A number of years ago now, an eighteen-year old kid in Ashland, Mississippi who was trying to figure what he wanted to do in life developed an ambition to pursue a career that was far from commonplace.
He had been given a chance to participate on a local – but renowned – competition barbecue team, the Tippah Bottom Hog Rustlers, headed by Pit-master Don Moody. That experience captivated this young man and helped establish the goals he would pursue.
Today, Heath Riles has established himself as an industry leading expert in both competition barbecue and competition grilling. Not simply a pit-master in his own right, Heath is also the creator of an award winning line of barbecue rubs, sauces, marinades and injections. But even those who are not “into” such products or competition barbecue and grilling have gotten a “taste” of Heath.
This has occurred as a result of a Bank of America sponsored television commercial which promoted the Bank’s cash-back credit card line and aired on television worldwide for six months. It featured Heath and several members of his former Victory Lane BBQ team “in action” as they prepared for a competition event.
But make no mistake. The position Heath occupies in the industry today and the notoriety he now enjoys did not occur by accident.
Those who know Heath will vouch for the fact that his success is and remains the product of countless hours of hard work. As for Heath himself, being the kind of person he is, he would also tell you that it also involved some good fortune too.
In the main, that good fortune is the result of his association with so many good people who have helped him and mentored him along the way, not just in helping to advance his cooking skills, but in mastering the “business side” of competition cooking, as well.
Heath can tick off the names of the many mentors, sponsors and fellow team members to whom he gives so much credit.
Beginning with Don Moody and the rest of the Tippah Bottom Hug Rustlers who gave him his start, to Pit-master Pat Burke who “took a-liking” to Heath and gave him hours of help, to the “guys and gals” who made up many subsequent teams he transitioned to, from Fat Cracks BBQ, to Boar’s Night Out, 10 Bones BBQ, to Victory Lane BBQ, and now most recently, to the team members of the simply, but appropriately named, Heath Riles BBQ Team.
Of course, the list of those to whom Heath so routinely gives credit is never completed until he mentions the many national companies he works and partners with including Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork, Yeti, Traeger, Deep South Smokers, Old Hickory Pits, and Royal Oak Charcoal.
But, finally, when it comes to those to whom Heath gives credit there is Candace, Heath’s wife, who has supported him through a career challenged with countless miles of travel and work days in which sleep is only a luxury. When not on the road with Heath, Candace pursues her own career as a Registered Nurse. And, that’s “a good thing” as Heath will tell you when it comes to helping get rid of the many “headaches” a road weary pit-master must deal with.
Yes, the journey to where Heath finds himself today has been one exciting and successful ride. Over the years, Heath has not only established himself as a master of the cooking styles of both of the two principle sponsoring bodies in the industry – the Memphis BBQ Network (MBN) and the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) – but also a master of the winning style favored by the Steak Cook-Off Association (SCA).
Here are just a few of the highlights in Heath’s career that have occurred in the most recent years:
- Featured on “Alan Richmond’s Fandemonium” broadcast on the Travel Channel
- Featured on a Food Network’s episode of “The Shed”
- Named Whole Hog Team of the Year for the Memphis BBQ Network
- Named Memphis BBQ Network Team of the Year as a result of sweeping all three categories (Whole Hog, Shoulder, Ribs) and having won nine out of the fifteen Memphis BBQ Network contests in which he competed. Add to this the fact that Heath and his team, finished 3rd overall in the BBQ Division of the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.
- Established that he had not only mastered the competition style in the Memphis BBQ Network, but also the unique style practiced in the Kansas City BBQ Society competitions. Heath won twelve Grand Championships out of the thirteen Memphis BBQ Network contests they competed in, and also racked up five perfect “180” scores in Kansas City BBQ Society contests.
- In July, Heath established a first for any team in the entire country – they won “Grand Champion” in Memphis BBQ Network style and Reserve Champion in the Kansas City BBQ Society style at the major competition held in Galax, Virginia.
- As if competing in competitions sponsored the two principal barbeque sanctioning bodies wasn’t enough, Heath launched another facet of his career by competing in events sponsored by the Steak Cook-off Association (SCA). In short order he became one of the top competitors in the organization.
- On a more personal side, the various sauces, rubs and other products Heath had developed were among the top winners in the Awards of Excellence Competition.
- Entering 2016, Heath decided that he would focus on the Shoulder and Rib categories in the contests in which he competed. Heath went on to be Memphis BBQ Network Team of the Year once again, along with being Pork and Rib Team of the Year with nine Grand Championship wins in Memphis BBQ Network competitions and two Grand Championship wins in Kansas City BBQ Society competitions. In April, Heath became the only team in the country to win both Grand Championships on the same day at a dual Memphis BBQ Network and Kansas City BBQ Society contest held in Southaven, Mississippi. In November, Heath became only the second person from outside the State of Georgia to ever win the Grand Championship at the Big Pig Jig in Vienna, Georgia. In the very next week, Heath competed in the World Food Championship held in Orange Beach, Alabama, and once again made the final table in BBQ Division by placing in the top ten overall.
- Heath once again took home the title of Memphis BBQ Network Team of the Year along with being named Pork and Rib Team of the Year.
- An impressive nine Grand Championships in Memphis BBQ Network and another six Grand Championships in Kansas City BBQ Society were won … a total of fifteen Grand Championships in all! Another perfect score of “180” was achieved in the Brisket Division at the Kansas City BBQ Society “World Championship Jack Daniels BBQ Contest.”
- Heath decided that the “next step” in his career path was in order. He transitioned from the Victory Lane BBQ team to Heath Riles BBQ. His products will continue to constitute a national brand bearing his name, something that had always been his dream. As the year unfolds, Heath is off and running to achieve even greater success.
A list of Heath’s accomplishments would be lacking if it did include the fact that Heath does so much to help others grow their careers in the industry. Heath routinely teaches classes and performs cooking demonstrations across the country helping so many others develop their skills and in doing so helping to ensure that the quality of cooking in the industry remains top notch.
As for his own career, while Heath could just sit back and take great satisfaction in what he has accomplished, Heath, with Candace by his side – will just flat out tell you that, “The best is yet to come!”