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North Carolina barbecue: It's Butch Lupinetti's passion

Labbqfest200How does an old-school Jersey boy become one of the country's foremost experts on North Carolina barbecue? If you're Butch Lupinetti, your education starts as soon as you're able to tend a stove.

Born Alexander Walter Anthony Lupinetti -- his grandma nicknamed him Butchie -- in Pemberton, N.J., he grew up on his parents' dairy farm, which also housed a family from Hayesville, N.C. When he was 8 years old, Lupinetti began helping them barbecue meat, learning a tradition that had been passed down from generation to generation.

"We growed up cooking that particular style, which is a little more vinegary with not much tomato and maybe a little on the peppery side," Lupinetti says. "We did all the meats: all the pork meats, the beef meats and chicken. We didn’t know what style we were cooking, and it was only later we found out it was North Carolina style."

Sixty years later, Lupinetti is a bona-fide barbecue guruwho's won more than 500 awards, including Cleveland's Great American Rib Cook-Off (14 awards), the Cedar Rapids Invitational BBQ Round-Up (24 awards) and Reno's Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off, a competition so tough and prestigious he spent 15 years on the barbecue circuit before he was invited to enter. This weekend, he brings his trade secrets to the 2nd annual Los Angeles Barbecue Festival, held near the Santa Monica Pier.

The man has a passion for smoked meat: beef ribs, pork ribs, sausage, chicken . . . you name it. But the true object of his ardor is pork shoulder."Ribs are good," he says, "but the shoulder, it seems, is just made for barbecue. All through the South -- North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas -- when you ask for barbecue, it's not ribs you get, it's pork shoulder. Those other meats may be barbecued, but they're not barbecue."

[Click here to read more about Butch Lupinetti and this year's LA BBQ Fest.]

--Elina Shatkin

Photo: Eaters at last years Los Angeles Barbecue Festival. Credit: Dan Silberstein.

 
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