15MoV)
The Price is $29.99 and Ergo is taking Pre Orders now for delivery in October so Order Yours Today: The Myron Mixon Pitmaster Grill Tool 

Myron and his son Michael
Lastly I asked Myron about his charity work and his outreach. It seems to always revolve around kids and I asked him why? "Well, these are going to be your next pitmasters,"he answered, "and I'm always encouraging new blood to get into this game. But more importantly, I remember my dad taking time with us. It's important for children to have time their dads and family and in today's hectic society, though moms and dads may want to spend more time with their kids, their schedule limits the amount of time they get to spend with their them." He continued, "Barbecue is something that families can do together. Everybody loves to be outside, getting together for a good barbecue, so if I can get out there, show 'em how to do it, they get to spend time together and be a better family for it."

I hope you have enjoyed this chat with Myron as much as I did bringing it to you. To find out more about Myron, purchase his cookbooks and products, or follow him on social media just access the links here: Myron's WebsiteMyron's TwitterMyron's FacebookMyron's Instagram

Til Next Time, 

Bon Appetit


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