Breaking all barriers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

MURFREESBORO – Beginner’s luck? Nah, more like a woman’s intuition.

Recently, Head Chef Jeanie Chestnut of Murfreesboro and her team, Three Little Pigs, were named Tasters’ Choice for the Roanoke-Chowan Pork Fest held last month.

Chestnut not only nabbed the honor in her first time competing in the Pork Fest, but also made the event’s history books by becoming the first female head chef to capture the award.

Pork Fest Committee member Jimmy Gray said for the category, officials remove pork from each of the judged pigs and chopped it up. Sponsor judges are then given samples from each pig to taste. Votes are later tallied up for a winner.

“It was an honor,” said Chestnut about her win. “I’m very surprised and pleased.”

Chestnut has been in pork barbecue competitions for 20 years. For the first 15 of those years, Chestnut assisted her husband, Charles, in competition.

Five years ago that all changed when an extra pig at a competition in Mount Airy began her “solo” stint as a competitor.

“Our grill has two cookers; they asked me if I wanted to cook it on my own,” she said. “It happened to come in first.”

In 2005, Chestnut took home third place at the North Carolina State Cook Off in Garner; her husband came in fourth.

“We’ve been running neck and neck,” she quipped about competing against her husband

Chestnut is now “carrying on the legacy” since a back injury has prevented her husband from competing.

“There is a lot of physical requirement as to handling a hog,” she said.

He now assists her in competition as he did at Pork Fest.

“This year at Murfreesboro he was my helper,” she said. “I attribute him to a lot of the success.”