6th Place Finish

Theresa Bell

Big Dog BBQ VA
Theresa Bell
Final Score
KCBS Score
WFC Score

I've only been doing this for four years, and I never thought I'd have the chance to compete with these nine amazing women. I'm almost evangelical about it!

When it comes to the world of competitive barbecue, there's commitment and then there's Theresa Bell of Virginia Beach. After she finished competing in the first annual Cowboy Charcoal Fire & Ice Women's Barbecue Championship Series , which was hosted at the World Food Championships in Orange Beach. AL last November, Bell memorialized her participation by getting a tattoo of the event's logo. That's right. A permanent tattoo!!

She was grateful just for the chance to take part in the finals because initially only the top ten female pitmasters on the Kansas City Barbeque Society competitive circuit were invited to Orange Beach, and Bell's performance during the 2016 season had her in 13th place. While this was certainly a respectable achievement, it took three other teams dropping out for Bell and her Big Dog BBQ team to earn the golden ticket to the Fire & Ice finals.

"I was so excited to be part of the inaugural group!" Bell recalls. "I only found out the Tuesday before the event, but luckily my boss was very understanding." Bell works for the city of Virginia Beach in mental health and substance abuse counseling, and she pretty much takes all her vacation days on Fridays to travel to barbecue competitions.

"I've only been doing this for four years, and I never thought I'd have the chance to compete with these nine amazing women. I'm almost evangelical about it!" Cooking with her husband Larry, Bell makes all the decisions on the team. "He runs the smoker and stays up all night so I can sleep."

Bell is not intimidated by being one of the rare female leaders of a cook team. "I don't mind being a woman in a man's game. I like that the guys underestimate me. Now the word's out that I am extremely competitive!" In Orange Beach, Bell was cooking for the chance to win a share of $15,000 in gift certificates from Manning Jewelry over two days of competition. The first round was a grilling competition where the lady pitmasters had to step out of their usual "low and slow" comfort zone to prepare a dish for a panel of judges using Cowboy Charcoal and a Bull Outdoor grill.

Bell earned a respectable score for her coriander-dusted grilled sea scallop served with a citrus/honey vinaigrette over mixed greens, but she was especially excited to participate in round 2. The second day was a more traditional barbecue competition with the pitmasters preparing the four standard KCBS meats: chicken, pork, ribs and brisket.

Bell was raring to go. "It was like, 'Bring it on!' I was just so excited to be there, but I kept myself organized. I have my whole cooking schedule in a spreadsheet, including eating and bathroom breaks." Her detailed plan stood her in good stead, although she did not end up in the top two of the competition. She did not go home empty-handed, though, winning a $1000 gift certificate for some beautiful "Ice" from Manning Jewelry.

But most importantly, she went home with some amazing memories. "Just getting the call to compete was one of the biggest moments of my life! It was such a big deal and such a great location. I got to meet and compete with some of the most amazing female cooks that I'd heard about forever, and I'm already planning next year's schedule to try to qualify again. I'll be devastated if I don't make it back!" At the very worst, Bell will at least be able to think about the Fire & Ice championships whenever she looks down at her tattoo.