By Jimmy Espy


SUMMERVILLE, Ga. -- Derek Adams enjoys teaching his son the tricks of the trade of one of summertime's most popular activities.

No, he's not showing 7-year-old Dylan how to grip a curveball or demonstrating the finer points of the butterfly stroke.

Mr. Adams, 42, is Dylan's professor of barbecue-ology.

"When he was 4, he started watching me cook and asking questions," Adams said. "He was in his first competition at 5 and competed against adults because he was too young to compete in the kids division."

What started out as a hobby for the Mohawk Carpets employee is now a passion that leads him to compete in eight to 10 events a year all over the Southeast.

Mr. Adams has won numerous awards. And his son, a rising third grader at Menlo Elementary School, is doing the same.

The father-son duo competes as the Smokey Jones Bar-B-Q competition team. Dad is Big Smokey and Dylan is Little Smokey. Each has his own smoker. Dylan cooks on a $500 miniature version of his father's large Lane smoker.

Both compete in the amateur division at their competitions, but Mr. Adams is considering moving into the more lucrative professional ranks.

Mr. Adams said many people believe he helps his son in competitions, but he insists that, other than assisting with any knife work or handling of fire -- required by the rules with child competitors -- he pretty much leaves it up to his son to bring him the bacon.

"I usually walk away while he's working," said Mr. Adams. "He's really into it."

Dylan grins as he talks about his hobby.

He said he enjoys "fixing the meat and cooking it best." Tenderloin and pork chops are his favorite cuts, while Dad loves brisket and ribs.

Dylan is a big hit on the barbecue circuit, according to his father.

"He gives cooking lessons and has been interviewed for TV several times," Mr. Adams said.

If stacks of trophies with his name on them are any indication, the youngster is apparently good at what he does. In May he took second place in the Open Pit Challenge at the third annual Horsin' Around Showdown at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa in Young Harris, Ga. He prepared pork tenderloin for the contest.

Dylan competes against both youngsters and adults and beats them both. Mr. Adams said some adults may not be happy about losing to a kid, but most are congratulatory and friendly.

Mr. Adams said many people he meets at competitions are surprised when they find out that the family does not operate a restaurant. The idea has crossed his mind, though.

"The thing is I would want to concentrate on making my meat and getting it right," he said. "All the other stuff doesn't interest me."

Mr. Adams said he may offer his barbecue and his homemade sauce for sale at the Sum-Nelly Arts and Craft Festival in Summerville in October. He described his sauce as a mixture of "all kinds of sauces."

"Some people make a vinegar-based sauce, some use a mustard-based sauce, some use a tomato-based sauce; but ours is unique, it's a combination of the different styles."