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News from the Country Kitchen
Feeding the Kids at New Beginnings

For the sixth year in a row, Big Papa's Country Kitchen fed the kids at the New Beginnings schools. This is a special military school for kids that have been in trouble. They really look forward Big Papa's food. The lieutenant told Dana and Janet that they are on their best behavior prior to Country Kitchen's arrival. If they get in trouble they don't get to participate.

The Country Kitchen fed 55 at the Immokalee location and 75 in Naples. The kids had barbecue chicken, barbecue spaghetti, green beans, corn casserole and rolls.

Smokin' Through The Hurricane

Hurricane Irma hit the west coast of Florida hard. Everyone was affected, but the Country Kitchen was ready for the challenge. Janet (Big Mama) went around to their neighborhood and told all the neighbors that Big Papa would be cooking until they got power back on each night around 5pm. The Country Kitchen fed about 60-75 people every night for 8 days. According to Janet, "It was nice to meet a few new neighbors and visit with neighbors. We live in a great neighborhood. Everyone pitched in and helped other neighbors with yard debris, etc."

Dana and Janet were the runners of food for Operation BBQ Relief. They cooked and fed over 20,000 people a day while they were in Big Papa's neighborhood. For those unfamiliar with them, they work on donated funds. 100% of donated money goes into feeding the people in need.

Big Papa's Sweet Side
The Country Kitchen once again traveled north to McMinnville, TN for the annual "Smokin' in McMinnville" KCBS barbecue contest. While the team missed the mark in most of the sanctioned categories, they rose to the top when it came to dessert - 1st Place with a perfect 180 score. The dessert was a Holy Cow Cake made by Dana's cousin, Amanda Mayfield.
Letter From A Fan
My name is Sandra Stubblefield, and I am the promotions manager for Bass Pro Shops of Fort Myers. Recently we had the pleasure of hosting the KCBS here at our store, and the specific team "Big Papa's Country Kitchen". We had a wonderful experience 2 years ago with them, and I am proud to say that this year was no different.

Mr. Hillis and his wife Janet were amazing! We had a wonderful time working together, and they couldn't have been better with our customers. Dana stood out by the tables and talked to each and every person who had any questions, and even laughed and joked around with some kids who stopped by the table with their families. His wife Janet was just as amazing, engaging each customer and making sure they had their fill of the wonderful and delicious samples that were being handed out!

I think one of my favorite things to watch was Dana interacting with the kids. He would get them to open up and laugh and have fun, even if they were shy and quiet at first. It is very apparent that the Hillis family LOVES what they do with the KCBS, as they kept encouraging other people to join if they shared the same passion for BBQ that Dana and his wife had. Hopefully the KCBS had a few more people join simply based off of how many wonderful things Dana had to say!

It truly was a pleasure working with them, and I do hope that if we get to do this again next year, that my store can have them back! Each time they are only here for one day, and after that the customers keep asking to have them back soon!

The Burger Master
Chase Caldwell flips a hamburger together with Big Papa on the first day of the 8th Annual Suncoast BBQ Bash at Snook Haven in Venice, FL. The burger competition paired children from the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children and competition cook teams. Big Papa and Chase took first place for the tastiest burger.
Food Truck Wars
The Food Truck Wars this held this past weekend at the Living Word Church in Naples. The Country Kitchen had a line from 10:30 in the morning until closing at 5pm. Helpers for the day were Big Papa's 12 year old and 4 year old grandsons. They had 12 trucks and raised money for the Collier County Kids Foundation. They had to turn in their best dish and took 2nd Place, losing to a donut.
Q'ing for the Mets
When baseball historians look back on the 2017 Season, they'll probably be talking about how barbecue help the Mets win a pennant. The Country Kitchen fed the team on centerfielder Yeonis Cespedis' farm this past weekend. A dozen appetizers, piles of ribs, briskets, chicken, and 120 hamburgers and steaks. Before the party Yeonis had one of his cows butchered by a butcher shop to feed 160 people. This was the 4th time Big Papa catered for him and there's now talk of Dana trying out for the team next year!
Taking the Barbecue Gospel to the RV Park
Big Papa ran his Backyard Barbecue Class for 29 grillers at the Cypress Trail RV Resort last weekend. The mobile cooks got some invaluable tips on barbecuing chicken and pork loin and of course, a chance to sample some of the Country Kitchen's specialties.
Catering for a Crowd
The Country Kitchen put out a feast for Brooks & Freud Construction. The more than 180 people hit the chow line for a low country boil, Big Papa's championship brisket and chicken, and dozens of trays filled with appetizers and side dishes. No one left hungry.
The Naples Wine Festival
The stars rolled out for the Naples Wine Festival this past weekend and The Country Kitchen was there to help them pair the correct barbecue with their choice of red or white. Big Papa and his gang (in the photo) fed over 500 people including Judge Judy and former Chicago Bears head coach - Mike Ditka.

