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Rick's Smokin' Pig BBQ boasts best chicken recipe
Restaurant's cooking team wins festival cookoff
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Rick’s Smokin’ Pig owner Rick Shaw pulls pork meat from a butt which, despite the name, comes from the pig’s shoulder. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Rick's Smokin' Pig BBQ

Where: 130 John W. Morrow Jr. Parkway, Gainesville

More info: 770-297-0912

For a barbecue sauce recipe, click here.

By the name, one wouldn’t assume Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ sells award-winning chicken. And the restaurant didn’t — until this year.

Rick Shaw has always sold popular pulled chicken sandwiches, wings and other chicken dishes at his restaurant, but this season his poultry products became even more well-known. Rick’s Smokin’ Pig won two first-place and one third-place awards at the city’s Spring Chicken Festival chicken cookoff and ultimately captured the Chicken City Cup for his cook team.

After competing in the Brenau Barbecue Championship annually, Shaw and his team were invited to compete in the Spring Chicken Festival when the college’s annual event was canceled. Immediately, Shaw knew he had to create something special for the competition.

“We knew we had to have something with a wow factor to it,” Shaw said. “It had to be something with multiple layers of taste.”

The team — including Shaw, his son, Steven, and friends, Scott Forrester and Scott Little — went into overdrive coming up with ideas. It eventually settled on a chicken specialty using a flattened chicken tender wrapped around a jalapeno-cheese mixture, rolled up and then wrapped in bacon.

To make the disk, the team smokes the meat and drops it into a fryer to crisp the bacon and cook the rest of the chicken. After removing it, the chicken wrap is sliced and served.

“We cooked samples two times a week for a month until we came up with the right mix,” Rick Shaw said.

Thanks to his innovative recipe, Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ’s team took first place in chicken specialty and first place in overall chicken. The team also won third place for its wings.

“We did our wings with kind of a hot barbecue sauce,” Rick Shaw said. “I think the only reason our wings didn’t do as well was because we spent so much time on the specialty. They were good, but they didn’t kick you in the mouth.”

Shaw also credits his team’s cooking experience with part of the win. The competition teams have only a small window of time to get their dishes finished, plated and presented before the judges.

“I’m very competitive, and I like producing quality food,” said Shane Evans, a member of Shaw’s Brenau Barbecue Competition team from last season who works in the restaurant.

For these team members, timing and preparation are everything, and knowing the equipment is key.

“We know from cooking in the restaurant every day how long it takes our smoker to cook something,” Shaw said.

When developing new ideas, Shaw turns to friends and restaurant patrons to gauge if the public will like a recipe or not because “everyone has very different taste buds.”

Evans noted he enjoys cooking pork and ribs in the competitions because people are familiar with the meat. The team has great success in those divisions as well.

“Winning is great because it lets you know that people appreciate your food and enjoy what you’re doing,” he said.

Shaw said the team will compete again in next year’s Brenau Barbecue Competition and the city’s chicken cookoff and is working on a “white chicken sauce” for the future.

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