Melissa Cookston, the “Winningest Woman in Barbecue,” won first place in the Whole Hog category at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest Saturday at Tom Lee Park. It was Cookston’s fifth Whole Hog victory at Memphis in May, one of the most prestigious events on the barbecue competition circuit.
Cookston’s team Yazoo’s Delta Q has won Whole Hog five times at Memphis in May (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2017) in addition to two grand championships (2010 and 2012). Her winning hog was a hybrid bred to her own specifications to achieve optimal levels of protein, fat, texture, and flavor. She is believed to be the first competitor to use such a custom animal in the 40-year history of Memphis in May.
“To be the best, you’ve got to create the best,” Cookston says of her hybrid hogs. “Competition is in my blood. I’m totally addicted. Whole hog is the most challenging category, so of course it’s the one that we want to win!”
Cookston is also the owner of Memphis BBQ Company with locations in Horn Lake, Mississippi; Dunwoody, Georgia; and Fayetteville, North Carolina; and STEAK by Melissa in Southaven, Mississippi. She has written two cookbooks and has appeared on TV shows including “Today,” “BBQ Pitmasters” and “Chopped.”
“We are thrilled to take home another trophy from Memphis in May, which truly is ‘the Super Bowl of Swine,’” Cookston says. “There are so many great teams here and the competition is so intense that this is just a great honor for us.”