The Gonzales-based Cajun Blaze barbecue team blazed into barbecue history during the Tupelo BBQ Duel on March 19-20 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The Cajun Blaze’s team of Adam Gautreau, of Gonzales, and Jason White, of Addis, was named Grand Champion of both the Saturday and the Sunday competitions.
“This is the first Kansas City Barbecue Society Grand Champion team in back-to-back competitions,” said Karrin Murphy, editor of the KCBS’s Bullsheet magazine. “They’re very good.”
Of 7,000 KCBS teams worldwide, Cajun Blaze is currently ranked at No. 14, which is quite a feat for a couple guys who only started barbecuing competitively less than four years ago.
“This was our 76th contest in 3½ years,” said Gautreau, 37, a machinist with American Pump and Machine Works in Geismar. “We did our first one in September 2012, but we didn’t win anything and that made me mad.”
“That first contest, we didn’t do good at all,” said White, 43, also a machinist. The two met in 1998 when both of them worked for the same company. White said he was at a jambalaya competition a few years ago that also featured a barbecue contest. “I ate a piece of brisket and I’d never tasted brisket like that in my life,” he said.
You could say the fire was lit.
The men agreed to give competitive barbecuing a try. Gautreau built his own towable smoker for about $2,600; he said his wife, Leslie, wanted to know what he was doing.
“Now, she would let me buy anything,” said Gautreau. “We’re in the positive, for sure.”
Cajun Blaze took home from Tupelo trophies and $6,725 in cash prizes, according to Melanie Deas, executive director of Tupelo’s Link Centre, the nonprofit community center that the BBQ Duel funds. Deas said 100 teams from 18 states competed on the first day and 61 cooked for the day two contest. The teams included some of the top KCBS teams in the country.
Not only did Cajun Blaze win the twin Grand Championships but they earned more than 700 blind-judged points on both days; the maximum number of points for the four required meats — ribs, chicken, brisket and pork — is 720 (180 points per meat) in a KCBS contest.
Gautreau said the Tupelo trip cost Cajun Blaze about $1,500. They are sponsored by Frontier Charcoal. Gautreau estimated Cajun Blaze won about $11,000 in prize money in September alone; they have won 23 of the 76 contests they’ve entered.
The team competes in about 25 contests a year, which includes 10 to 15 out-of-state events. In October, they finished seventh overall in Lynchburg, Tennessee’s Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.
White has been bitten hard by the barbecue bug. He said he soon will be hanging up his machinist’s hat and opening a specialty meat market in Plaquemine with a partner.
“Hopefully, in five or six years, I will get Adam to do something in barbecue,” said White.
“I have no idea where this is going, but I love to compete,” said Gautreau.
White said before teaming up with Gautreau, his only barbecuing experience was “just regular old backyard barbecuing, hanging out with friends and family.”
The importance of the Tupelo victories is not lost on White.
“That’s a very big accomplishment,” he said. “We probably won’t do that again in our barbecue career.”