In a place like Kansas City, you can find plenty of people who think they know barbecue. And then there’s Ardie Davis.
After 10 books exploring barbecue – both in Kansas City and across the country – Davis rises to a new level in barbecue acumen. After all, the barbecue sauce competition, now held by the American Royal, started in his Roeland Park home in 1984. “This was fun, but we’re (the house) too little,” he recalls wife Gretchen telling him after the first competition.
In its fourth year, the sauce competition merged with the American Royal and now more than 400 entries from around the country pay to get in.
The tenth book – “Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style” is just out and covers not only the Kansas City barbecue restaurants, but gives a primer on sauces, contests and regional recipes. The book is available at Rainy Day Books and at RJ’s Bob-Be-Q Shack in northeast Johnson County.
After all the books and all of the barbecue restaurants across the country that he has sampled to write those books, Davis says it still comes down to what you like. “I can tell you what I like, but it may be different than what you like,” he says. “It comes down to what you like and not what someone says.” If he doesn’t like a place it’s not likely to end up in one of his books. “I don’t want to write about a place that I didn’t like.”
The first book was in 1992, a pocket guide to barbecue in Kansas City, followed buy a book on barbecue sauce. When he is scouting a restaurant for the book, Davis says, he likes to go “inhognito” so they don’t do anything special for him. “I try to practice moderation,” he says of his own barbecue consumption – down to about once per week. “It’s good therapy to smell that smoke,” he says.
Although the serious barbecue hobby, the books and the sauce contest didn’t start until he and Gretchen moved here from New York City, his introduction to barbecue came at an early age growing up in Oklahoma City. His father built a backyard pit with bricks. When they moved. it was to a neighborhood that had a barbecue place a block away.
Next up on the writing agenda for Davis – a barbecue romance novel and perhaps collaborating on a kosher barbecue cookbook.
And for the full lowdown on the start of the barbecue sauce competition and his persona of Remus Powers, Ph.B, (Doctor of Barbecue Philosophy) read here.