Originally Published: October 22, 2011 9:59 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Mike and Lynn Jeffrey have taken their Montana Bar-BQ business on the road - literally.
The Jeffreys, who moved from Lewistown, Mont., to the Poquito Valley area north of Prescott Valley this past December, have entered barbecue contests throughout the Western states for the past four years. They also travel as far as the state of Washington to sell sandwiches and wraps at festivals. They try to enter at least one competition each month, and attend events on weekends.
They took first place in the pulled pork category in 2007 in the Pepsi Wyoming State BBQ Championship & Bluegrass Festival in Worland. The Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctions the competitions.
However, Mike Jeffrey, 56, said the star of the family is the youngest member of the household and only one still living at home: Jaden, 9. The Jeffreys, married 11 years, have a melded family of nine children and five grandchildren. Jaden, a fourth-grader at Coyote Springs Elementary School in Prescott Valley, won first place for children's barbecues in two competitions in 2009: the Boats, Bands & BBQ in Pueblo, Colo., and the Best Dam Barbecue in Boulder City, Nev.
Jaden also took second and third place - for two separate entries - this year in Pueblo.
Competitions are judged on appearance, texture and taste, Mike Jeffrey said. Judges also inspect the entries in advance to make sure they are not cooked ahead of time and the participants use the correct kinds of meat.
The couple uses the jumbo pot for competitions and smokers for vending purposes. It takes 12 hours to cook and prepare brisket and pork, four hours for ribs and two hours for chicken, Mike Jeffrey said. Cooking temperatures range from 200 degrees for chicken and ribs, and 215 to 220 degrees for brisket and pork. The Jeffreys use charcoal as a base, and cook with apple and oak wood to add flavor to the meat.
"The apple has a more sweet flavor," Mike said. "The oak is a nice hardwood."
The couple's specialty is Southern Comfort bacon-stuffed brisket, Lynn said. "It's unique," Mike said, adding he injects Southern Comfort into the brisket. "We have our own special ingredients," Mike said. "What we do is original."
Mike said he and his wife began entering competitions at the urging of customers. They launched the business 12 years ago, three years after a work-related injury ended Mike's 15-year career in law enforcement in California's Central Valley.
Mike said he became stricken with epilepsy and had a stroke, which made it harder to find a conventional job. "I always cooked, so my friends said, 'You ought to barbecue,'" he recalled. "My mom taught me how to cook."
The couple's reputation spread as they entered competitions and served food at both competitions and special events. The Jeffreys were among only four food vendors during the seventh annual Wyoming State BBQ in August, Director John McMartin stated in an email. The festival drew its largest crowd ever: 6,000 to 8,000 people.
Mike and Lynn also made their names known in their former hometown of Lewistown, where they lived for four years. They have entered the annual Chokeberry Festival, which takes place on the first Saturday after Labor Day, for at least four years, said Connie Fry, executive director of the Lewistown Chamber of Commerce. "Anybody that I have talked to said it was very, very good," she said of the Jeffreys' barbecue.
Mike said he and his wife are focusing on building the business.
"We are looking at a permanent location, and we are expanding our customized catering for weddings, business openings and business parties," Mike said. "And we offer something no one else does: divorce parties."
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