John Willingham: "I believe in the freedom of barbecue."



John Willingham

Barbecue legend John Willingham passed away on Wednesday just as this year's Barbecue Fest was kicking off. He was 80.

Willingham was a politician, a restaurateur, an inventor, a multi-prize winner at barbecue cooking contests, a champion of all things barbecue.

Back in 2009, Willingham spent a memorable afternoon at the Flyer, guiding the staff through the finer points of 'cue for the paper's annual barbecue issue.

From that story:

Willingham preached the gospel of the rib, which has five basic tenets: appearance, aroma, taste, chewability, and memory. On barbecue sauce, Willingham said, "Generally speaking, people cover up that which you love to see — it's like a woman wears a dress." And the congregation (well, some of us), replied, "Amen."

Of barbecue judging, Willingham said, "We wanted to make it formal but with an element of freedom. I believe in the freedom of barbecue."

Pit Master Certification

At the conclusion of the day, Willingham bestowed each of his students with an Order of the Apron certificate, sealed with a greasy, sauce-stained thumbprint.


A whole raccoon smoked in Willingham's W'ham Turbo Cooker.

Modernist Cuisine: "I needed to have one those cookers."

Willingham inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

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