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FOR CHAMP, BBQ IS HIS LIFE.

Byline: Peggy Hager Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Tom Chilton's love of barbecue has become more than just a hobby.

A teacher at R. Rex Parris High School, Chilton spends his spare time entering barbecue contests and catering for paying customers.

Unlike most backyard barbecues, Chilton's can take 14 to 16 hours - which leaves a lot of time for socializing and which is, perhaps, part of the appeal.

``I like cooking,'' said Chilton. ``Other people enjoy it. It's just something to do to get together with the other people that are doing it. It's more like a social thing than anything else.''

Already with two California State Championships under his belt, Chilton won Reserve Grand Champion in the inaugural Rose Bowl BBQ contest Dec. 27-28, sponsored by Smart & Final. He missed first place by half a point. He received first place for his ribs and pulled pork, second place for his beef brisket and fourth place for his chicken.

His barbecue sauce recipe won him first place in a Food Network BBQ sauce recipe contest.

Chilton's 12-year-old son Phillip assists his father with his barbecuing and has even entered contests himself for barbecued steak. His wife, Paula, sometimes joins her husband and enters in the dessert category. Along with their daughter Michaela, 14, the family is pretty much tired of eating barbecue.

That's OK, though, because Chilton has finished professional cooking courses at the New School of Cooking in Culver City, so he can cook just about anything.

``My wife's a good cook, but, if I'm going to do it, she's going to let me,'' said Chilton.

Barbecuing also has its embarrassing moments. In June, Chilton and members of the California BBQ Association were preparing a meal for Marines and their families at Twentynine Palms. His chicken caught fire on the grill.

A Food Network film crew taped the fire. The show will air Feb. 9 on ``BBQ with Bobby Flay.''

``I wished they weren't filming,'' Chilton said. ``Everything was OK. It just ruined the chicken and made a fool out of me.''

Chilton's barbecuing began with his wife's gift of a small smoker 15 years ago.

Chilton says the biggest appeal for him is the amount of experimentation that goes into barbecuing, using different types of wood to give the meat different flavors, employing rubs or seasonings and temperatures to change the taste.

His best reward from the contests, he said, is when he receives compliments.

``To me, that's just as rewarding as winning a contest,'' said Chilton.

For more information on Chilton or his catering business, Mojave Hot Stuff BBQ, log on to www.mojavehotstuff.com.

Peggy Hager, (661) 267-5741

peggy.grimm-hager(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) For Tom Chilton, the biggest thrill isn't the honors, but the reaction from the people enjoying his dishes.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 10, 2005
Words:472
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