Smokin' the Competition: Hall of Famer Loves His BBQ

Jeff Vanderlinde

This Minnesota Hall of Famer is the guy to know if you have a hankering  for prize-winning barbeque

By Nathan Solheim

Shig (slang), verb: To steal barbecue secrets. Grin, verb: What Jeff Vanderlinde does each time his team wins a barbecue championship.

Vanderlinde and his competitive barbecue team, Shiggin’ and Grinnin’, have had a lot to smile about. Since coming together in 2008, the group has competed in 14 to 18 competitions a year. It’s become a top 10 regular, and been crowned Grand Champion nine times. The sixth victory was at the 2012 American Royal World Series of Barbecue Open in Kansas City last December, where the team beat 545 competitors to win one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive barbecue contests.

“Winning is all about bragging rights,” says Vanderlinde, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Edge in Delano, Minn. “I love competing against the other teams. I know them all and we’re good friends, but I still enjoy kicking their butts.”

For Vanderlinde, the American Royal Grand Championship is the zenith of a passion that flared in 2006 after he fired up a smoker with a couple of local barbecue competitors. He was hooked at first bite. Today, Vanderlinde is head pitmaster for his team – he’s in charge of picking through cases of meat at his local market and building flavor profiles for the rubs and sauces.

Competitive barbecue teams compete in four categories – chicken, pork shoulder, brisket and ribs. Shiggin’ and Grinnin’ placed third in ribs and sixth in chicken at the American Royal, and while they didn’t make the top 10 in the other categories, their overall performance was enough for Vanderlinde and teammates Ted Moonen and Derek Schansberg to take first place and $12,500 in prize money.

The team’s previous best finish in a major competition was fourth in the 2011 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Tennessee, where they competed against 96 teams from 24 countries. They’ve also had top 10 finishes in the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour and the World’s Championship Bar-B-Q Contest at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Texas. They’ve even been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “BBQ Pitmasters.”

Although Vanderlinde won’t divulge his tricks for creating the best barbecue (that would be like President Reagan releasing U.S. nuclear codes during the Cold War), he does reveal that Minnesota sugar maple wood is a staple in his smoker.

“I’m very competitive, and I love feeling the pressure,” says Vanderlinde, a RE/MAX Hall of Famer who joined the network in 2008. “I don’t dwell on our losses, but I expect to do well at every competition we enter. Just like in real estate, I expect to stay on top.”

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