The idea of creating the Oklahoma Barbecue Society started from a simple conversation. Brett Varnell a KCBS Master Judge approached David Bouska of Butcher BBQ at the 2013 Bixby BBQ’n Blues Festival with the idea of starting a Team of the Year contest for the state of Oklahoma. David said that for years people had wanted to have a team of the year contest, but to do it properly we needed our own organization. He said that many had discussed creating an organization, but they needed someone that could dedicate themselves entirely to the process. Brett stated that as a disabled veteran he had the time, and was more than willing to do the work. David said that the next person that we needed to talk to was Donny Teel of Buffalo BBQ.
Donny was thrilled with the idea, and pledged his full support for the endeavor. It was agreed that the Oklahoma Barbecue Society would be created. The three men then got together to decide how to set up the organization properly. It was decided that we should create an organization just for the state of Oklahoma in order to keep it manageable, and avoid the pitfalls of overexpansion. The next thing they concluded was that they should recruit people from all facets of barbecue to be members of the Board of Directors. They were selected not only for their experience in barbecue, but also because they came from all over the state.
The first two people to be approached were Merl Whitebrook and Bob Hastings. Both men brought invaluable experience and expertise to the society. Merl Whitebrook was not only a KCBS Contest Representative, but also an attorney. His expertise in all areas of competition barbecue, and the legal field allowed the society to be created quickly and efficiently. He shared his knowledge of other organizations, and helped us avoid the mistakes that he had seen made by them. Bob Hastings is the most experienced judge in the state of Oklahoma. At the time of joining the society he had judged 180 contest in seven states. He is also a food scientist with 55 years in the food industry.
The Articles of Incorporation for the OKBS were approved on the 19th of August 2013. It was decided that the first five Board members should get together to create the framework for the society. The first meeting was held on the 27th of August 2013 at the house of Brett Varnell. Three major decisions were made at this meeting. The first was that the staff positions should be held by the members present to begin with to get the society established. It was determined that the first staff officers would be Brett Varnell – President, Donny Teel – Vice President, Bob Hastings – Treasurer, and Merl Whitebrook – Secretary.
The second major decision that was made was on the logo of the society. Many ideas were kicked around, but the one that everyone instantly loved came from Donny Teel. He proposed the idea of having a meat cleaver in the shape of the state of Oklahoma, sticking out of a cutting board. The idea was proposed to several artists and the winning design was submitted by Theotis Pace from Enid.
The third decision was the proposal, and approval of three more Board members. Lynne Benkendorf was selected for her experience as a contest organizer, and her expertise in marketing. The next two to be selected were chosen due to their experience in the commercial sector, and competition barbecue. Paul Schatte owner of Head Country, and Stuart Powell of Cookshack were both excited, and honored to join the organization.
The last Board position took some time to fill. Two people accepted the position, but were unable to dedicate the time necessary to create a new organization. It was decided that the last position should be offered to someone from the membership. The criteria used to select the eligible members were that they should be passionate about the society, have an outgoing personality, and have experience in many areas of barbecue.
Several highly qualified members were presented to the Board, and one stood out among the rest. Alissa Gage-Hill was the first person to join the society, and had volunteered to help at every function the young organization had put on. She was experienced in many different areas of barbecue. She was a KCBS judge, certified table captain, competition cook, contest organizer, and she worked in smoker sales.
With all the Board positions filled the group worked together to create an organization that all Oklahomans could be proud of. The first goal of the organization was to create the Team of the Year contest that was the original reason the society was created. It was decided that the competition should be called the Cleaver reflecting the logo of the OKBS. It would be open to any cook team that was an OKBS member, and would consist of any Oklahoma contests that met the criteria. Other stated goals of the society were to create educational opportunities for fellow Oklahomans from leaders in barbecue. Building up the competition circuit in the state, and creating competitions that include the public, and the backyard cook.
The original Board members:
Brett Varnell: KCBS Master Judge and creator of BBQJudges.org
David Bouska: World Champion Cook and Butcher
Donny Teel: World Champion Cook and Restaurateur
Bob Hastings: KCBS Master Judge and Food Scientist
Merl Whitebrook: KCBS Contest Representative and Attorney
Lynne Benkendorf: Contest Organizer Smokin Red Dirt - Enid, OK and Marketing Director
Paul Schatte: Owner Head Country and World Champion Cook
Stuart Powell: Owner Cookshack and Champion Cook
Alissa Gage-Hill: KCBS Master Judge, Champion Cook, Contest Organizer, and Smoker Sales