prof. wins with barbercue team
Spencer Wertz is like most philosophy . His friend Tom
Harris says he is a renaissance man.
It takes a while to become Spences friend,
but its worth it when you do, Harris said.
Harris considers his friend to be reflective, deep and
very knowledgeable about many things.
His interests are broad, Harris said. Anything
hes interested in he knows a lot about.
The thing that separates Wertz from other professors at
TCU is that he has a competition barbecue team. The team
consists of Wertz, his wife Linda and close friends Lynn
and Tom Harris.
He is the only philosophy professor we know that
is a sanctioned barbecuer, Harris said.
For the past 35 years Wertz has been teaching at TCU and
at Austin College before that.
I did my undergraduate work here, Wertz said.
I liked the school and I liked Fort Worth and came
back when I got the chance.
Wertz has always been interested in cooking and enjoys
all kinds of good food, Harris said.
Like Wertz, most people that join competition barbecue
teams start out enjoying cooking in their back yard, said
Henry Erwin, president of the International Barbecue Cookers
Association. Then they start to think they need a bigger
pit to cook in and, eventually, starts competing, he said.
Its not a circus, just a group of people,
bankers, lawyers, sheet metal workers, etc., getting together
and enjoying themselves, Erwin said.
About seven years ago Wertz kept driving by a barbecue
rig, because he always wanted a smoker to learn how to
barbecue once he bought the rig for just $500.
He just came home with it one day and has been tinkering
with it ever since, Linda said.
Wertz says he started cooking barbecue because he likes
it and couldnt find anyone else who could cook it.
Eventually I had a lot of people say since youve
got this rig you ought to be competing, Wertz said.
I didnt really go along with the idea, but
they keep needling me and I finally said OK.
The trailer smoker weighs close to 3,000 pounds, is 13
feet long and has a cooking space of six feet by 28 inches.
It will cook a lot, Wertz said. Weve
catered to over 130 people before.
Along with Wertzs love for food, he has an appreciation
for wine. He has taken numerous wine appreciation courses
and has a wine cellar in his house.
Whatever my wife and I know about wine we learned
from him, Harris said.
Lynn and Tom Harris met Linda and Spencer Wertz playing
doubles tennis in the late 70s.
Today Wertz is into skeet shooting.
He has his old cronies from tennis that do that
with him, Harris said.
In his home near Weatherford, Wertz plants many different
things and has several animals including a dog and a cat.
Of the animals on the farm one type sticks out - the miniature
donkeys. The Wertzs raise and breed four of the
They said they where looking to invest in some kind of
live stock when they saw the miniature animals in the
Fort Worth Stock Show, Linda said.
They are very easy to raise and make wonderful pets,
Buying three donkeys to start with has turned into
five and they are ultimately considering selling the two
foals, Linda said.
Were expecting a foal any day, Wertz
said. She is as wide as she is tall.
They love animals, Harris said.
The name of the team came from the animals,
Smoking Asses, the name of Wertzs competition barbecuing
team, uses donkeys kicking up their heels on either side
of the name as the logo. The logo is printed on shirts,
caps and aprons as well as the teams banner. Along
with the logo flag the team also flies the American, Texas,
Burlington Northern and the TCU flag.
Their on two 20 foot poles, so you always know where
we are, Harris said.
The Smoking Asses are a part of Lone Star Barbecue Society.
Recently, the team hosted a cooking class at Central Market
on Hulen Street.
It was completely different than what weve
done before, Linda said.
Along with the traditional ribs, chicken and brisket,
Wertzs team sometimes makes pinto beans and pork
shoulders, Harris said.
Over the years they have developed their own recipes for
cooking, Linda said, reluctant to give the secrets away
from someone outside the barbecue family.
Everybody is very encouraging at the competitions,
she said. Once you get to know them you start sharing
Tendercy, taste and aroma are the key ingredients to making
good barbecue, Erwin said.
Basically, you cook what you, your family and friends
like and hope everyone else like it that day, he
Most of the teams have their own recipes and rubs, although
store bought rubs are used occasionally, Erwin said.
The recipes are handed down throughout the years
between the barbecuers, he said.
Barbecuers decided to organize a situation where everyone
had a fair chance to win, Erwin said.
They use the same product, cooked during the same
amount of time and judged by the public, Erwin said.
When the team arrives on Friday, they start the pit to
prepare for a day of cooking on Saturday.
Judges dont know which cookers turned in what barbecue,
The team has won first place for their ribs and chicken
and placed in the 10 headed for the final table several
times, Linda said.
Just because a team wins in one location doesnt
mean they will win in another, because the taste of the
judges varies from place to place, Erwin said.
To join the competitions it cost from $50 to $100. Portions
of the money goes to charity and another portion goes
to the winners of the competition, Erwin said.
Wertzs team is not in the competition to make money
although the top barbecuers for the day win a cash prize,
they enjoy the people they meet while barbecuing, Harris
Theyre just some good ol boys and good
ol gals, he said.
Although the team is made up of fair weather cookers,
trying to avoid hot Texas summer and cold winters, they
travel as far as 180 miles to attend a competition in
Dripping Springs, Texas, outside of Austin, Harris said.
When you are outdoors 10 to 11 hours a day in 110
degree heat it can get to be very hot, he said.
On any given weekend there at least seven places somewhere
in Texas to participate in a barbecue competition, Erwin
There is a comeroditery that is made, he said.
We enjoy getting to know everyone all the barbecuers.
Competing twice in the spring and twice in the fall is
enough for the Smoking Asses.
The idea of standing over a firebox when it is 100
degrees outside is not my idea of fun, Wertz said.