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Memorial Day Grilling Tips from BBQ Pitmaster Christopher Prieto

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Contributor for Southern Living’s Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year–Round Guide to Grilling and Smoking (2015)

Owner of Prime Barbecue Restaurant in NC

Winner of 10 barbecue championships and several other barbecue awards

With Memorial Day coming up, Christopher Prieto is ready to celebrate with some delicious barbecue. He recently looked back at how he became interested in barbecuing. When Christopher was just five years old, his father took him and his siblings to Dosier’s, a gas station and grocery store. He was eye level with the meat counter and saw a giant brisket on the cutting board. “I remember juice coming at me,just staring at this piece of meat was one of the most magical moments in my life,” Christopher said.  “All I could think about getting this meat and eating it over and over again.”

BECOMING A PITMASTER

After that day, Chris tasted barbecue whenever he could and began determining which kinds tasted better.  At about age 13, he got his own cooker so that he could create the experience himself. He cooked with his dad often. He soon attended the Houston Livestock Rodeo, which was the largest barbecue competition around at that time. This competition piqued his interest in competing. He competed with his father and they won 6th place in the chicken category. “It was something I was drawn to,” said Christopher. Later, in college, he became the “grilling guy” and began to go to different restaurants to study under barbecue pitmasters. He ate different styles of barbecue and began learning the nuances of each.

After college, he began doing professional competitions. He has won 10 grand championships so far. In 2010, he opened his own catering business, called Prime Barbecue, in North Carolina. Then in 2013, Christopher began teaching barbecue workshops that showcased his proven barbecue techniques. 

BARBECUE AS A CALLING

“Why do you barbecue?” It’s a question that Christopher is often asked. His response? “I’m called to barbecue. This is the one thing that God had me pay attention to,” he said. “Through barbecue I can say, ‘This meat is sweet, but I can tell you something sweeter. This will sustain you, but I can tell you something that will sustain you even more.’  He says teaching and competing in barbecue gives him the opportunity to share Christ in a nonthreatening way. He often shares the love of Christ with others at competitions.  He says it’s also an opportunity to serve others. “We are called to serve people, and we are called to serve the best barbecue,” Christopher said.  In this way, he makes sure Christ stays at the center of all of his endeavors.  “When I found Jesus, I didn’t want anything to be greater than that,” said Chris.  “That’s why I don’t create an idol out of winning championships. It doesn’t matter how many awards I hang around my neck, none of them go with me when I get to go to Heaven.”

FINDING CHRIST

Christopher found Christ in an unexpected way. He was friends with a Christian girl who always invited him to church. He always said no, but became interested as she spoke about Jesus.  Meanwhile, he was looking for money to enter a competition with his father, but the entrance fee was very expensive at $1,200. Christopher didn’t have the money.  One day he was in his parents’ home looking through old boxes that were full of his belongings.  In one of the boxes, he found an accordion folder filled with cash. It was100 dollars more than he needed  for the contest. He says at that time, he felt Jesus giving him a hug and saying, “I’ll take care of you.” Christopher says that God’s provision and love for him felt so profound, he was compelled to accept Jesus into his heart. Christopher accepted Christ right then and there, alone in his parents’ garage. He also married his Christian friend. They are still married today.

Guest Name / Person Interviewed or Featured in Article or Video: 
Christopher Prieto
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