Going for hog glory

Published 6:25 am Saturday, October 25, 2008

By Staff
Pig pickin’: More than a cooking competition
Staff Writer
For some, pig pickin’ is more than a hobby, it is a passionate competition.
This year’s Smoke on the Water features over 20 cooking teams, all with unique stories and one goal in mind: win.
Some teams consist of seasoned pros, while others are made up of confident and optimistic newcomers. The teams hail from across eastern North Carolina, the state and the East Coast.
Many teams in the competition participate in over 20 pig pickin’s a year, according to Leslie Deaton, chief cook for The Carolina Cooker.
Like Deaton, every team in the competition has a grill name. There’s the Pot Belly Pigs, The Minutemen and the Git-R-Done Grill Team, to name a few.
Deaton’s The Carolina Cooker is one of many teams hailing from Halifax County.
Deaton, who started entering pickin’ competitions in 1997, can be considered a seasoned vet. He decided to start competing after building a pig cooker for his friend. After going to a couple of competitions with his friend, Deaton built himself a cooker and entered his first competition in 1997.
Deaton, a machinist of 40 years, uses a cooker unlike the traditional barrels used by his pig pickin’ brethren. His is more of a traditional-style square grill.
And apparently the desire to be different has paid off for Deaton.
Deaton won the first ever Smoke on the Water and finished second in last year’s competition.
Deaton’s fellow Halifax County cooker, Tommy Turner, has been competing for two years. This is his first year participating in Smoke on the Water.
Asked why he showed up, Turner said he was following the $1,200 first-place prize, with a chuckle.
Turner enjoys the camaraderie and challenge afforded by pig pickin’ competitions.
Cooker Fred Wodard, of Smithfield, said he enjoys seeing all the familiar faces in the competition.
His assistant cook, Donna Pate, of Smithfield, said, “It’s a lot of fun. You see a lot of the same people at other competitions.”
Pate said that Wodard convinced her to travel along to pig pickin’ competitions across the state.
She even brought a cot to sleep on while Wodard is manning the team’s cooker through Friday night and this morning.
To combat drowsiness, cookers Lee Grimsley and Wesley Bowers, of Washington, will be rotating cooking shifts throughout the night and morning.
The team, sponsored by Performance Paint and Body, said the pig pickin’ competition is a “once a year thing.”
Grimsley and Bowers have been doing Smoke for four years running.
Taylor Gregg, 13 years old, of Newport, was born into the “sport.”
Her mother is a past state champion, according to Frank.
Frank said he will be “coaching” his daughter during the competition.
Taylor won a pig pickin’ in Greenville last year, and placed at a pickin’ in her hometown of Newport.
For Taylor, it really is in her blood. Frank won Smoke in 2000, while his wife placed second that year.
Unlike the younger Gregg, Russell Snyder, of Halifax County, is a vet of the pickin’ circuit.
He said the best part of the pickin’ is “being back with all my buddies and friends.”
Snyder, who finished first in Smoke two years ago, said the competitors are “all real good buddies.”
But, he said, the friendly atmosphere doesn’t take away from the competitiveness.