KTD barbeque team cookin' on national TV
WORTHINGTON -- More than seven years ago, Jeff Vanderlinde competed in his first barbeque event.
Now, his team is the best in the world.
"In Kansas City, Mo., they have the American Royal, the largest barbeque contest in the whole world," Vanderlinde said. "Last year there were 548 teams, and we finished first. We were grand champions, which means we are the current world champions."
That success has led to more opportunities for Vanderlinde and his team, Shiggin & Grinnin.
At 8 p.m. Sunday on Destination America, Shiggin & Grinnin will be featured on "Pit Masters," one of the top shows on the television network.
Based in Delano, Vanderlinde and his team have been a vital piece to Worthington's barbeque contest, hosted annually as part of the community's King Turkey Day festivities.
"They had as much to do with our barbeque contest being as much of a success as it is because they were the team we first met up with when we went to the first contest," said Brad Behrends, one of the organizers of the Worthington event. "They told us the keys to having a successful contest. They introduced us to all those teams. They had a lot to do with showing us how to do it. They've been really helpful all the way through it."
In fact, Shiggin & Grinnin has been a mainstay at the Worthington event.
"It's pretty big because there are people who follow them," Behrends said. "Since last year, when they won the American Royal, people follow how they are doing this year. They could be from California or Florida or wherever -- they're famous now, basically."
This will be the third year of the Worthington event, which started after attending a contest in Albert Lea.
"It had been talked about for a few years about having a barbeque contest during Turkey Day," Behrends said. "But there was another KCBS contest annually during Turkey Day in Marshall. That year, it just happened that Marshall moved their contest into August, so that date was open. ... We planned this whole thing in about three months, and normally it's a year-long process."
Just like the Worthington organizers, Vanderlinde started in the sport by attending an event.
"It's an interest I've always had, and I had a smoker," Vanderlinde said. "In Watertown, Minn., there was a KCBS event, which is Kansas City Barbeque Society and that's the governing body. I put up the prize money for that event, and I went to the sponsor's dinner and started talking to some guys, and they invited me come with them the next day and watch what they were doing. I was hooked ever since."
The following year, he started cooking with another team. He now cooks with two of his best friends, Ted Moonen and Derek Schansberg.
"They will do everything that will allow me to concentrate on the contest," Vanderlinde said. "I'm the guy that's doing the rubs, the injecting and the cooking. But I certainly could not or would not do it without them.
"I joke it's a dictatorship, not a democracy, but every good team needs a captain," he said. "They really allow me to do that. Those are the only two that will put up with me, too."
The success hasn't come easy for Shiggin & Grinnin.
"It's hard work, know-how and passion," Vanderlinde said. "It's a lot of trial and error. I'm very attentive to detail. The devil is definitely in the details."
Because of that attention to detail, the team has become a model of consistency.
"There's five big stages in barbeque, in my opinion, and we've walked on four of them," Vanderlinde said. "We haven't walked in Memphis in May yet, because we haven't cooked it yet. It's the only big contest in the United States that we haven't cooked.
"Jack Daniels, that's the world invitational," he continued. "You have to be invited. The year that we were there, there were 96 teams from 24 countries and we finished fourth overall."
The team has been all over the country, including trips to Texas, Louisiana, Illinois and Iowa this year alone.
"We figure we're only the defending champions once -- we hope it's going to be twice -- but right now, we are going to enjoy the ride and the opportunities," Vanderlinde said. "When you're on top, there's only one place to go and that's down. We are going to be reigning champions for another four months, so we figure we better enjoy it."
Worthington, though, is one of his favorite locales.
"In Worthington, you have a group that has one of the best contests in Minnesota because of the way it's ran and the surroundings," Vanderlinde said. "You have the festival. Barbeque is really about family, for some families, that's what they do every weekend.
"Worthington has so much for families and kids to do and so much for them to see. That's why Worthington, from the first year to the second year, grew tremendously. I'm sure it's going to continue to keep getting bigger. Last year, that was the only contest we stayed overnight on Saturday night. We always come in Friday and Saturday, after the awards, we leave."
The team had already made preparations for this year's contest.
"I don't think people understand the amount of time, money and effort that goes into cooking one contest," Vanderlinde said. "When I'm cooking Worthington, I will start two months before with the planning. I'm going to start picking my briskets because I want to make sure they are aged. My briskets are aged up to 60 days. It makes them tender."
When they aren't cooking for contests, Shiggin & Grinnin is helping out its community. The team has cooked fundraisers for a park in Delano and for Relay for Life.
And even though the team is on top of the barbeque world, they still feel like the underdogs.
"We've had success, but I don't look at it that way," Vanderlinde said. "I'm still in awe when I see the big teams out there. I'm fortunate that a lot of them became good friends, but I'm still in kind of awe when I see them. I heard somebody the other day when we pulled in saying that Shiggin & Grinnin is here. It kind of gave me a smile on my face, but it's something that I'm very humble about. I don't know if I understand it or how we got here besides hard work. It's been a blur."
At the end of the day, the events are just as much about the camaraderie and time with friends and family.
"Barbeque is the only sport, and it is a sport because it was on ABC Sports at one point -- what else do you call it? The sport of barbeque is the only one when I'm truly happy when the guy next to me wins," Vanderlinde said.
"You can walk up to any barbequer and ask for advice. And if you need anything at these competitions, everybody is there to help you. If I forget brown sugar, I know I can ask the other 50 teams and 49 of them would give me what I need. You see a lot of these people every weekend. You are camping, cocktailing and cooking. How can you be in a bad mood?"