For Chris Fulmer, the Aiken Hard Labor Day BBQ Cook-Off was a labor of love.
“I kind of got food in my blood,” said Fulmer, whose Ultimate Tailgaters team took the overall prize in the barbecue cook-off Monday, and first place for ribs and respectful finishes in the wildcard and pulled pork contests.
The Ultimate Tailgaters were one of 12 teams competing in this year’s annual Aiken event, which is a fundraiser for the United Way of Aiken.
“Everybody’s out here for a good time,” said Sharon Rodgers, president of the United Way.
The annual fall fundraising campaign kicked off Friday to raise money for more than 50 critical programs that help citizens in need, she said.
Last year the community donated more than $3 million during the fall campaign, Rodgers said. The city of Aiken sponsors the barbecue cook-off and bring the community together for a fun, and filling, event, she said.
Dozen of volunteers were out in force Monday helping folks load plates of smoky meats and other goodies.
Fulmer and his fellow chefs cooked throughout the night and through a rainstorm to be ready with their unique twists for a Southern staple.
The ribs are Fulmer’s speciality, he said. He created the special sauce last winter when his father visited for the last time before his death. The family patriarch, who owned three grocery stores in Aiken, loved ribs. He declared his son’s ribs the best he had ever eaten during that visit.
“Every time I cook ribs now I think about my dad,” said Fulmer, who grew up working in the family business for 20 years. His love of food also came from his mother.
Fulmer, who inherited some of his mother’s 1,500 plus cookbooks, enjoys trying to decipher his mother’s notes and markings in the cookbooks. She always tweaked the recipes so it takes some work to find the right mesh to re-create one of her specialities, he said.
His special barbecue sauce is his own creation, though. He said it helped him take 12th place in a worldwide cook-off in Las Vegas.