Fineran crowned state champion for the third time

RALEIGH – Chris Fineran of Little River, S.C., was named Whole Hog Barbecue State Champion on Saturday, winning over Andy Harrison of Louisburg by a mere two points. Wesley Bowers of Washington, last year’s state champion, came in third. Fineran won the state championship in 2016 and 2018.

Whole Hog Barbecue: Left to right:
2nd -Andy and Tricia Harrison of Mr. Curley’s Cue Crew, Champions Steve Summer and Chris Fineran of Beach Boys Barbecue and 3rd – Wesley Bowers and Bruce Lee of Getting Piggy With It.

The 28 cooks competing in the championship had to battle rain or the threat of rain throughout the night as they tried to present certified judges with perfectly crisped skin, moist hams and shoulders and delicious pork pulled straight from the grill and dipped in a crowd pleasing Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue sauce.   

Certified judges evaluate the finished pig following stringent rules based on overall appearance, color, skin crispness, taste and completeness of presentation. The pigs cannot be sauced or seasoned prior to judging.

Each year, a trophy is awarded to the cook who had the highest score in the Crispy Skin section on the scoresheet. For the first time, it was a tie amongst four cooks: Mark Woolard of Bath, Billy John Narron of Middlesex, Kevin Peterson of Benson and Andy Harrison of Louisburg all had perfect scores on skin.

Crispy Skin – Four-way tie: Kevin Peterson, Billy Narron, Andy Harrison, Mark Woolard

Once the on-site judging was completed, the cooks chopped the pork and seasoned it and boxed it to be taste-tested by a blind set of judges, meaning the judges didn’t know who cooked the barbecue. During the blind judging portion of the event, the judges rate the barbecue on taste, tenderness and appearance.

David Murray of Snow Hill won first place, Richie Fulgham of Wilson won second and Welsey Bowers of Washington placed third in the blind tasting category.

Blind Taste: 1st – David Murray of Fired Up BBQ and 3rd – Wesley Bowers of Getting Piggy With It. (2nd – Richie Fulgham, not pictured)

A set of celebrity judges visited each tent to sample the homemade sauces and awarded first place in the Sauce Category to Eli Barnhill of Wendell first place. Mark Woolard of Bath came in second and David Murray of Snow Hill won third.

Sauce: Left to right: 3rd – David Murray, 1st – Eli Barnhill, 2nd – Mark Woolard

The final trophies that were awarded were for the People’s Choice categories. A VIP set of judges visited each tent and all of the participants at the Barbecue Summit were invited to sample the prepared barbecue and vote on their favorite. Daniel Jones of Greenville won first place, Ernest Twisdale of Roanoke Rapids won second place and Mat Griner of Zebulon won third place.  

Peoples’s Choice: Left to right: 3rd place Mat Griner, Winners Daniel and Melody Jones.

Cooking in the State Championship:

  1. Eli Barnhill: Sons of Bacon (Wendell).
  2. Wesley Bowers: Getting Piggy With It (Washington)
  3. Mark Copeland: Pocosin Boys (Colrain)
  4. Patrick Dowdee: Fur and Spur BBQ (Raleigh)
  5. Chris Fineran: Beach Boy’s BBQ (Little River, SC)
  6. Richie Fulgham: Porky’s Defense (Wilson)
  7. Paul Gainey: It’s ‘Que Time BBQ (Cape Carteret)
  8. David Grandy: Lazy Dayz (Morehead City)
  9. Mat Griner: Southern Q (Zebulon)
  10. Andy Harrison: Mr. Curley’s Que Crew (Louisburg)
  11. Mike Hemenway: My Sweet Hog (Newport)
  12. Sammy Hobgood: Space Pigs (Raleigh)
  13. David Hoffman: Grilling Palms BBQ (Kinston)
  14. Daniel Jones: Riverbumz BBQ (Warsaw)
  15. Matt Jones: 392 BBQ (Greenville)
  16. Charlie Meeks: Captain Charlie’s Cooks (Newport)
  17. John Moody: American Piggers (Bethel)
  18. David Murray: Fired Up BBQ (Snow Hill)
  19. Billy Narron: Wicked Pig (Middlesex)
  20. Dana Peterson: Yabotit Cue (Benson)
  21. Kevin Peterson: Showtime’s Legit BBQ (Benson)
  22. Donnie Pierce: Garage Smokers (Fuquay-Varina)
  23. Travis Stafford: The Two Toby’s (Mt. Olive)
  24. Justin Thompson: Fat N Sassy (Staley)
  25. Aliceson Turnage: Miss Alley’s Cooks (Newport)
  26. Ernest Twisdale: The GrillFather (Roanoke Rapids)
  27. Mark Woolard: Millhole BBQ (Bath)
  28. Kevin Wooten: Piggin’ and Grillin’ BBQ (Raleigh)

Each cook team qualified to compete by winning a local North Carolina Pork Council-sanctioned competition. The championship was originally slated to take place last fall, but a tropical storm forced the postponement.

The N.C. Pork Council has organized and sanctioned the Whole Hog Barbecue Championship since 1985 as the culmination of the Whole Hog Barbecue Series local competitions statewide. The Whole Hog Barbecue Series celebrates the history and artistry of whole hog cooking, supports communities and nonprofits, raising more than $114,000 each year for local charities. The Whole Hog Barbecue Series and championship is one of the ways the N.C. Pork Council supports local communities and events throughout our region. To learn more about the Whole Hog Barbecue Series, visit