the westminster review logo

Theory of Grilling

  Jake Wilson grilling

Jake Wilson takes philosophy into the world of BBQ competitions
by Autumn Thatcher (MSC ’15)

A sixth generation butcher, Jake Wilson (’16) grew up around the grill. What began as a fascination with watching his dad cook the perfect meats evolved into the desire to become his own pit master. As a philosophy student at Westminster, Jake learned how to ap- ply principles of philosophy to his work at Snider Bros. Meats—a local business owned and operated by his family—and in the competition circuit. To date, Jake has competed in about 35 barbeque competitions, winning awards for his ability to make finger-lickin’-good chicken, brisket, and BBQ spare ribs.
Jake talks competition and philosophy:

From the western United States to the Royals

“My family and I began doing competitions around 2012. Eventually, the bug really got us, and we started competing in Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and California. Eventually we qualified to compete in the American Royal, which is in Kansas City and has 500–600 teams competing. You have to win a grand champion- ship at a fairly large competition to go to the Kansas City invitational, which we have done several times.”

The secret to winning competitions

“I grew up working with meat. I have a really good eye for what I am looking for in a high-quality product—and I am able to get my hands on the best products in the country. I also know how to really cut and trim the meat. That gives me a big edge.”

Memorable experience competing

“Making it into the 2015 Jack Daniels world BBQ championships—it’s very hard to get into—was amazing. We won a third-place call on ribs, which is pretty incredible. We all had to pull together and work hard. It was quite a jour- ney getting out there. We beat quite a few great teams, including a lot of celebrity competitors.”

Bringing philosophy into the meat business

“My time studying philosophy at Westminster taught me to break down problems and try to solve them logically. I learned how to address and interact with other individuals regardless of how sensitive a subject could be. In terms of the BBQ circuit, when I am competing, I try to break everything down to a science as much as I can. At work, learning how to discuss and share ideas with other individuals really shows up in our business. It has helped me have a good work ethic not just physically but intellectually.”

Goals for the future

“We are part of a group called the Kansas City BBQ Society. I would like to be Team of the Year in all four meat categories [chicken, ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket]. In terms of philosophy, my goal is to not stop learning and to concentrate on teaching individuals. With the business, it comes down to being of service to individuals. I have to watch my own feet each day and be happy with myself and the work I did. If I can get through work every day like that, then that’s a big accomplishment.”



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.