About

The Early Years

Like a lot of cooks, my love of cooking goes way back to when I was just a kid. I remember helping my mom cook dinner on the weekends and holidays. But my fondest memories are those during Thanksgiving at Granny Jones’ house in Stephenville Texas. Every year my family, along with all my extended family, would gather at Granny Jones house -- an old, large house that had room for everyone. The family would gather for a long weekend of good Southern food, lots of dominos and, of course, the Dallas Cowboys game. I bet there were over 30 family members there. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. But some of my greatest memories of that time were of all of the ladies in the large kitchen cooking for everyone. I would often go in ask if they needed help and they were always eager to show me how to peel potatoes, help mix the dressing even get the turkey ready for the oven. That was some 40 years ago but when I look back now, the reason I asked to help when all the other kids were outside playing was I already had a love of cooking. It is during this time that I learned the secret to good cooking is to use the freshest ingredients and keep it simple. Something I still try to do today, even in my BBQ competitions.
At an early time in my life my family moved to Saudi Arabia where my dad worked in the oil industry. The move gave my family the opportunity to travel the world where I was able to taste and experience a wide variety of food and cultures. These travels just strengthen my love of cooking and what it can offer. I have taken what I learned in my travels and applied them to my cooking today as well as in my BBQ competitions.

Kevin

Kevin’s passion is BBQ – from pork ribs, to pork butt, to smoked meatloaf.

The First Smoker

Being a Southern boy from Texas, my love of BBQ goes back a long way. I love the history of Texas BBQ and have read countless books on it. I have dozens and dozens of cookbooks and more than half are about BBQ. The first smoker I ever purchased was a gas fired smoker called the Smokey Mountain series. It was a small up right smoker that had 4 racks and water bowl. It was on this smoker that I learned to cook BBQ, Texas style!

Rita

Rita is Kevin’s wife, business partner and soul mate. She’s also his biggest critic.

The search for a bigger, better smoker

After years of cooking on this small smoker I had the urge to go bigger. Big and Texas they go hand–and-hand. This was reinforced by my family and neighbors who were always requesting me to cook for them but my current smoker was just too small. So the search began. I searched for months looking for the best smoker that would fit my needs. During my search I stumbled onto the texasbbqrub forum which I joined May 2004. It is this single act of joining a forum that I found out about one of the best pit makers out there, Gator Pit. Not only did I find the pit I had been looking for but this forum gave me exposure to BBQ competitions. After countless calls to Ritch at Gator Pit, I finally put down money to have my first offset smoker built and on December 22, 2008 my first real smoker was home.

As I learned to cook on my new pit, I continued to browse the texasbbqrub forum and joined at least 4 other forums. My desire to try a competition continued to grow but I was hesitant; not sure if I was good enough. Even though I had my new Gator pit, I still called Ritch and Helen regularly at Gator pit. I called them almost weekly it seemed. It’s these conversations I had with Helen that truly got me to try BBQ competitions. Helen's friendship and encouragement helped me to find the passion for one of the greatest activities in the world. BBQ competitions. Thank you Helen.

Scott

Scott is Kevin’s brother, his right hand man and up and coming pitmaster in his own right.

The First Competition

My first competition was the Italy, Texas - Lions Club 1st Annual BBQ Cook-off on February 27, 2009. A Lone Star Barbecue Society sanctioned event. What a disaster it was. It was 40 degrees with the wind blowing 30 miles per hour and dust everywhere. I made it through and got my turn-ins done on time but, of course, I did not get a walk or final table call. I knew I was a good cook and this setback did not stop me from wanting try another cook-off. I was more than ever determined to prove to myself that I was a good cook. With the encouragement of Helen, my next cook was the Taste of Mesquite Texas cook-off of the same year. Again I was still learning the competition aspect of cooking but by luck I setup next to Tommy Joe Chandler and Ronnie Farmer to veteran competitions cookers. They saw the struggles I was having and sat down with me for over an hour, telling me all about competition cooking. While I learned from dozens of competition cookers over the last couple of years, it’s these two guys that pointed me in the right direction. I learned of the friendships that are made while cooking BBQ and the desire to help others who are just starting out. It was at this cook-off that I got my first walk. 7th place ribs and 11th place brisket out 32 teams. I was hooked.
I did a few more cook offs that year -- I think four or so. In 2010, I cooked eight cook-offs but it was in 2011 that I really perfected my technique, process and flavor profile for competition cooking. In 2011, I competed in 24 cook offs. What a year. In 2011, I won two Grand Champions, three Reserve Grand Champions, six top-5 finishes and five top-10 finishes.

Kevin With His Trophies

Kevin with a few of the CRC team awards. He’s most proud of the 5th place pink ribbon from the 2013 American Royal competition.

The Story Behind The Name

So I bet you are reading this and thinking: where does the name Circle R Cookers name come from? Cooking BBQ in Texas is all about family and friends. It seemed every time I fired up my first pit up years ago, family and friends would come to hang out, have a few drinks, drink a few beers and just a have a good time. My last name is Riley which is where the R in Circle R Cookers comes from. Circle R Cookers “where family and friends circle `round for good food and fun. BBQ is truly about family, friends and just having fun...

The Team Mascots - Molly and Leo

Molly and Leo love to travel in the RV and attend the BBQ cook-offs. You'll find them cuddled together on the couch with lots of blankets and pillows.