The auction raised over 13 million dollars. Proceeds from the Festival benefit the Naples Children & Education Foundation, whose vision is to make a profound and sustaining difference in the quality of children's lives. Read more about it from this link.

Learning to Cook like a Pro
Two dozen cooks from around the south traveled to Big Papa's Country Kitchen this weekend to spend some time with Dana and Janet learning the secrets of competition style cooking. Several teams already competing in contests, as well as some newcomers to the fun feasted on Big Papa's steaks, shrimp stir fry, corn, cornbread, homemade blackberry and peach cobbler with ice cream. But there was also the serious business of building a turn-in box and properly seasoning the meat. According to Janet, there were some very pretty boxes when the class was over!

For information about the next class bookmark this link.

Smokin' it: Barbecue chefs put their best ribs forward
From the Naples Daily News:

For these chefs, it's all about the hardware. An unseasonably rainy and blustery day on Saturday held down the crowds for the fifth annual Big Swamp Smoke-Off Championship, held last Friday evening and all day Saturday at the Collier County Fairgrounds. [click here for the entire article]

Smokin' Flamingo & The Battle at BBQ Junction
It was a busy weekend for the Country Kitchen in Jacksonville. Starting out on Friday afternoon with the 4th Annual Battle at BBQ Junction, then into the Smokin' Flamingo BBQ Contest, and finishing with Big Papa's Backyard Cooking School on Sunday.

Uncle Bucks was the winner of the Battle and you can read all about it from this link. Big Papa took a pair of 3rd Places in the contest, finishing 5th Overall. And the Backyard School was a major success!

An Atlantic City Storm
Big Papa and Mama had a great time in Atlantic City with their friends Local Smoke, cooking a steak contest on Saturday and a barbecue contest on Sunday. The Country Kitchen took a 2nd Place in steak, a 6th in Pork, and 12th Place overall using equipment graciously supplied by Steve and Eric of Local Smoke.

The rain and wind on Sunday was a challenge. Gusts of wind over 50 miles per hour almost blew their cook site away. Big Mama's job was holding the pop ups down so they didn't fly away. But overall it was a great time.

Take A Soldier Fishing
This past Saturday was the Naples Take A Soldier Fishing tournament, sponsored by the Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club. The crew from Big Papa's Country Kitchen came out and fed the soldiers for free. The first photo is of 94 year old WWII veteran Evela Nerers, the oldest fisherman (fisher lady) in the competition.

The Hillis/Mayfield Family Reunion

Big Papa competed in the "Smokin' in McMinnville" contest this past weekend, Dana's old stomping ground. He took 4th in pork and 1st in Warren County Peoples Choice. They raised over $1000.00 for a local charity. This was followed up by the Hillis/Mayfield family reunion - over 75 people. Dana cooked steaks and everyone brought a covered dish.
Fishing in the Keys

The gang took Big Mama Janet's 79 year old dad fishing. It was on his bucket list to go to Key West and fish, so off they went. Big Papa caught a 6'4", 50 lb sail fish on a rig that was for snapper. The entire crew came back to the dock with a lot of fish and some great memories.

Big Papa recommends of Sport Fishing Adventure in Marathon Key. Captain Johnny and First Mate Ross "Roscoe" are first class. They know the spots to fish. In the picture holding the fish: Papa Larry, Roscoe, Dana and Cadin.

The Bass Pro Shop BBQ

The Bass Pro shop crew were first class and it was a terrific day! We gave away over 2000 delicious samples of pork and fresh chicken off the Meadow Creek chicken flipper! We demonstrated the ease of bbqing the best chicken ever on the 26 inch model and the 42 inch. What a great day. Even a quick storm did not slow up our fun. BBQ makes people smile and the Bass Pro Shop and the folks from the Kansas City BBQ Society sure put some smiles on a lot of faces today. Thanks to everyone for letting Big Papas Country Kitchen be a part of this awesome event!
Backyard Cooking School

19 hungry students gathered at the Country Kitchen on the first Saturday in May to learn the tricks of the trade from Big Papa. Along with the assistance of the Wolfe Brothers Barbecue Cook Team, Big Papa showed these budding cooks how to smoke ribs to perfection and the proper technique for building a "fatty".

Both Pro and Backyard cooks can learn and enhance their smoking skills at a Big Papa's cooking class. Click here for details and more pictures!

Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash - Venice, FL

While the judges only bestowed a 5th Place overall for Big Papa's Country Kitchen, the team had a winning day cooking pizza with Eden, one of their special cooks. The lines for chow at the Country Kitchen stretched across the road from morning to late evening.

