Camp wins grand champ honors in Paxton Swine 'N' Dine BBQ Contest

PAXTON — After landing reserve champion honors for the first time in his barbecue cookoff career during last year’s Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival, Marcus Camp claimed the top prize in this year’s event: grand champion.

The 34-year-old Camp, a Paxton resident and 2001 graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, swapped spots with last year’s grand champ, Smokin’ Walders, which took reserve champ honors this year.

Having competed in barbecue cookoffs for only the last five years, Camp, who heads up the Camp’s BBQ-Crew cookoff team, couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. It was his fourth time competing in Paxton’s contest — and his first time winning grand champ honors in any contest.

“We’ve won second and third in a couple different competitions in categories such as chicken or ribs, but this is our first-ever grand championship, placing first overall,” Camp said. “It feels good. I mean, four years ago, we came in here and I think we were almost last. We were toward the bottom of the standings, and then the next year we were third or fourth in chicken, and then the next year we were second overall, and now this year we’re grand champions. So it feels good.”

Camp’s BBQ-Crew won first place in the chicken category and second in ribs to edge out Smokin’ Walders, which placed first in ribs and third in chicken. Using the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s points structure, a panel of judges awarded Camp’s BBQ-Crew a score of 176.0002 in the chicken category and 173.1430 in the ribs category. Camp came home with plenty of trophies and cash to show for his talents.

Camp said he thinks one key to his success was that he changed up his sauce for his chicken, adding some cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.

“I think that helped out a lot,” Camp said. “Other than that, it was the same (recipe) as last year.”

Camp said his wife is his “harshest critic” and told him that she thought the chicken sauce had a “little too much cayenne.” But, thankfully for Camp, the recipe worked anyway.

“I was a little nervous, because she said, ‘a little less cayenne,’” Camp said. “But it worked out.”

Camp said he thinks his ribs did well because he took the time to find ribs with the “straightest bones.”

“I bought the ribs at Schnuck’s in Urbana. They let me pick from the different racks the ones with the straightest bones, and I think that helped the appearance (score) a little bit,” Camp said. “Also, I used two smokers this year instead of one. I had one smoker for the chicken and one for the ribs. I used a Weber Smokey Mountain for the ribs and an Oklahoma Joe for the chicken. So instead of keeping both meats in one, I kept two different smokers, and that helped out a lot.”

Camp said it also helped that the weather cooperated, with not much wind and no rain this year.

“The weather was good,” Camp said.

Having a few more of his buddies to help out with the cookoff was also a benefit, Camp said.

“I had seven or eight guys come wanting to help this year, so that was better than just the two or three of us last year,” Camp said.

Camp said he and his team compete in four competitions per year — at Paxton, Arthur, Dwight and Effingham. His next competition is in Arthur in October.

Camp said he looks forward to Paxton’s contest the most.

“I love it,” Camp said. “This is one of the most fun days of the year. I have a lot of fun. I have all my friends come up, and we hang out in the tent and it’s a good time.”
Camp got interested in grilling as a hobby after getting out of the U.S. Army in 2013. It was in the Army that he “picked up a little bit of the barbecue stuff” from some of his friends.

While in the Army for nine years, Camp served as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne as well as a drill sergeant at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was deployed to Afghanistan once, Pakistan once and Iraq twice, seeing combat on the front lines. He was also in President George W. Bush’s security team on the president’s Pakistan/India tour in 2006.

Camp said he and his family host cookouts on most weekends.

“Probably every other weekend we cook out and I try different recipes,” Camp said.

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