Unless you play in the competition barbecue world, this weekend may not register as anything special on your calendar. But for the men and women who worship at the altar of low and slow smoke, this weekend is their Super Bowl.

As you read this, the best competition barbecue teams from around the world are converging on Lynchburg, Tenn., the iconic home of Jack Daniel’s distillery and the host site for the annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

Over the years, a who’s who in barbecue have competed—and won—across a bevy of categories at ‘The Jack,’ and you never know what notables are going to turn up among the judges.

Among those making the pilgrimage to southern Tennessee is our own Chef Michael Ollier, who is gearing up to judge his second Jack competition. We sat down with the good chef to talk about what he can expect.

What does the Jack mean to the world of barbecue?

This is the big one. Over 100 U.S. teams and 27 international are invited based on winning a qualifying barbecue competition. To win the Jack Grand Champion is a huge deal.

How does one go about becoming a judge for the Jack?

The minimum requirement is to be a Certified Barbecue Judge (CBJ). Unlike most barbecue competitions, judging at The Jack is by invitation only. The result is a “who’s who” of barbecue at the judging tables. I’ll be rubbing elbows with some big names in barbecue, including Mike and Amy Mills, Famous Dave Anderson from Dave’s Famous Barbecue, and Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ), among others.


Why do you continue to go back to judge?

Networking! Our brand can network with a concentration of big-name barbecue folks in one location.


What’s the best bite you’ve ever had at The Jack?

Sadly, it’s never the brisket. So much adulteration is done to it, I don’t recognize it.


Is it true that no one drinks Jack at the Jack due to local alcohol restrictions?

True, Lynchburg’s home county of Moore is a dry county; however, while on Jack Daniel’s Distillery property, the Jack is flowing.


Can’t get enough barbecue? Check out three new barbecue-centric podcasts on Meat Speak – Powered by the Certified Angus Beef  ® brand, including one speaking with former Reserve Grand Champion of The Jack Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ in Decatur, Ala.