“Live Fast … Smoke Slow” is more than just a slogan for the Wicked Que competition barbecue team. For owner Jeff Campbell, a former University of Georgia track star who now spends hours smoking briskets and ribs, it’s a way of life.
“I’ve always loved barbecue, and I’ve always loved competing,” the Watkinsville-based contest-cooking veteran of 10 years said. “Now I’ve got bad legs and I can’t run anymore, so I cook barbecue.”
Campbell thanks his competitive drive and love for smoking meat for the more than 15 Grand and Reserve Grand Championships his one-man team has won.
“To hear your name called when you’ve beaten 50 or 100 other teams is very rewarding,” Campbell said. “Especially since I’m friends with so many of the people there – it’s always nice to beat your friends.”
But according to Campbell, it takes a lot more than just a competitive spirit to make an award-winning brisket.
“To cook a good brisket for a contest, you have to start with a good brisket. You can’t turn a bad piece of meat into a great piece of meat,” he said. “So what I tell people to do is use a good cut of meat and to buy my 180 Brisket Marinade.”
The “180” in Campbell’s marinade is a symbol of the perfect piece of meat and alludes to the the highest score a piece of meat can achieve at an event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts.
In addition to his superior smoked meats, which regularly score the perfect 180 points, Campbell was recently recognized for his superior sauce.
His Wicked Que Georgia Vinegar Sauce was named “Best Barbecue Sauce” at the University of Georgia’s 2017 Flavor of Georgia in March, an annual contest that showcases the best new food products made in Georgia.
“I about cried when I won; I was so excited,” Campbell said. “It’s thrilling to know that something I created in my kitchen is something that people enjoy, something that they want to buy.”
Campbell also produces a wide range of rubs and marinades.
To cater to those who want his products in their homes, Campbell sells his Wicked Que products in grocery and specialty stores in seven U.S. states and in Europe, where the American barbecue scene is on the rise – thanks largely to work that Campbell has done himself.
Campbell not only competed in some of Europe’s inaugural barbecue competitions, he also taught the first barbecue class in Europe sanctioned by the KCBS.
“There are a lot of people over there that are very excited about American barbecue. They just don’t know how to cook it,” Campbell said.
Campbell describes his work overseas and in the states as being a barbecue ambassador.
“I want to help grow the interest and the love of cooking barbecue,” he said. “When I see a new team get their name called, and they’re so excited because it’s their first call, I know exactly how they feel because I’ve been there – I love it.”