Oakridge BBQ sponsored team, Priorville BBQ, was recently featured in a very nice article by The Daily News Online.
BENNINGTON — They’ve only been at it a few years, but they’re already smoking the competition.
Mark and Maria Prior had always been interested in barbecuing and grilling out, but before 2012, never did it competitively. After watching some of the barbecuing shows on television though, the couple — who are a also a full-time pharmacist and nurse — decided to try their hand in a competition.
The two began Priorville Barbecue in 2012 and since then, it’s just been competitions and trophies.
The husband-and-wife team kept expectations modest before their first competition, though.
“Oh we thought we were going to get killed,” Mark Prior said, adding that the goal really was “to not come in last.”
It started out with one competition, then four, then six, and then eight competitions this year.
They even have sponsorships now from Rec Tec Grills and Oakridge BBQ.
Their most recent award came from the Oinktober BBQ competition in Clarence, where Priorville earned first-place, “grand champion” honors.
But not all competitions are right here in Western New York. Mark and Maria are often driving several hours, hundreds of miles away to compete with their barbecue.
Of their awards — and there are a whole dinner-table’s worth of them — the one they are most proud of is the 2014 Empire State Grand Champion, meaning they had the best meat across all categories among some of the best in the state.
What’s cool, though, is that the couple sticks to their roots when it comes to equipment and the overall operation. They have upgraded beyond what they were using before competing, sure, but they are not towing a 40-50 foot, $100,000 rig like some people do.
Which is really to say, expensive meat and equipment is, “certainly not the key to success,” Mark Prior said. “If you cook good food, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
To keep up with the trends and make sure their recipes are improving, they make sure to barbecue year-round. In the winter is when they’ll experiment with recipes and zero in on what to do for next year’s competitions.
“When the snow starts falling, that’s when we’ll start tinkering,” Mark said.
What goes into those changes varies, depending on the prior year. Obviously, if you won with a certain recipe, that might not change too much. But things do ebb and flow, so Mark and Maria need to make sure they keep up with interests.
In this region of New York, Mark Prior said what does well is Kansas City-style barbecue — which hinges on sugary, molasses-based sauces.
“It pretty much follows suit with stuff right out of Kansas City,” he said.
So the couple has won a bunch of local contests and a state competition. The next goal is obvious: a national title.
“Yeah of course,” Mark said of wanting to win at the national level.
Right now, the only place to get Priorville Barbecue is at a competition. The couple doesn’t sell its meat anywhere, but they said there are plans to get into catering in the future.
“We’re thinking of doing a catering gig or, we’ve tossed around opening up a tent at the (Erie County) fair,” Mark said.
But no matter, they are having fun doing what they’re doing.
“We’ve become good friends with so many of the other teams that it’s just like hanging out with a bunch of your friends for the weekend,” Mark said. “It’s so much fun.”