The Smokestack Lightning Interview Tapes: Origin Story on Competing

 

Lolis Elie interviewing Jim Quessenberry

[00:00:00] Lolis Elie: How did you get into the actual barbecue business? Did you start off doing some competitions or…

[00:00:06] Jim Quessenberry: Yeah. Uh, well, see, I was in food service in Memphis. I was in …. with the Britling cafeterias over there. B, R, I, T, L, I, N, G, and uh, they’re an old company. They have cafeterias in Memphis. They have a cafeteria is in Nashville called B and w cafeteria.

[00:00:31] They have cafeterias in Kentucky, Louisville, Lexington, and all up in there called, uh… Blue Boar… Blue Boar like a boar hog. And, uh, the actual company, is a very, very old company that came out of… Uh… It came out of Birmingham years and year ago, but, uh, It’s an old family owned company. I worked for them for oh, four or five [00:01:00] years, four years, I guess. Which, you know, I’ve always been interested in food, I mean, even as a hobby. Well, I got into it as a business there. And I’ve always been into barbecue. My folks, that’s what the idea did to entertain when we were kids. Uh, you know, the both of them together kind of made a, uh, an indelible impression on me. So, uh, when these contests started coming along. It was a natural pursuit. You know, something I knew I was pretty fair at, so I just started doing them. And. uh..

[00:01:34] Lolis Elie: What year was that?

[00:01:36] Jim Quessenberry: Woo… uh… ’78 maybe…

[00:01:39] Lolis Elie: You do Memphis in May in ’78? first one?

[00:01:42] Jim Quessenberry: Yeah, been to every one of them. Under one name or other. We’ve been under a lot of different team names was always, always been me. And, a lot of my folks that I have now, have never, you know, have never been to two or three contests. A lot of folks I had with me back then, don’t go [00:02:00] to them anymore because they’ve all decided they’re too old. Me, I don’t ever get too old.

[00:02:04] Lolis Elie: Hmm… Did you ever win any of them?

[00:02:07] Jim Quessenberry: Yeah, we won uh… second one year… We won second in the second year they had it, we second in whole hog. We won third in… I believe 84, and uh… I won a comp… A side competition they had over there one year. John Morel was one of the sponsors. They had a contest called The Jet Net Ham Contest, which is nothing but a boneless ham in a jet net. And I won that. And that was really an accomplishment ‘cause it had about 200 entries. Um, but, uh, we’ve been pretty consistent about scoring fairly high. During one little period there, like about a five or six year period, we didn’t… We didn’t come in any worse than tenth place, which in a place… competition that big, that’s pretty good. Of course, we’ve come in… We’ve [00:03:00] literally brought up the rear before. You know.

[00:03:04]

We “never get too old.” That’s why Sauce Beautiful has been the preferred choice for thousands for over 30 years.

The Smokestack Lightning Interview Tapes: Cleveland Rib Mafia

Here we have another segment from the Smokestack Lightning interview tapes. Jim Quessenberry tells his story of locking horns in Cleveland over ribs, and how his ribs went missing like Jimmy Hoffa.

The Smokestack Lightning Interview Tapes: Jim Quessenberry’s BBQ Origins

I have recently come across some amazing recordings that I believed were lost to time. But, I did a little research and uncovered these amazing treasures. I reached out to author Lolis Elie, and he directed me to the Southern Foodways Alliance. He had donated all of the cassettes to them. There is more to come… Listen below as dad tells Lolis Elie and Frank Stewart a little about his beginnings in BBQ. -Michael Quessenberry

Interview with Jim Quessenberry by Lolis Elie and Frank Stewart

Lolis Elie: [00:00:01] Well, how did you get into this barbecue business? And, you can go back before the sauces themselves… the sauce and rub…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:10] Um… It’s been basically a hobby all my life, and…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:16] Actually, BBQ has been a big part of… uh…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:21] Most of our family… uh… celebrations… be it Easter,

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:28] Fourth of July, all your three day weekends, like your labor day, and Memorial Day, and that type of thing, you know?

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:37] Um… Even Christmas.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:39] Somebody’s always barbecue and something, you know, my brother-in-law over here. He always prided himself and doing a wild goose. I think it’s wild… maybe domestic… he always does a goose for Christmas and you know, I’m always doing something Christmas a big fresh ham or something, but…

Lolis Elie: [00:00:56] You say fresh ham, you mean green or like…

Jim Quessenberry: [00:00:59] Yeah Green ham. Yeah. I didn’t know you knew what a green ham was man.. Where you been learning all this shit?

Lolis Elie: [00:01:04] I used to read Green Eggs and Ham, man.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:04] *laughs*

Frank Stewart: [00:01:05] He’s a smart boy.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:06] Yeah he is.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:13] You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what a green… what green meat is.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:17] Oh no, I, We… The people at Craig’s and Duvall’s Bluff.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:21] Yeah.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:21] I was trying to figure out if they were doing green or slightly smoked, so I got the terminology. But I can tell you where I got it from. The guy at Cozy Corner, Ray Robinson… When you go talk to him, tell him, Uh.. you know, tell him you know us. In fact, we told him we come here to see you.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:34] Yeah.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:34] We told him about you.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:36] Yeah, I want to meet him.

Lolis Elie: [00:01:37] Also, he has a totally different style from everybody else… If we even talk about food… half… shoot… At this point, half the time it’s not about barbecue. It’s one of our stop off points. If we finish, you know, doing Memphis in May, We will crash there for a minute.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:01:51] Yeah, I’m gonna check him out, but I need me a new place to stop.

Frank Stewart: [00:01:54] Oh Yeah. He’s efficient. He closes at 7.

Jim Quessenberry [00:01:54] Oh really?

Lolis Elie: [00:02:02] Yeah.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:02:02] Independent type dude… That’s what I like.

Frank Stewart: [00:02:03] Opens promptly at 10, and closes promptly at 7.

Jim Quessenberry: [00:02:03] That’s great!

Frank Stewart: [00:02:03] He is not open on Sunday and Monday.

Lolis Elie: [00:02:03] Right.

The Beautiful Imperial BBQ Stew

This is a recipe that uses a Dutch Oven, it could be modified for a Crockpot, but I’m not sure how the timing would work out.

  • Serves 4-6
  • Cook time: 55 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients

The recipe takes quite a few ingredients including beer so get ready for a hearty meal.

  • 2 lbs of Stew beef, chuck preferably
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 medium white potatoes (skinning optional) chopped into 1” chunks
  • One large onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 11oz of Imperial Porter Beer (a smoky malt is the best)
  • 5oz of Jim Quessenberry’s Sauce Beautiful
  • 2 Tablespoons of Grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • Ground sea salt, ground pepper, seasoning salt, smoked paprika to taste

 

Instructions

  1. Put the dutch oven on a medium burner with the grapeseed oil.
  2. When the oil is rippling put in the stew beef and turn until evenly browned, add the garlic and flour in halfway through this process.
  3. Dump the Carrots, Potatoes and Onion in the dutch oven, add salt, pepper and paprika.
  4. Add Imperial stout, careful it may froth up.
  5. Add Sauce Beautiful
  6. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes or until simmering. Turn on oven to 350°
  7. Set dutch oven on a middle rack for 20 minutes.
  8. When 20 minutes is up check on stew, if it is not thickening enough, cook for the last remaining 20 minutes uncovered.
  9. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

 

Serve in a bowl with a glass of the same porter beer and a hunk of hearty bread to sop up the broth.