Old Arthur’s, a Chicago-area business known for its award-winning barbecue sauces and rubs, is once again a winner in the 2023 National Barbecue & Grilling Association Awards of Excellence Competition, held in February in Orlando, Florida. The judges, who know a thing or two about barbecue sauce, selected Old Arthur’s Spicy Barbecue Sauce as the top entry in the “tomato spicy sauce” competition. In 2022 Old Arthur’s Original BBQ Sauce took first-place, so both sauces are award winning!
“We’re humbled to be recognized by the largest governing body in barbecue,” says Eudell Watts IV, who established Old Arthur’s along with his father, Eudell III, about 12 years ago. The recognition that goes with a national award is welcome, the Watts family’s dedication to its business is rooted deeply in the past, with their enslaved ancestor, “Old”
Arthur Watts, and his path to freedom and success. Old” Arthur Watts was born into slavery in Missouri in 1837, Arthur’s job from about the age of 6 was to tend the cooking fires on the estate that held him in bondage. This made Arthur one of the country’s first (and probably youngest) “pitmasters.” From an early age, Arthur experimented with fresh natural ingredients available to him to create sauces that complemented the meats he cooked. Freedom came with the Emancipation Proclamation when Arthur was 27. He took his only valuable possessions – the recipes he had memorized – and went north, settling in Illinois. Those recipes helped him start a thriving business, and he became a highly-regarded pitmaster for church barbecues and social functions in central Illinois.
Arthur lived to be 106 years old but his legacy still lives on. Although Arthur never learned to read or write, his family captured and passed on his recipes, and continuously made the barbecue sauce for family, friends staying true to his original flavors.
The “Old Arthur” story
Fast-forward a couple of generations. Eudell Watts III, Arthur’s great-grandson, was encouraged to market the sauces and rubs due to their local popularity. Along with his son, Eudell Watts IV, who handles everything from marketing and demonstrations to social media, the business has become a success.
Today, Old Arthur’s mild and spicy sauces and rubs are available in local Chicago markets and grocery chains, on Amazon; and on www.bbqproshop.com. The sauces are produced commercially in the Quad Cities area of Iowa where Mr. Watts III lives, but the family runs the business from Evanston, Illinois, home of Eudell Watts IV. History, though, is never far from the family’s minds. “As you sample Old Arthur’s, you are experiencing authentic barbecue sauce, as it was first enjoyed in the early United States,” said Watts IV. “We are proud to be able to share this vital piece of history with our customers and the entire country. Old Arthur would be so proud.”