The Ban Is Lifted: How To Eat Barbecue at BBQ Fest This Year

Posted by Holly Whitfield | May 11th 2015 2598 1

This Thursday through Saturday is the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (or, “BBQ Fest”) which is notorious for health department rules that prohibit cooking teams from selling their grub to the general public. After all, the event is primarily a competition. This year, though, things are a little different.


You now have a few more options if you don’t have an “in” to a barbecue cooking team tent but still want to taste the smoky, tender, tangy-sauced pork goodness.

bbq fest 2014 plate sampling

Here’s how to get to eat the barbecue at Memphis in May’s WCBCC:

1. Purchase food from one of the three competing teams who will also be selling to the public.

The following teams have worked with the Shelby County Health Department to meet the requirements to be able to sell to the hungry, happy public. I’ve reached out to the teams to get more info on exactly what they’ll be selling and price points and will update this post accordingly.

Victory Lane BBQ (in the care of Pitmaster Heath Riles) Memphis-based and formed in 2008. They’ve won a ton of awards, not only at the WCBCC but around the country.

Willingham’s is a Memphis-based team formed more than 30 years ago with a solid resume of wins, including a few WCBCC Grand Championships.

Yazoo’s Delta Q North Mississippi-based team boasts three Pitmasters, Pete Cookston, John Wheeler, and Melissa Cookston, the only lady to win the Memphis in May WCBCC (so far!). The team also owns Horn Lake’s Memphis Barbecue Company restaurant.

Me with Melissa Cookston last year.

2. Buy a ticket for the Kingsford Tour of Champions – but do it before May 12!

Want to experience WCBCC like a pork shoulder judge? Buy a $12 ticket (in addition to your $10 festival general admission ticket) and you can get a judge’s packet, orientation, and a chance to try pork shoulder entries from several top-notch cooking teams.

As of May 11 at 3 p.m., there are still tickets for both Thursdays sessions (2-4pm or 4-6pm) and the earlier Friday session (2-4pm). The deadline to buy tickets is Tuesday, May 12. Click here to buy a ticket. If you or someone you know has done the Kingsford Tour in the past few years, I’d love to talk to you. Leave me a comment or drop me a line at


3. Find a friend on a team.

The good ol’ fashioned way to get some grub at the WCBCC is to very nicely ask beg a friend of yours who is on a cooking team if you might stop by during a convenient time. Different teams have different categories of competition, and also different levels of competition, so keep that in mind. There’s nothing like being surrounded by old and new friends enjoying some tasty ribs, pulled pork, and whatever sides the tent has on hand. The best barbecue I’ve had has been in some of these tents.

If you do know someone on a team, though, don’t abuse it. Don’t try to bring a pack of friends with you, mind your manners, and absolutely bring some cash for tip jars – it’s not unheard of to leave a $10 or a $20, especially if drinks are free.

If you want to read even more tips, check out the ABCs of Memphis in May right here.

Go there:

Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

Tom Lee Park
May 14 – 16, 2015
11 a.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday

$10 general admission

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. Exciting news!  It's going to be an awesome few days of good food and friends!  Let's go ahead and say good weather too 🙂

  2. Andrew says:

    This is awesome that they're FINALLY allowing the public to try some of the contestants' product – do you know the prices they'll be selling?

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi Andrew! I’ve reached out to the teams about menu items and prices, but haven’t heard back. My guess is that they’re busy getting set up. If I found out anything, I’ll let you know.

  3. JJ Donaville says:

    Thanks for all you do, Holly! I LOVE and depend on your blog!!

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