INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Barbecue lovers from all over the globe are about to descend on Kansas City for the American Royal World Series of Barbecue – and one metro specialty butcher shop is cashing in on the competition.
Curt's Famous Meats in Independence, Mo., has been around since 1947, and stands out for its all-female butcher staff and for its award-winning meats.
“It wasn’t necessarily planned,” said owner Donna Pittman of the all-female meat cutters working in her shop.
“But about 20 years ago, we trained some of our employees to cut meat and they did such a fabulous job… it’s just continued over the years and has been really successful for us.”
Pittman calls the week of the American Royal her most successful, as she helps many of the competitors stock up their cookers.
“It probably increases sales about 40 percent this week,” she said, “because they’re really large order of meats that they’re taking to the American Royal.”
One of her loyal customers is Chris Marks, a fellow Independence native who been competing in barbecue contests for 25 years.
“People see it as the World Series,” Marks said of the American Royal competition. “People see Kansas City as the BBQ place. No getting around it.”
His team, Three Little Pigs, has a winning reputation.
“We`ve been grand champion two times in the open,” he said, “grand champion two times in the invitational, and reserved grand champion four times in the invitational.”
Marks credits a lot of his success to the quality of meat he cooks – declaring Curt's as the best.
“It’s about the ambiance of the store,” he said. “I mean, it’s been around for almost 70 years. Again, it’s about supporting local. It’s about supporting Independence and Donna’s a big part of that.”
Pittman’s shop's reputation stretches beyond the metro, attracting barbecue competitors from overseas like Ricki Brideoake from Australia.
“After I tasted the barbecue over here, I just became obsessed with it,” said Brideoake, who studied abroad at the University of Kansas for six months.
Brideoake now has a team with his wife called Bully BBQ, and got “insider advice” from Marks that Curt’s was the place to go.
“We always wanted to come over here,” Brideoake said, “and do one and what better one than the American Royal? You know? It`s going to be really good competition and a good party as well.”
So when the grills fire up this week, Pittman will be watching with her fingers crossed.
“Just to be a part of the American Royal,” she said, “and be a business owner and be able to supply the competition and the prize-winning meats means a great deal.”