5th Place Finish

Tina Cannon

The Pit Crew
Tina Cannon
Final Score
KCBS Score
WFC Score

It was amazing to cook and compete with all these other talented women, and I sure want to qualify again if I can.

As a woman in the world of competitive barbecue, Tina Cannon has gotten used to the fact that not everyone expects her to be the leader of her team. It goes back to when she first started cooking barbecue.

"It's crazy," she recalls. "I was a chef for several years and was trained in Europe, but I sort of fell out of the business. Then we bought a little Brinkman smoker and I tried it out to cook for a team of roofers that were working on our house. I cooked all sorts of stuff, beef ribs and pork, just playing around."

She continues, "Then the owner of the construction company came by to check on his crew, and he tasted the food I had made. He said it was great! Then he looked at my husband, assuming he had cooked it." When the chagrined man realized his mistake, he suggested that Cannon enter a local barbecue contest that was coming up soon. So she did.

"I didn't realize at the time that I would have to cook all these different kinds of meat in separate categories," Cannon admits, "so I had to buy another smoker. We used our Brinkman and a cheap little smoker we bought at Walmart. And then we won! That was the birth of this sickness for me."

Cannon's affliction has continued to grow over the years, and in 2015 she was the first woman to win the Georgia state championship in barbecue thanks to four grand championships and a reserve grand champion finish during her year of competition. ("People still talk to my husband first at competitions," she notes drolly. Her good fortune continued in 2016 when she amassed enough points competing in Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned events to earn fourth place finish in the Cowboy Charcoal Fire & Ice Women's Barbecue Championship Series .

This achievement entitled Cannon to travel to Orange Beach, AL last November to compete in the Fire & Ice challenge finals as part of the World Food Championships, where she joined nine other talented female pitmasters in a two-day challenge for the chance to win a share of $15,000 in gift certificates from Manning Jewelry.

She traveled with her husband and her dog as the other members of her cook team, the Pit Crew. Her hubby serves as the team's transportation specialist. "He drives the rig and runs the boxes to the turn-in window," explains Cannon. "I do all the cooking and build the boxes. I also do all the cooking at home."

Day one of the Fire & Ice event was a grilling challenge where the competitors had two hours to delight a panel of judges with a dish prepared using Cowboy Charcoal and a Bull Outdoor grill. Despite earning her way to Orange Beach through her talents cooking low and slow in a smoker on the barbecue circuit, Cannon was not intimidated by the task. "I love to grill," she exclaims. "I have an outdoor kitchen at home. When I worked in a restaurant, I usually ran the saute station where you learn to quickly infuse flavors while cooking fast and hot."

For the first round, Cannon prepared a rack of lamb that she cut into chops for the judges. Based on a dish she had eaten in a restaurant that she enjoyed, she called the chef up and asked him for advice. "He didn't know me from Adam's house cat, but I'm glad he was helpful."

Cannon had actually also earned a trip to the WFC for winning a steak competition, but chose to compete in the Fire & Ice challenge instead. "I wanted to cook with all these other ladies. It sure would have been easier to just bring a set of tongs to cook a steak instead of dragging my whole rig to Alabama, though!" This was actually her third trip to the WFC having competed as part of another barbecue team and by herself in the Chili category in the past.

Round 2 was a more traditional competition with the contestants cooking the four standard KCBS meats: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. At the end of the competition, Cannon found herself in the middle of the pack, but she still won a $1000 gift certificate from Manning Jewelry. There was one problem, though. She didn't get a chance to use it because she had promised to help out a team that had made it in the Top Ten round of the main BBQ competition. Instead of heading to the jewelry store to shop, she pitched in with her friends and helped them win fifth place overall. "I thought about it and knew they would have done the same thing for me," Cannon explains. "I'll just have to make another trip back to Orange Beach to pick out my jewelry!"

Even without the "Ice," Cannon did leave with a stoked fire in her heart. "My favorite part was when we first walked into the cooking arena, and I realized 'Wow, this is all just for us! It's on now.' And the reception where they let us all come up on stage together was awesome. It was amazing to cook and compete with all these other talented women, and I sure want to qualify again if I can." Don't bet against her!