KANSAS CITY, Kans. — Dennis and Bethany McAllister are the duo behind 913 Barbecue, Grand Champions of Kansas City’s American Royal invitational barbecue contest. This was their third year of competition, and they beat out 568 teams representing 38 states and 11 foreign countries for the title.
“It was a surprise for us,” David said. “We thought we had good food, but still, we were shocked.”
In addition to the fame that comes with winning, the McAllisters also won the $10,000 grand prize. That, David said, will allow them to travel more for competition. And as winners, it will be harder to keep a low profile at events.
David McAllister is a 1995 graduate of Hoisington High School. He went to college at Kansas State University, graduating in 2001. At the time, he said, the job market was not that good, and Kansas City is where he found employment. Bethany was set to graduate in December, 2001, and the two became engaged and she too found work in Kansas City. The two have been there ever since.
Neither barbecued very much growing up, but living in Kansas City they got hooked on the area’s signature food and for several years had an annual barbecue for their friends.
“Surrounded by so many barbecue restaurants, you can’t live here long without hearing about the American Royal,” David said.
When the cable television show “Pit Masters” began airing, they caught the competition bug. At first, David began attending competitions with his friends. Then, a few years ago, Bethany got in on the act, and really enjoyed it. The couple formed their own team in 2014, and 913 Barbecue was born. 913 is the area code for Kansas City.
That year, they had a catering job in Hoisington. David keeps up with friends on happenings here, and noted he was excited about the year the Cardinal football team has enjoyed this year. Both parents have moved away, but he does return for visits on occasion.
Bethany, who hails from Junction City, enjoys when her family is able to get out to their events. She has a sister in Abilene, and her mom and dad continue to reside in Junction City, so every now and then there is a competition that brings her close to home.
Chicken, she said, is her signature dish.
“I trim, I cook and I season it and it’s something that sets me apart from so many of the men out there,” she said.
Path to smoky success
At first, they competed in Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned events. That amounted to about 10 contests in the Kansas City metropolitan area that year. During their second year they ventured a little further to Oklahoma, while focusing mostly on metro Kansas City again.
In 2015, they were invited for the first time to compete in the Kansas City American Royal invitational. To qualify, they had to win Grand Champion in at least one sanctioned event. Then, 2016 brought them their second invitation to the American Royal, and now it’s up to them to see if they can make a lasting mark. So far they’re off to a respectable start.
Now, the McAllisters intend to work on building their brand. Some of the possibilities could include starting a food truck business or teaching barbecue classes. That’s something they themselves have benefitted from.
“The competition barbecue market is hot, and people want to know your secrets,” David said.
Another possibility is catering. But no matter which way they choose to go with it, both the McAllisters aren’t planning to leave their regular jobs. The barbecue business will continue to be a part-time endeavor.