Overnight Barbecue 101: Essay Contest

Essay Contest for Southeast-Louisiana High School Seniors and Culinary Students



Culinary and high school students, ages 18 and older, are invited to participate in an essay competition (1,000 words maximum) answering one of the two questions:

  1. What is your perception of South Carolina (whole hog) barbecue and what do you think will you gain from participating in this artisan culinary experience (see full program description below) or;
  2. How is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) used in the cooking of Southeast Louisiana's iconic foods?

Students from the following schoolsand programs are invited to participate: NOCCA, Delgado, Café Reconcile, Warren Easton High School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Lusher Sr. High School, Kipp Renaissance, Liberty’s Kitchen, Chef's Move - John Besh, the Emeril Lagasse  Foundation.

Essays should be no longer than two single spaced pages (1,000 words). The deadline for submission is October 23, 2015. Essays should be submitted via e-mail (with entrant's contact information) to scholarship@carolinaqnola.com.

Learn more about the whole barbecue weekend and the overnight experience here.

About Howard Conyers

Howard Conyers, a resident of New Orleans' Central City neighborhood, has been lauded for his mastery of the old fashioned, South Carolina-style whole-hog pit barbecue he learned as a child from his father in the rural Pee Dee area of Manning, South Carolina.  He barbecued his first hog at age 11, and when he was in high school he regularly tended the pits all night for family holiday celebrations and gatherings of the local chapter of the Future Farmers of America. His young mind wandered through the hours he spent tending pits. A budding scientist, he tied his barbecue craft to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

As an adult with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and materials science from Duke University, and a career with NASA testing rocket engines at the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi-Louisiana border, Conyers' mind wandered back to the pits of his youth and the dying barbecue art his family cherished.  "I realized I had left something back home that is unique and special, that is being lost as I saw that my father was not cooking hogs anymore.”

"South Carolina barbecue's rich culture is often not talked about because its complexity cannot be captured in a restaurant environment," Conyers said.  "To really understand the vast culture, one must travel to rural areas and see barbecue in the home, church, or community. Unfortunately, those opportunities don't exist for the general public. The misconception is that South Carolina barbecue is simply pulled pork served with a vinegar or mustard-based sauce. But it is much more; starting with the time-proven technique of pit cooking that differs by region. The preservation of classic regional barbecue becomes ever more important as competition barbecue becomes more mainstream and these traditions are lost along with an area culture and history."

With his passion for the preservation of South Carolina barbecue, as well as STEM and community outreach what is a rocket scientist to do? Tie them together in New Orleans.

"I realized that STEM must be really accessible for kids to embrace and the Eureka moment occurred when I realized that South Carolina Barbecue is STEM in action. This is a straightforward way to introduce difficult STEM concepts through cooking or grilling – common activities in most people lives.  For example, pit design is a combination of Engineering and Technology. Cooking barbecue is the denaturing of proteins and the mechanisms of heat transfer through conduction and convection.  This is science. Math comes in to play through determining cooking times – the amount of food to cook to feed however many people, and the determination of material amounts to build the pits."

Though his address and overnight barbecue presentation Dr. Conyers will tie STEM to South Carolina whole hog barbecue then relate it back to being an engineer or scientist to help inspire youths to consider STEM-related fields of work. "This is for everyone, not just the nerdy types," he says.