Despite a team captain no-show, this BBQ team took home the grand prize at the AR Backyard BBQ & Steak Cook-Off

Photography by Zach Bauman and John Martellaro

As Liz Bucknall and Debby Hoskins proclaimed, giggling and beaming from the stage of the American Royal Governor’s Building, “The wives did it!”

What they did was earn the Grand Champion prize at the American Royal Backyard BBQ & Steak Cook-Off competition on March 23 for their team, Bad Influence BBQ

Why the giddy excitement and the unusual victory proclamation? Because Wayne Bucknall, team captain and Liz’s husband, never made it to the competition.

Wayne was fully on board when they signed up to enter the contest, one of the top events in the “backyard” or “two-meat” (chicken and ribs) competition circuit. It’s  designed for fledgling cooks hoping to eventually achieve Master-level status and become eligible for top-tier competitions such as the American Royal’s World Series of Barbecue in October.

Wayne, however, was called away for a meeting of the Machinists Union local.

“We decided to go ahead and cook anyway,” Liz says, following the recipes and routines Wayne had led for years. Debby’s husband, Steve Hoskins, is also part of the team. “It was just teamwork and fun.”

Wayne’s record isn’t too shabby, either. Bad Influence was Reserve Grand Champion (second place overall) at last year’s American Royal Backyard Cook-Off. The team has also earned first place in both individual categories—chicken and ribs—over the past three years. 

The chicken was cooked over charcoal, the ribs over pecan wood, both with the team’s homemade seasoning. One judge wrote on a comment card that the seasoning had a touch too much salt—the only thing keeping the ribs from a perfect score.

Wayne, for his part, was shocked when he got the news.

“I just knew I’d never live it down with all my friends,” Wayne says. “People were calling me and congratulating me, and I’m like, ‘What did I do?’“

The team name? Wayne originally hails from Birmingham, England—not exactly a hotbed of slow-smoked ’cue, hence “Bad Influence.”

The American Royal’s Kayci Vincent said 31 teams competed this year, most from Missouri and Kansas but a few from as far away as Minnesota and Illinois. While the competition is geared toward amateur-level cooks, 35 judges certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society chose the winners.

“It’s an inexpensive and fun way to get started,” Vincent says.  

Bad Influence earned the Grand Championship and a $1,500 purse by placing second in both chicken and ribs.
Swine-O-Licious was named Reserve Grand Champion.

Grand Champions Debby Hoskins and Liz Bucknall.
Photography by Zach Bauman and John Martellaro
Overall results:


First: Smoke This Drink That BBQ

Second: Bad Influence BBQ

Third: T-Dawg BBQ


First: Swine-O-Licious BBQ

Second: Bad Influence BBQ

Third: RoRo’s Smokehouse

There was also a steak grilling competition, won by Go Ham BBQ.

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to our newsletters

Kansas City magazine keeps readers updated on the latest news in twice-weekly newsletter. 

On Tuesdays, Dish brings you food news and our critic picks. 

On Thursdays, The Loop offers exclusive news reports and our curated events picks.