Zack’s BBQ has Madison roots with Century 21 sponsorship
Real estate broker Eversole
hosts family each year of festival
(Aug. 12, 2016) – Paoli, Ind., native Mike Weeks always enjoyed cooking and competition. So not long after college, he organized a team of old college buddies and friends and started competing in chili contests. In fact, he did it for 15 years “until I sort of burned out on it.”
So then he took up barbecue cooking events with the Kansas City Barbeque Society. He formed a team he called Zack’s BBQ comprised of friends John Hunt and Jim Akers, both of whom lived in or near his then-residence of Franklin, Tenn.
“We started competing mostly in southern events, especially “Memphis in May” in Memphis, Tenn,” said Weeks, 65. Their 15 straight years of competing at that signature event finally paid off when, 21 years ago, their barbecue sauce won a Tennessee state championship, followed by a coveted World Grand Championship at “Memphis in May”.
The achievement got his wheels turning. So, together with help from family members, he started a company called Southern City Flavors (www.SouthernCityFlavors
.com) to market the sauce – and other similar hot sauce products – commercially. He currently sells his products locally at Whole Foods, area gift shops and online.
The success of that company offered him a full-time occupation after he retired five years ago from his corporate job. His company website today offers a dozen or more different sauces and other products for sale.
Mike Weeks (third from right) and his sisters Robin Grissom and Brenda Eversole (center), pose with the Zack’s BBQ cooking team at a previous Ribberfest.
Meantime, his team’s appearances at KCBS contests around the country has dwindled annually to only two events – the Madison Ribberfest, scheduled this year for Aug. 19-20, and his hometown Franklin (Tenn.) barbecue contest, which takes place a week later. He competes now as Southern City Flavors, even though most still know him as Zack’s BBQ, he said.
The Madison Ribberfest is special to him because it takes place in the hometown of his older sister, Brenda Eversole, a longtime Madison, Ind., resident who is broker-owner of Century 21 River Valley Real Estate Inc. In fact, Weeks hasn’t missed a single event in the festival’s 14-year existence. He will make his 15th consecutive appearance this year, sponsored as ever by his sister’s real estate company and supported by dozens of family and friends. These days, his core team includes his Franklin, Tenn., friend Bob Johnson.
“I’ve never won first or second place in Madison, but I’ve placed in the top 10 in every event at one time or another over the years,” Weeks said.
He also has an even greater responsibility at the Madison Ribberfest, he said, “since I have the pleasure of cooking barbecue for 100 of Brenda’s friends on Friday night,” he joked. “If I don’t show up for Ribberfest, I will never be invited back to Madison.”
Mike Weeks has turned his grilling hobby into a business he now does fulltime in retirement.
Making the weekend special is the fact that he is joined by so many family members. His daughter, Rachel Treadway, and son-in-law, Michael Treadway, of Henderson, Tenn., help him on the cooking squad, while Brenda and several of her Madison friends – such as Rob and Michele Barlow of Madison – also pitch in for support. The Barlows are also friends with the neighboring team, Green Eggs & Ham, whose captain is Tom Murr of Yorktown, Ind. Mike and Brenda’s younger sister, Robin Grissom of Bedford, Ind., and her family also attend.
“It’s like a family affair,” Weeks said.
Eversole said the weekend offers the family a chance for everyone to get together and have a good time. “Most of our children and their families come. We have family members come in from Georgia, Tennessee and Indiana.
We also have lots of friends and all our (Century 21 Real Estate) brokers and agents join us on Friday night.”
Eversole said the family members offer Weeks their moral support but that he does all of the meat preparation and arranges the contest entries himself. “He does all the prep work but sometimes he may ask us to look at his entries and offer our opinions,” Eversole said.
The team also has a friendly rivalry with Green Eggs and Ham, whose team members usually spend Saturday evening at Eversole’s house, where everyone reviews the judge’s scoring over dinner.
Considered a veteran of the “sport” of professional barbecue cooking, Weeks said his advice to newcomers would be to take the KCBS judge’s course “to learn what the judge’s are looking for.”
Things change over the years, especially flavors, he said. In fact, he said that his award-winning vinegar-based sauce would likely not even rate a judge’s decision these days, since many winning sauces now are tomato-based.
“Flavors and trends change so much over the years,” he said. “But back in the day, vinegar-based sauces were the most popular in the south.”
He also said today’s KCBS teams are cooking more and experimenting with flavors and sauces and styles, and that “people are becoming more creative, trying different things. As far as tenderness of the meat, that doesn’t change. But flavors and sauces definitely do.”
Weeks explained that 20 years ago, barbecue lovers would not even think of putting sauce on their meat. But today, “Everyone thinks you need to add a sauce to the meat. So we have all these recipes and flavors to do just that.”
In the two decades that Weeks has been competing, he has seen a lot. He encourages newcomers to try new things and explore new techniques of cooking meat and devising flavorful sauces.
As for competing on the KCBS circuit, he says, “I love the camaraderie among the teams. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. It’s a great group of people – the best.”
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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