Spring Training Feast for The Mets

Big Papa and his crew catered dinner on Wednesday, March 16th for Yeonis Cespedis from the New York Mets at his farm in Vero Beach. He had in attendance the whole New York Mets team and their families and friends - over 150 people. Besides Dana and Janet, Steve Carrington and John Sweeney came out to help. They served a dozen different appetizers and four sides along with brisket to go with the cow from the farm Yeonis had butchered for steaks and hamburgers.

The New Country Kitchen

The Country Kitchen has a new roof, new setup, and lots of major renovations. Big Papa unveiled the new kitchen at Clermont, FL this past weekend, cooking at the Pig On The Pond contest.

Steak and Shake at Daytona

Big Papa took some time off from the competition circuit and catering to enjoy time with some old friends at the Daytona 500. Steak dinner and wine in the RV park at the track with Dana, friend Tom, cousins Anthony and Grayson from Tennessee and friend Terry also from Tennessee.

Big Papa Wins at Home

Cooking in his backyard, Big Papa nailed the Grand Champion's trophy at the Big Swamp Smoke Off in Naples, FL. Add to the win 1st place in Chicken with a perfect score of 200 points, and the weekend couldn't have been much better!

Cecil Celebration of Life

Cecil Riner, husband, father, and good friend of the whole Big Papa clan, was killed by a drunk driver on December 12, 2015. Big Papa's Country Kitchen donated the food for a celebration of Cecil's life this past weekend.

Big Papa Feeds the New Beginnings School

The New Beginnings School in Naples, FL is a place where troubled kids get a second chance. This Christmas like many before it, Big Papa's Country Kitchen was on hand to feed the kids and add another spark of hope.

A Major League Catering

It took the whole team - Big Papa, Cadin, Shane, and Koda, and one large cow to handle a crowd of 60 and NY Mets centerfielder Yoenis Cespedis at the ballplayer's Vero Beach ranch. Yoenis butchered one of his cows and Big Papa and the gang cooked steaks and burgers.

Birds and Beef in Madeira Beach

Big Papa's Country Kitchen placed 1st in both Chicken and Brisket at the Baddest BBQ on The Bone - Madeira Beach, FL, but couldn't get the Pork and Ribs to cooperate. They still managed to finish 8th overall in a field of 40 teams.

Back to Winning Ways

After a bit of a drought, Big Papa rolled the Country Kitchen into Cocoa, FL at Historic Cocoa Village's BBQ & Blues and hammered home a win. Along with the Grand Champion's trophy came a 1st Place in Chicken, 3rd in Pork and 2nd in Brisket.

It was close win - only 4/100s of a point separated Big Papa and Hot Wachula's, who was Reserve out of a field of 35 teams.

Another Smokin' Barbecue School

With Memorial Day just around the corner, a dozen backyard grillers gathered for a full day's worth of barbecue lessons at the Big Papa World Headquarters in Naples, FL. Everything from meat prep to dessert was covered and eaten by the group! Here's Big Papa yanking the membrane off a rack of ribs. There's more photos here.

Check back on this page for the next Pro and Backyard schools, coming soon!

Big Papa and the Burger King

A group of six handicapped boys and men cooked with some of the Pro teams at the Suncoast BBQ Bash in Naples, FL. Kevin, one of the cooks, teamed up with Big Papa and together, they won "Juiciest Burger".

Two Great Barbecue Schools

The weekend of January 23-25, 2015 had both a Backyard and a Pro Cooking School at the Big Papa University in Naples. Dozens of students learned the tricks of the trade and are now ready to compete or to simply amaze family and friends. The next set of barbecue schools schedule will be posted here.

A Tough Battle at the Jack

With 72 of the top barbecue competitors fighting for a $10,000 purse, it's hard enough just to get into the Jack Daniels contest. Big Papa's Country Kitchen made the cut again this year, but their best wasn't enough to satisfy the judges. 10th Place Ribs was their only trophied finish, but according to Big Papa, they had a rockin' good time nonetheless.

Big Papa wins the Food Network
Food Truck Challenge

Big Papa and Maw (Janet) beat challengers Caribbean Soul Fusion to win the first episode of the Food Network's Food Truck Challenge - Season 6. They got their own Big Papa's Country Kitchen food truck.

Lakeland, FL - Reserve and 1st Place Pork

In a contest decided by 2/10s of a point, Big Papa's Country Kitchen took Reserve Grand but won the Pork category outscoring a field of 39 Pro teams at the KidPack Polk Project BBQ Throwdown - Lakeland, FL this weekend. Dana also collected 4,557 cans of "Chef Boyardee" for the KidPack in Lakeland.