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Tue April 9, 2013
Bib's Downtown will Compete for Reality TV Show Title
The cooking duo of Bib's Downtown in Winston-Salem has created a menu that attracts a number of barbeque connoisseurs. On weekday afternoons, the lunch-time crowd pours into Bib’s. A spicy blend of hickory, molasses, vinegar and ketchup swirls in the air.
“This is delicious barbeque,” says Jodee Berini as she scoops shredded pork into her mouth. She and her husband Rob are from the city of Davidson, NC. Berini says when they travel, they use the internet to find the most popular barbeque restaurants. On this afternoon, their search brought them and their two daughters to Bib's on Fifth Street across from the main branch of the Forsyth County Public Library. “I got the pulled pork and this is really good quality meat, that’s what makes it good barbeque.” Bib’s Beans, red coleslaw and hush puppies are also on her plate. Rob takes a big bite of his pulled pork sandwich topped with white coleslaw.
Mark Little is senior cook at Bib’s. “It’s something I’ve been feeding my family for years and years, so it’s a flavor I came up with,” he proudly shares. Little has spent more than two years combining the vinegar taste of Eastern NC style barbeque and the ketchup taste of Western NC style with other flavors to develop the unique rub and sauces they use. “We have two kinds of sugar, we have pepper, some smokiness and other things I can’t tell you,” he chuckles. “It’s the blend that brings out the natural flavors of the meat.” And this popular taste has earned Bib's Downtown a spot on season four of BBQ Pitmasters. During the next few weeks, Little and fellow cook Ricky Seamon will compete on the national reality show for a $50,000 grand prize, a huge trophy and bragging rights of serving up the best barbeque in the country.
Seamon is Little's son-in-law and they've been cooking together for more than 15 years. They co-own Bib’s along with business manager Robert Moreau. The trio opened it in 2008 in a part of downtown Winston-Salem that didn’t have much restaurant traffic. But according to Moreau, word of mouth recommendations are drawing more people to the area. “People who grew up in this area and didn’t come downtown because it wasn’t welcoming It was a daytime city and a night time city that shutdown,” explains Moreau. “Maybe the older crowd not used to coming downtown and some of the younger crowd from other cities who are used to a downtown life, we gave them that place to go.” The trio has invested about a quarter of a million dollars transforming an old Firestone shop into a thriving restaurant. A big part of that investment is a custom smoker fueled by hickory logs. It cooks about 100,000 pounds of fresh chicken, beef and pork a year. Moreau calculates they serve about 18,000 plates a month.
One of Bib’s popular original side dishes is Bib’s Beans, a mix of four kinds of beans, three kinds of meat, tomatoes and a number of spices. Seamon says when he and Little create a new recipe, they are meticulous note takers, a skill he believes will help them in the competition. “It’s everything from how much you add to when you add it. Cooking is an art form,” says Seamon. “The creativity, the trial and error, it’s all about keeping up with the details.” Seamon also says slowly cooking their meats produces award-winning meals.
Little and Seamon will be Team Bibs. They’ll go up against 26 other selected barbeque teams during the three-round competition. During each round, teams will get two pieces of meat, one requiring a long cook time, the other requiring less time. The type of meats will be a secret until the round begins and both must be presented at the same time to the judges.
Little has 30 years of professional cooking experience and says he’s prepared almost every type of meat you can imagine. So he’s confident his signature blend of spices and seasonings will bring out a winning taste.
"We’ll be prepared with all of our flavors and when we see what we get then we’ll make that call,” says Little. “We're cooking off-the-cuff depending on the limits they give us." Little and Seamon have won several area barbeque competitions, including a grand championship. One thing Seamon believes will give Team Bibs an edge on this reality show is their mobile smoker which they'll haul to the three competition sites. "It’s actually the same smoker we have in the restaurant,” says Seamon. “It’s a 5,000 pound monster. We're going to cook two pieces of meat, and it's going to be perfect." Meanwhile, Seamon and Little say they’re closely studying past episodes of BBQ Pitmasters in addition to doing a lot of cooking.
BBQ Pitmasters will film the teams cooking at barbecue competitions around the country. The locations have not been disclosed yet. Season four will air in early June on the Destination America channel.