Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival
Nov 18 & 19, 2022

Barbeque is so much more than a type of food By Melissa Greko, Aww Hell BBQ, VP Great Lakes Barbecue Association

Barbeque is so much more than a type of food By Melissa Greko, Aww Hell BBQ, VP Great Lakes Barbecue Association

Barbeque is so much more than a type of food
By Melissa Greko, Aww Hell BBQ, VP Great Lakes Barbecue Association

BBQ. Barbecue. Barbeque. However you choose to spell it, I didn’t realize just how much I enjoyed it until recently when I was asked to be a guest on Local Foods Radio. It is more than just a type of food. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a sport. It’s a family.

My husband, John, and I (along with our two young daughters) have a competition barbeque team. We have over 50 contests under our belt, at least six “First Place” category finishes, one Reserve Grand Championship, two Grand Championships and countless “Top Ten” finishes. We are nowhere near the best team out there, but we are a team that does it as a family.

It started as a yearly BBQ Judging thing my husband did with his father. They got a good friend of ours involved and the three of them went on to become Certified Barbeque Judges. That led to us cooking our first professional competition in 2008 where we landed a top 10 finish in ribs and we were hooked.

We compete primarily in Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned events. In 2018 we will compete in 12 competitions and organize another in about a six-month time frame. We eat a lot of chicken, ribs, pork and brisket throughout the year. Being on a Competition BBQ Team, you truly experience the very best BBQ you will ever have. Just ask my girls—they are 12 and 9 and are quite particular about the ‘cue!

Taste buds aside, for me, barbeque has always been about the social. If you were having a barbeque, it meant you were firing up your grill and inviting people over. For the record, yes there is a distinct difference between barbequing and grilling. Just “Google It” and you’ll get all the differences pointed out to you. But I don’t need to get into the cooking methods when so many others have already covered that topic. I’m talking about the social side of things that happen around outdoor cooking.

Food and beverages always bring people together. Growing up I’d look forward to warm weekends when my dad would fire up his charcoal grill and make something. To this day, there is something about the grilled chicken he simmers on his charcoal grill, in a cast iron skillet, filled with a sauce concoction he made with Open Pit that I will always love. It’s not competition barbeque by any means, but while it’s cooking we enjoy sitting out on the patio/deck among the smoke, enjoying adult beverages, and connecting.

On the barbeque circuit, it’s not much different. My family of four does not camp in our Grey Wolf toy hauler travel trailer…we go to BBQ Competitions in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kansas City. We see and meet new members of our BBQ Family. Someone inevitably is cooking something new they want us all to try, or we’ll all combine forces and do a potluck for a bit of comradery before we try to beat each other on the judges tables.

After our competitions we typically seal up and freeze most of our leftovers and can typically be counted on to pull something out for some last minute entertaining. Thanks to a BBQ friend, I’ve learned how to make Brisket Risotto…which is one of my favorite dishes to make while entertaining.


Melissa Greko is the Office Manager at ShowSpan, Inc, the company that produces the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival and was the 2017 Hospitality Volunteer WAVE Award winner for her work with State Games of America. In her spare time, she serves as the Vice President of the Great Lakes Barbecue Association as well as a Trustee on the Grand Rapids Jaycees Foundation.