About

People who know barbecue know Willingham’s.

John Willingham & the W’ham Turbo Cooker

John Willingham was famous for barbecue and the barbecue sauces and rubs he developed to enhance his great cooking techniques. A creative entrepreneur and inveterate tinkerer, he spent a big chunk of his long life in search of a more perfect way to barbecue. Forty years ago, he designed and received a patent on the W’ham® Turbo Cooker, which kept the smoke away from the meat but sealed the flavor in.

In 1983, triumph! W’ham ribs wowed the judges in the Memphis-in-May International Barbecue Festival. Ribs cooked by his “River City Rooters” team placed first, and the team was crowned “The Overall World’s Barbecue Grand Champion.” The following year, the team repeated that success. In 1985, John proved it wasn’t just a Memphis thing. The team placed first in Kansas City’s American Royal barbecue contest (considered by some the grand pageant of barbecue, but we like all the competitions!) for its pork, its beef and its lamb, and was again crowned overall grand champion. Those were the first in a long string of victories, culminating in John’s entry into the American Royal’s Hall of Fame, barbecue’s top honor. John’s cooking, seasoning, and barbecue sauces continue to win top awards every year!

Following the success John had on the competition circuit he established Willingham Associates in 1983 to distribute his line of award winning W’ham® seasonings, sauces and cookers.

Since John’s passing in 2013, his wife Marge, the family and close friends have been ensuring current and new customers were served and the legacy would continue.   In 2020 the family sold the business to long time friend, a John Willingham pitmaster mentee, and W’ham® evangelist Paul Holden of VPBBQ giving them the honor to carry the torch forward on a wonderful and storied legacy for the next generations of bbq and cooking enthusiasts.

We are committed to excelling on his tradition of entering (and winning) BBQ competitions, as we have every year since 1983 to this day, maintaining the exacting standards of all the current products, and releasing new and exciting creations from John’s boxes and boxes of notes while spreading the fun spirit from barbecuing with friends, family and every person we meet.

John Willingham & Paul Holden
Clay and Paul prepping to BBQ
Willingham Booth at Memphis in May
Willingham’s & VPBBQ
teaming up for MIM 2013

Our Mission

We are committed to excellence and the integrity of every product we offer.  We pledge to help everyone to discover the thrill and realization of the joys of a family that cooks together (as they play together) stays together.

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