Ask Patrick McCreight about his barbecue skills and he'll say he's "just a backyard cooker" who takes the craft seriously.
That's a modest response for a guy who -- teamed with brother-in-law Dan Peters -- will compete in the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 22.
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"I'm incredibly excited to be participating in such a prestigious event," said McCreight, 35, of Round Lake. "We will get to cook with the best teams in the world, so we'll certainly need to be on top of our game."
Calling themselves Brew-B-Q, McCreight and Peters, of Grayslake, will be among 89 teams competing in Lynchburg, Tenn., home of the world-famous distiller.
Four other Illinois teams, including one from Woodstock, are among the entrants.
The event draws about 25,000 people to Lynchburg every year, Jack Daniel's spokeswoman Kristin Hampel said.
To qualify for the contest -- dubbed "The Jack" by organizers -- U.S. teams must have won a competition involving at least 50 entrants or a state championship event with at least 25 teams, Hampel said.
A random drawing involving the qualifying teams yields the competitors.
McCreight and Peters made the drawing after winning a Wisconsin state title at the Kenosha Grill Games in August.
"If you're really good, which we're not, you can automatically qualify for the Jack by winning seven state championships during the season," McCreight said. "Each year, there are a handful of teams that do so."
At the Jack Daniel's event, teams compete for cash and other prizes in the following categories: pork ribs; pork shoulder or butt; beef brisket; chicken; sauces; desserts.
Domestic teams also face off in a category called "Cook's Choice," while international teams must make dishes in a category called "Home Cooking from the Heartland."
"We will stick to the recipes and techniques that have gotten us this far," McCreight said. "You don't want to try new things at a barbecue competition."
Although ribs were McCreight's specialty when Brew-B-Q formed with four teammates in 2008, brisket has become the duo's best category.
"We have finished in the top three in brisket during our last five competitions, including two first-place awards," McCreight said.
While McCreight is the lead cook, both he and Peters contribute to recipes and various details.
"It is a good partnership because we both believe in our routine and know exactly what we need to do to have a successful cook," said Peters, 30, a financial adviser. "It has taken a while, but we finally have recipes and a process that we are comfortable with and confident in."
For McCreight, the formula for prizewinning barbecue is a combination of perfectly cooked meat and a balance of the right spice rub and sauce.
"You really need to taste the meat and not have the sauce overpower it," he explained. "The rub is the most important component for flavor, and we use a combination of homemade rubs and commercial blends."
An account manager for a telecommunications and networking solutions company, McCreight competes in about four cook-offs a year, far fewer than many barbecue pros.
"The pros will cook 30 to 40 times per year, which is crazy," he said. "I have twin 4-year-old boys, so competing more often is unrealistic right now."
Win or lose, Peters said he enjoys the cook-offs.
"We have met a lot of great people and had some really good experiences competing," he said. "We are both very competitive people and probably aren't going to make it on the (professional) tour anytime soon. So for now, this will have to do."