Only woman BBQ team captain competes in Fort Myers

Writer: Jack Lowenstein

One military veteran is showing no mercy in the field of barbecue competition.

Laurie-Ann Wilkens served our nation in the U.S. Army and now she is serving up BBQ at the Smoke on the Water competition in downtown Fort Myers.

“Pork, chicken, brisket and ribs,” Wilkens said. “I wanna take all of them.”

Wilkens is breaking down social barriers as well. She will be the only female team captain competing at the event.

“Woah, I just got chills,” Wilkens said. “It means a lot.”

Wilkens packed up her family and BBQ supplies and traveled 182 miles south from Hernando County to the competition downtown.

“It’s my first competition,” Wilkens said. “And all eyes are on me because I’m a girl.”

Wilkens stands with pride at 4 feet and 10 inches tall.

“You can do anything that anybody else can do,” Wilkens said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl, young or old. Try something new.”

While Wilkens is in town, she is cooking out of her BarbieCue food truck.

“Our ribs, our ribs and our brisket,” Wilkens said. “People drive. I have people come from Texas for them.”

Wilkens and 40 other teams will have to wait to see if they win Saturday. But she already feels like she is winning.

“My family and the love that I get from my customers, it’s priceless,” Wilkens said. “It’s goosebumps. I love them.”

Smoke on the Water is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. It’s a $1 entry fee.

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