From sports teams to theater productions, high schools are full of extracurricular activities for students to pursue. But there is one after-school program you may not know about that is growing in popularity: It involves varsity teams competing not on the gridiron, but over the grill iron.
Chef Mike Erickson is using barbecue to teach some big life lessons in the small Texas town of Burnet. At Burnet High School, students cook in a state-of-the-art kitchen — worth a quarter of a million dollars — to create what some would consider the holy grail of Texas grilling.
“You don’t have to be the biggest kid. You don’t have to be the smartest kid. You don’t have to be the richest kid,” Erickson said. “You can go to the Houston Livestock Rodeo or our state championship and win… And for some young people, that’s a dream.”
Erickson leads the UnderDAWGS, a high school varsity barbecue team that won the regional championship last year. The competition is as hot as the students’ grills: They placed eleventh at their annual statewide tournament after doing practice runs all year long.
In just three years, the number of varsity teams across Texas has grown to 102.
“I enjoy our teamwork and the stuff that we do as a barbecue team. It’s a lot of fun,” one student said. “I get the same feel as with football. The difference is it’s more personal.”
Most of this team is made up of seniors, who are planning to attend different colleges. Right now, they’re savoring every moment together.
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