Tim’s Full Belli Deli crew member Kim Steevens watches the food levels as people begin to chow down on the BBQ at Beachfront Inn in Baileys Harbor on Aug. 17.

There is something about the smell of barbecued meat that stimulates the senses and draws people from far and wide to follow their noses to the source of the smell.

That was certainly in evidence the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 17, when the Tim’s Full Belli Deli crew of Oshkosh, Wis., set up shop with a 40-foot trailer and meat smoker in the parking lot of the Beachfront Inn in Baileys Harbor. People who followed their noses into the inn’s parking lot soon found themselves with full plates of beef brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken, BBQ beans and other tasty items.

The occasion was a BBQ for the local construction crew that did the Beachfront Inn makeover in June for an episode of the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible that is scheduled to air on Monday, Sept. 30. Beachfront Inn owners Tammy and Terry Bork asked Tim Schopp, pitmaster of Tim’s Full Belli Deli, to feed the crew during the June construction project, and asked the crew up again for another round of food and good cheer.

It was also an opportunity to talk to Schopp about the sport of barbecue competition. He and his team are in their second year of competition and return to Washington Island this weekend to compete in the 2nd Annual Death’s Door BBQ, where his team will face off against 29 other competitors for the coveted title of Grand Champion.

“It’s already the premier event in Wisconsin,” Schopp said of the Death’s Door event. “It’s great money, great people, and they really take care of the competitors. Friday night they’re throwing a trout boil for us. Saturday morning it’s home-cooked donuts and gourmet coffee.”

But after the donuts and coffee on Saturday morning, the BBQ crews get down to the serious work of meeting the turn-in deadlines for the four meat products – chicken, beef brisket, pork ribs and pork butt (a sign on Schopp’s massive BBQ rig features a little BBQ humor, “People drive for miles to SMELL our BUTTS!”) – that are judged in this Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event.

The judges are looking at three criteria – appearance, taste and tenderness.

“You can’t go to a restaurant and get what we do for competition,” Schopp said. “So much time, energy and technique goes into it. The meat we make is nothing like in a restaurant.”

For example, he says the fall-off-the-bone ribs you expect from a restaurant would be disqualified in competition.

“If they fall off the bone, we’re done,” Schopp said. “You want to bite and the ribs should pull off the bone with teeth marks. That’s the point they are perfect. If the meat is falling off the bone, they’re overcooked.”

Schopp believes success is achieved through flavor profile.

“You gotta have something that wows the judge,” he said. “The meat goes into a parsley-lined box. The judge has got to look at it and say, ‘Boy, that’s something I want to eat.’ You’ve got to taste the sweet, then the meat, then the heat. That’s the trick, getting the sweet, the meat and the heat all in the right order. It’s about spending time in your kitchen. But, really, if your meat’s cooked perfectly, you can put ketchup on it and it’s going to win.”

Schopp has been a dedicated meat smoker for about 10 years. His fiancée and BBQ team member, Diana Wiechman, sent Schopp to a grilling class.

“Then I joined a BBQ club in Appleton,” he said. “I got asked to go to a throw down and got second place, first time. And I was hooked. So we decided to go on the road. We did 12 contests in 2012 and we’re doing 16 this year.”

Leading up to that was a lot of time spent in the kitchen, testing methods and finding the right combination of ingredients.

“It took two years of constantly playing with herbs and spices, the rubs, the sauces,” Schopp said. “We make all our own rubs and sauces. We use some commercial ones, but it’s all about layers of flavor. Lots of different rubs, the types of wood you use, and the quality of meat.”

His team likes to use hickory for smokiness and untreated apple and cherry wood for flavor.

“You get a little sweet flavor with fruit wood,” Schopp said. “Cherry gives it a good color. Apple burns real clean and gives it a sweet taste.”

There was also an investment in equipment. Schopp figures he has $60,000 invested, which includes the 40-foot trailer with four bedrooms, shower and generator that can run the thing for two weeks.

The rest of his regular crew includes Diana’s son Adam Heagle and Lorin and Kim Steevens.

“We have five kids with spouses, 12 grandchildren. They get involved with us,” Schopp said, explaining the massive rig. “We don’t want them sleeping outside.”

Schopp said the ultimate goal of his team is to be picked to go the 34th Annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, Mo., the first week of October.

“It’s the Super Bowl,” he said. “You just need a Grand Championship to go.”

Which his crew won in July at Harley-Davidson’s 1st Annual Hog & Steer Competition Harley Davidson in Oconomowoc, Wis. Unfortunately, it was not a sanctioned event.

But there is another event Schopp has his eye on.

“We’d like to go to the Jack someday,” he said, referring to the Jack Daniel World Championship Invitational Barbecue held in Lynchburg, Tenn., in late October.

Every time you win a competition in your state, you get a bung out of a Jack Daniels barrel,” Schopp said. “At the end of the year (the BBQ competition year, that is), Labor Day eve, they spin a drum and pull out one bung from each state. So, of course, the more grand championships you win, the better chance you have of going. It’s the premier event, the world championships. One team from each state and one each from 10 other countries.”

Tim’s Full Belli Deli finished in the top 10 out of 25 competitor’s at last year’s Death’s Door, one of eight top 10 finishes the team had in 2012.

“We won the sauce contest last year,” Schopp said, adding that he uses Death’s Door BBQ Sauce made by the Borks of Beachfront Inn.

“They’re in the process of starting to sell these sauces,” Schopp said. “They wanted us to try it. We’ve tweaked it, but it’s their sauce. They’ve expanded their line to include mustards. Next year they’ll be going full bore and retailing it. They’ve been very supportive of us. That’s why we’ve been up here two times cooking for them.”

Nineteen of the 30 teams cooking at Death’s Door this year have registered as vendors as well, meaning they will be selling their product to the public, but Schopp said his team will be giving away meat.

“It’s free. We don’t vend it. We don’t sell,” he said. “We make 40 pounds of brisket to turn in a pound and a half. Forty pounds of pork to turn in two pounds. Twenty-four to 36 pieces of chicken to turn in six, and 72 bones of ribs and we only turn in six. All that leftover we give to the crowd. People come by and enjoy it. You get a following.”

Lisa Gibson, one of the Death’s Door BBQ organizers, said last year’s inaugural event with 25 teams and 3,000 visitors “was more than we anticipated in our wildest dreams.”

She added that all of last year’s judges are returning and of the 25 teams that participated last year, 23 are returning, including two Door County teams – Matt Peterson and his Casey’s BBQ and Smokehouse team out of Egg Harbor and the Shoulders, Butts & Bellies team led by pitmaster Curt Campbell of The Oilerie in Fish Creek.

The event is a fundraiser for the Washington Island Food Pantry, and Gibson pointed out in parting, “Good brisket is to die for.”