John DAVID Wheeler
John David Wheeler, head cook for the Natural Born Grillers BBQ Team, is one of the most awarded BBQ cooks in the world. Among his many accomplishments are twice winning the overall Cooking Team of the Year award, winning the Memphis in May World Grand Championship, winning three separate world championships, over 75 grand championships, and literally thousands of other awards.
John David Wheeler is now a partner and pitmaster in the Memphis Barbecue Company, one of the hottest BBQ restaurants in the country. Mr. Wheeler’s partner and co-pitmaster in the restaurant is Melissa Cookston, also a multiple world championship winner, making the restaurant the only restaurant in America to feature two world championship pitmasters.
WITH John David Wheeler
We sat down with Memphis Barbecue Company pitmaster John Wheeler to determine the best pits in America, the one must-have BBQ tool, and what it takes to transition from homebuilder to BBQ-builder.
Tell us about what you’ll be cooking at Q in the Lou and why you chose to bring that dish and side to St. Louis.
Baby back ribs and baked beans. BBRs are Memphis-style ribs served either wet or dry and are a must-have. Ours will be served wet!
If you had to offer one helpful tip to the backyard barbecuers of the world, what would it be?
TEMP! Maintain constant temp on your pit and hit your desired internal temp.
If you could take an all-expenses-paid BBQ road trip across America, which three pits would you stop at?
Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas; Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City, Missouri; and Abe’s in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Describe the Memphis Barbeque Company menu in one word.
What’s your must-have tool for barbecue prep?
Who is or was the biggest influence on your cooking?
Is my mom and was my dad before he passed away.
What’s the biggest difference between cooking at a competition and cooking at a restaurant?
Not as much as you would think — pit size and the way it is finished.
Were you intimidated to open a BBQ spot in a city that’s long been famous for its barbecue?
Yes, a lot have come and gone but like the song, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
What’s the key to the perfect slab of ribs?
DO NOT OVERCOOK them. The old saying “fall off the bone” was made by somebody that overcooked their ribs.
Sounds like you haven’t always been in the BBQ trade. What prompted the career switch?
I was a homebuilder for 20 years but when the economy turned south, I fired up my grill and the rest is history.