Husband and wife Jake and Amy Stuart have had a friendly rivalry as members of competing Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast teams for several years. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Husband and wife Jake and Amy Stuart have had a friendly rivalry as members of competing Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast teams for several years. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Amy Stuart and her husband, Jake, have built quite the heated rivalry as amateur barbequers over the past three years.

Or maybe it's only the fire in their cookers.

The husband and wife participate on separate teams in the annual Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast, but they are never far apart during the competition.

Early Friday morning, both crews set up their tents and cookers side-by-side.

They represented two of the more than 50 teams that participated in the amateur contest, which was a record.

"It's been a lot of fun," Jake said as he took a break from tending the grill at his station.

Teams had from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to cook their food, which is broken into categories of ribs, pork, beef, poultry, game and other meats. Teams also are judged for best original sauce and spice rub.

Amy formed her team, Siblings Only BBQ, three years ago, while Jake's team, Lazee Boi BBQ, has been involved for the past 10 years. Jake's team has placed in a few of the categories throughout the years and has even won best team and also best cooking contraption.

Amy formed her own team because her husband's group ran out of tasks for her. She quickly turned to several siblings, and together, they built a team, ordered and processed a pig and made T-shirts in just one week.

"It was amazing," Jake said of the short turnover.

"We didn't have a clue what we were doing," Amy admitted.

Jake's team enjoys working with smaller items like shrimp and chicken or artisan cooking, while Amy and her siblings prefer the whole hog roast.

Which is better? That all depends on whom you ask.

"Oh, the pig roast. It's southern Indiana," Amy declared.

"This is why we have two teams, I guess," Jake quipped.

Jokes aside, preparing for the event is no small task. The teams often bring multiple rigs and sometimes arrive at about 4 a.m. to reserve a spot.

"I got here at 4:05, and I was disappointed I got here that late because I was third in line," Amy said.

Once the rigs are set up, teams spend the day cooking and typically set up a grill with food for passersby.

Then, they meticulously arrange each box for the judges. And after all that work, they have to clean up the areas and haul off their rigs.

Amy said she thought Jake and the others were simply "goofing around" until she joined the competition.

"It kicks your butt," she said.

Jake's team has registered for the Kansas City Barbeque Society but he said he wants to keep his amateur status. And while the goal each year for both teams is to place in the competition, the awards take a backseat to the atmosphere.

"If I place, great. If I don't, I'm not mad," Jake said. "I didn't come down here to win. I came down here to enjoy my friends and family and even a little competition."