Sonny’s Hosts First Ever Jr. Pitmaster Class and BBQ Competition  

From The Smoker May 13, 2024
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At Sonny’s, we don’t just keep the Pitmaster tradition alive, we share it with passion. Our Pitmasters are not just BBQ experts, but also mentors, eager to share their knowledge with the next generation of grill masters. 

We recently partnered with Wekiva High School’s Culinary Program, led by the talented Chef Bates, to host a Jr. Pitmaster Class and BBQ Competition where aspiring young BBQ enthusiasts could hone their BBQ skills. This event is modeled after the comprehensive P.I.T. Academy our own Pitmasters complete to earn their certification. We adapted this curriculum into a single, intensive day full of educational and hands-on learnings in which students achieved their Jr. Pitmaster Certification.  

Students from eight schools across Florida traveled to Wekiva High School to dive into the world of BBQ. Guided by our head Pitmaster, Shannon Snell, these students were led through detailed presentations that covered everything from the different types of wood used, to crafting their own BBQ sauces and rubs, and the precise art of trimming and preparing ribs. 

Just when they thought they had learned it all, Shannon went over the regions of BBQ and how they differ by preparing a BBQ spread that included Pulled Pork, Brisket, Ribs, Mac and Cheese, Coleslaw, Green Beans, and BBQ beans. This gave the students an opportunity to taste the subtle difference in flavors that characterize America’s BBQ regions.  

After a morning full of soaking up BBQ knowledge, the real test began. We took the students outside to fire up the smokers where they could put their newly acquired skills to use in a friendly BBQ competition. Each school, working as a team, applied their handmade sauces and rubs to prepare ribs. Shannon went around coaching each team and providing helpful tips and tricks. While the teams waited for the ribs to be ready, everyone gathered, providing a dynamic space for the students to discuss and learn from each other’s techniques. 

After being judged by 7 professional NBBQA Judges, the results were in –  

  • 1st Place: BBQ Bulldogs – Frost Proof High School  
  • 2nd Place: BHS Culinary – Bartow High School 
  • 3rd Place: The Smokers – Forest High School 

These events are more than just competitions, they are a celebration of BBQ culture and an investment in the future of the culinary arts. By nurturing young talent and providing a platform for them to showcase their abilities, we are ensuring that the art of BBQ continues to thrive and evolve. As we continue to host events like the Jr. Pitmaster Class and BBQ Competition, we remain dedicated to the craft and community that have made Sonny’s a beloved name in BBQ. 

Students in Jr. Pitmaster Class stand outside Wekiva High School for a photo.

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