In four short years, Chris Fineran went from not having a clue about cooking a championship pig to mentoring others and winning North Carolina’s coveted Pitmaster of the Year award. Fineran, from Myrtle Beach, S.C. is one of only a few outsiders to compete in the Whole Hog Barbecue Series. Andy Curliss, N.C. Pork Council CEO, presented Fineran the Pitmaster of the Year trophy at the Newport Pig Pickin’ Contest in April.
In 2016, Fineran participated in 18 out of 25 contests in the Whole Hog Barbecue Series. Of those, he placed in 13 contests and won four of them, including the Whole Hog Barbecue Championship in Raleigh. He placed second in seven contests.
Competing frequently is key to being in the running for the Pitmaster of the Year award. Cooks earn 100 points for every competition they participate in, and more points for finishing in the top three. Those points vary, depending on the size of the competition, with more points given for winning larger competitions.
“To be the second Pit Master of the Year to follow up Charlie Meeks, it’s humbling because you know how hard everybody works. They work like crazy,” Fineran said.
Fineran got his start after his brother-in-law and assistant cook, Steve Sumner, asked him to cook a hog for the N.C. State spring football game tailgate competition. They finished last, but didn’t give up, even after two more last place finishes that first year.
“There is a big difference in cooking in competition than in cooking a pig for your friends,”Fineran said. “The criteria that the North Carolina Pork Council has set is crazy strict on brownness, on the crispness of skin, the moisture, your meat and sauce taste. It’s one of the hardest things I have had to do to be successful.”
Fineran said he takes competing seriously, but also has fun while doing it.
“It is one of the most relaxing things you will ever do, is sit around with your buddies, have a relaxing cold beer and cook a pig,” Fineran said. “You’ve got to wonder what the rich people are doing, because it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Well said and well deserved!