A Year of Hard Work and Long Nights Earn Charlie Meeks the Ultimate Prize

Charlie Meeks grew up watching his father cook whole hogs in their backyard. You could say it’s in his blood, a part of his DNA.

Now, after decades spent perfecting his own craft, he’s been named the inaugural Whole Hog Barbecue Pitmaster of the Year, a well-deserved honor for this veteran cook.

Meeks has been competing in North Carolina Pork Council sanctioned contests for years, and was even crowned Champion in 2001. He estimates that he participates in eight to 10 contests each year. He keeps the weight tags of every hog he cooks, an overflowing bag of contest memories.

But 2015 was likely the most memorable 12 months of contests. He zigzagged the state, competing in 17 contests and racking up 6 first-place finishes. (He also came in second five times, third place three times, and never placed lower than 8th.)

After a year like that, Meeks had a feeling he may claim the Pitmaster of the Year title, but wasn’t sure until his name was called in his hometown of Newport. At the kick-off of the 2016 Series, with family by his side and contest counterparts cheering him on, Meeks gladly accepted his title—a welcome reward for a “lot hard work and a lot of long nights.”

Whole hog cooking has been and still is a family affair for the Meeks. His wife, Dorothy, competed with him for years, managing the Showmanship portion of the contests. Now, Charlie is the patriarch of three generations of whole hog cooks—his son and grandson also taking part in the contests.

Meeks’ advice for the younger generation of whole hog cooks? Pretty simple:

  1. Get a good hog.
  2. Have a good sauce.
  3. Do the best you can.

Those three keys have served Meeks well. He’s an institution in the Whole Hog Barbecue circuit, a tough, but well-loved competitor.

Think winning Pitmaster of the Year was his swan song? Think again. Meeks has already claimed a first place finish this season and, despite a recent surgery, is planning his trip to Raleigh for this year’s Whole Hog Barbecue Championship.