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Local barbecue team to compete in national championship series

Kurt Mueller and his brother, Aleki Fualau have been busy preparing barbecue for CSRA events and fundraisers, but this summer, they’ll hit the road to test their culinary skills against other teams in various cities throughout the United States.

Mueller, a local certified financial planner, and Fualau, pitmasters for Ironhead BBQ, formerly known as Atomic City Smokers, have been invited to participate in the Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que of America All-Star Series as “celebrity” pitmasters.

Famous Dave’s is a popular chain of barbecue restaurants that had a location on Washington Road in Augusta several years ago. The company has partnered with the World Food Championships to host the competition.

“It’s actually a sanctioned event; we’re going against some of the best pitmasters out there,” Mueller said.

Kurt Mueller and Aleki Fualau will be smokin’ their way through the Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que of America pitmaster competition this summer.

Ironhead BBQ will compete against those pitmasters starting July 15 in Westland, Michigan before traveling to Billings, Montana on July 29 and San Jose, California on Aug. 12.

“We’re excited about being able to travel to places we’ve never been,” he said.

Mueller said they participated in the pilot program last summer, which he speculates is one of the reasons their team was selected to participate in the All-Star Series.

“We were also selected because of our online presence,” Mueller said. “Barbecue is all about people; barbecue is about branding.”

He said participating in the competition will help to grow the team’s brand.

“It’s a much different format than we’re used to; there’s more license for creativity,” Mueller said.

They previously participated in competitions sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the largest sanctioning body of its kind in the world.

“We specialize in Texas-style barbecue with a South Carolina/Georgia twist,” he said. “Georgia is a sweet heat.”

According to the World Food Championships website, the competition will have three categories: chicken, ribs, and a wild card, which “can be anything you want; it must be served on a silver platter.”

Prizes will range from $300 for third place to $1,000 for the Grand Champion, which along with the Reserve Champion, will be qualified to compete in the World Food Championships in Dallas in November.

Mueller and Fualau haven’t started preparing for the competition yet.

“I make game-time decisions; there’s no right or wrong way to do it,” he said.

Mueller is also working with Destination Augusta and a promoter on possibly developing a barbecue and music festival in spring 2024.

He changed the name of his team because there were already so many businesses with Atomic City in their name.

“I have a pretty big vision here,” Mueller said. “I want to create a franchise and take it national.”

For more information about Ironhead BBQ, visit the team’s Facebook page, and to learn more about the All-Star Series, follow this link:

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