Sonny’s Pitmasters Sharpen their Skills in the Spirit of 68 Cookoff

Imagine gettin’ up at the crack of dawn to start your smoker, gatherin’ your favorite team to cook up a signature dish and turnin’ in your best rack of ribs at the end of a long day. Welcome to the Spirit of 68 Cookoff.

Meatballs wrapped in bacon cook atop grill in cookoff, with team member standing overhead with tongs

It’s a tradition that made its grand comeback in 2023. We welcome Sonny’s Pitmasters from our locations across the Southeast to show us why they love BBQ. This year, 21 teams faced off in Lake Mary, Florida, by smokin’ their best rack of St. Louis Ribs and even a signature dish in a competition we called the “Pitmaster Showcase”. That dish could be anything from tender and juicy steaks to sweet and bacon-filled bread pudding.

Wolf Pack BBQ's setup at the Spirit of 68 Cookoff

Is your mouth waterin’ already at the mention of all that BBQ? Just think about what the judges got to taste. At the end of the day, these two teams came out on top:

Pitmaster Showcase Winner

Wolfpack BBQ Team holds trophy for first place Pitmaster Showcase

The “BBQ Wolfpack”, made up of team members from our franchisee iServ, howled their way to the top spot. The team of four cooked up some sizzlin’ Tomahawk Steaks, with garlic butter that truly melted in your mouth. Congrats, guys, and way to “pack” together for this win!

Ribs Winner

Smokin I-T holds First Place Trophy for Ribs

All eyes were on this prize. Ask any of our Pitmasters, if you know how to do ribs, you know your BBQ. Every team submitted their selection of top ribs, and the judges tell us it was a close one. However, one data-focused team trounced the competition. “Smokin’ IT” from Sonny’s BBQ HQ in Winter Park, FL took the top honor.

Prospective Pitmasters are Put Through Their Paces

3 Pit Academy students gather around table to work on their own BBQ Sauce

This delicious event stretched across two days, and the cookoff was actually the grand finale. One day before, class resumed at the Pit Academy. 36 people enrolled this year to become certified Sonny’s Pitmasters. This was not your average 2-hour course. This was a day full of BBQ basics.

Prospective Pitmaster stands at table and pretends to be in media opportunity with PR Representative

The prospective Pitmasters learned different cuts of meat from the National Pork Board, tasted sauces from around the world while cookin’ up their own, trained for media opportunities while getting interview ready and even brushed up on their showmanship skills for BBQ competitions.

Cookoff & Class: 2 Delicious Days

Trophies and spatulas for the Cookoff sit on table

At Sonny’s, we love investin’ in our future Pitmasters and bringin’ the family together for these fun events. They’re traditions we treasure, and we can’t wait for next year. Interested in joinin’ the team? Be sure to head to our Careers section to find opportunities at a Sonny’s near you, and maybe we’ll see you next year!