Mike Mills, and his Apple City barbecue team, are the only 3 time winner of the World Grand Championship Memphis in May Competition. He recently opened one of his 17th St. Bar and Grill restaurants here in the St. Louis area. I had been e-mailing with his daughter, Amy, in order to determine when he was going to be at that location so I could meet him, pick his brain, and get him to sign my copy of Peace, Love & Barbecue. Amy co-authored the book with him. Yesterday was the day it worked for both of us, so I went to his restaurant. Ironically, it is located at the site of a closed Super Smoker's in O'Fallon on the Illinois side.
I did a review of the restaurant on the "St. Louis Eats" thread on the Best BBQ Joint forum here: http://www.barbecuebible.com/board/view ... 977#116977
During lunch, Mike noticed me sitting at a table and I had his book with me. He asked if I was the one his daughter said was going to be there. When I said yes, he just pulled up a chair and sat there with me. What a super nice guy!
Incredibly, he gave me more than 2.5 hours of his time. He gave me a VIP tour of his shop, including all aspects. I think we hung around his pits for more than 30 minutes while he explained all facets of his operation. Suffice it to say, it is a first class operation in everything they do.
Lucky for me, Mike was trying a new recipe for burnt ends that he was cooking just for himself. It is not on the menu, just something he was trying for himself only that day. During our tour, he told me how he was developing the burnt ends. At one point, he pulled them out of the smoker and he and I munched away on his latest experiment and he was telling me what he would do differently next. How cool is that? Not to mention, I thought they were awesome just the way they were.
I told him my brother and I were entering our first competition in August. That is when the conversation got very interesting. Obviously, the guy is an invaluable source of information. What I was surprised about was how open and forthcoming he was in his tips for competition. It was incredible listening to him talk about such intricate details of competition off the top of his head. His knowledge and passion for competition BBQ was immediately clear. Although he no longer competes, he judges frequently. Accordingly, he was giving me all kinds of excellent advice from the perspective of a record-setting champion as well as an experienced and sought-after judge. Of the two and a half hours we talked, at least two hours and fifteen minutes was just me sitting and listening to him.
I wish I had at least double that time more to listen to more of his tips. What an experience. Frankly, when I went into the restaurant, I had no idea how it would go. I was completely taken aback by how open and legitimately friendly he is. I couldn't have asked for a better time, or a better meal. What an awesome experience, and I have a heartfelt inscription on my book to remember the day.
Sorry for the long post, but I just wanted to share this incredible experience.