At the end of 2020, the barbecue community lost one of its best, and the world lost a legendary pitmaster.
And not just any legend, but rather “The Legend.”
Mike Mills, founder of 17 Street Barbecue, 3x Grand World Champion, co-author of Peace, Love & Barbecue and Praise the Lard, and well deserving of his title of “The Legend,” passed away on December 29, 2020.
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Mike “The Legend” Mills is missed by so many who he inspired and impacted during his life.
We are so grateful that we also got to interview Mike Mills and Amy Mills on our podcast to hear in person the incredible life he lived.
To Amy Mills: We are sending our love from California and are here for anything you might need. ❤️🙏🏻
RIP MIKE MILLS
It is with deep sorrow that I share with you my much-loved father, Mike Mills, passed away this morning due to non-Covid related health issues.
He was deeply loved and words cannot describe how much he will be missed. It’s a monumental loss for all of us at 17th Street Barbecue and the barbecue community.
His impact on the worldwide culture of barbecue and on the Southern Illinois region he was proud to call home will be long lasting.
Mike always embraced and enthusiastically welcomed everyone into our barbecue family and loved sharing his passion for cooking with fire.
Thank you for respecting our privacy as we work through this incredibly difficult and shocking time.
Details for services will be forthcoming.
Memories of Mike Mills from the BBQ Family on Facebook —
- Harry Soo (Slap Yo Daddy BBQ) — Deepest condolences. I am privileged to know and work with Mike on the NBBQA. He’s a BBQ legend, tireless ambassador, and humble and kind as can be. RIP my friend.
- Jess Pryles (Hardcore Carnivore) — So so very sorry to hear this sad news. He was an incredible man and he’s left an even more incredible legacy.
- Johnny Joseph (Champion Pitmaster) — Mike Mills was a great friend to me and the SCA family he will be miss love y’all.
- Alison Clem (la Barbecue) — OMG AMY I AM SO SORRY!!! This is heartbreaking news!! He was such a wonderful man!!
- Big Moe Cason (Moe Cason BBQ) — MAN….I’m so sorry to hear this Amy..Mike was an awesome friendly gentleman and a legend in the BBQ community a wealth of knowledge.
- Heath Hall (Pork Barrel Barbecue) — So sorry to hear this. Legend! Friend. Educator! Craftsman! Mentor! Entrepreneur! Leader! So many words to describe Mike! You will be missed friend! Prayers to Amy and the 17th Street team!
- Amy Jungk (Old World Spices and Seasonings) — Oh Amy! I’m so sorry. Your father was such an amazing man. His legacy will live on through all you do. Big hugs!
- James B. Hare (Cucamonga Cattle Company) — I’m sorry…Mike was the nicest man, always treated me with respect and acted like a true friend, he will be missed.
- Brad Barrett (GrillGrates) — I wish you peace and love during this time of grief. Mike touched so many lives and made our world better in so many ways. Much love from Susan and I.
- Joey Machado (Blues Hog Barbecue) — Prayers and Condolences. Such a a great man and icon in the BBQ world. I always enjoyed the conversations we have had at events over the years.
- Christie Vanover (Girls Can Grill) — Your dad enriched so many lives through his love of food and the BBQ family. It was a true honor to judge the Jack with him. Your family and and restaurant crew are in our prayers.
- Junior Urias (Up in Smoke BBQ) — My thoughts go to you and your family Amy Mills.
- Lee Ann Whippen (Deviled Pig) — Oh dear Amy, I am truely saddened and my heart goes out to you as yours did with my dad passing this year. I’m sure they are BBQ’ing with the angels like no other . May God be with you and your family during this difficult time and forever
- Derek Marso (Valley Farm Markets) — His humility was uncanny. It was an honor to get to know him. Sending love and prayers to the family.
- Sean Ludwig (The Smoke Sheet BBQ Newsletter) — I’m so, so sorry to hear the news Amy. My deepest condolences.
- Greg Rempe (The BBQ Central Show) — Sorry to hear about this, Amy! Mike was a great guy!
- Kathy Pullin (Sassy Q BBQ) — I am so sorry for your loss, to the bbq community in general, but to you as his daughter his passing is more personal. Sending you prayers.
- Clint Cantwell (AmazingRibs.com) — Oh Amy, I am in tears. I have been so blessed to have you and your dad in my life for the last 15+ years and he was always one of the first people I loved to find and spend time with at Memphis in May, The Jack and elsewhere along the BBQ trail. My heart and prayers are with your entire family.
- Jim Compart (Compart Family Farms) — So sorry Amy Mills to hear the loss of your father. He was very special person to me and I always admired what he did to bring BBQ to be what it is today. Kindest person in the world. God bless.
The Legend Mike Mill’s BBQ Life
(Interview with Mike Mills and Amy Mills) —
In 2018, Shawn Walchef and the Cali BBQ Media family welcomed Mike Mills and his daughter Amy Mills as guests on The Behind the Smoke Podcast, and as expected, “The Legend” did not disappoint.
We interviewed the BBQ family members at the annual NBBQA conference in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s a conversation we will never forget.
While Mike Mills has cooked with the best of them and even brought his Illinois expertise all the way to New York City, his origin story fittingly begins in his own backyard.
“My dad was a barbecue man,” noted Mike Mills on Behind the Smoke in 2018. “He loved to barbecue. If he wasn’t fishing, he was barbecuing. He was a salesman, his whole family was involved in sales, but every weekend he would barbecue, and all his neighbors would bring over meat.
I remember as a kid waking up and smelling smoke, my crib was next to the window, and I’d holler until my mom would open the blinds until I could see my dad barbecue.”
Once Mike was old enough to crawl out of the crib, his proud pops already had him assisting in the same passion that brought his whole family and entire neighborhood together.
“As a little kid, he built me a wheelbarrow to haul the wood,” recalled Mike. “That was my job, to haul the wood. The wagon was made out of orange crates, but I knew we were going to get something good to eat and the neighbors would, too.”
When Mike’s father passed, the love of barbecue began to grow even more within Mike and rippled across his family in his father’s honor.
“He passed away when I was young and I missed him,” Mike Mills said on the podcast in 2018. “But my brothers and my uncles took it up and once I was older, I started barbecuing, too.”
Mike Mills BBQ Life:
Once Mike Mills started barbecuing, he never stopped.
While Mike is most famous for his 17th Street Barbecue restaurant in Murphysboro, IL, the Midwest man’s love of cooking and competition took him all around the country, famously bringing barbecue to NYC in the form of The Big Apple Barbecue.
In fact, his world class ribs were so popular that even the leader of the free world had to have some. Yes, years ago, Mike was sought out to feed President Bill Clinton.
“Everybody always asks, ‘Did he pay you?’” smiled Mike Mills on the podcast about feeding the president BBQ. “Well yes, he did. I couldn’t show favoritism. He was a very impressive individual whether you happened to like him or not like him. He was very charismatic and could change your mind just meeting him.
When he walked into the room, my back was to him, but you could tell somebody of importance had walked in. You could feel the electricity.”
Just like Mike Mills felt the electricity of the president, the barbecue community felt the same energy and presence from him.
A man with a world of wisdom, a love for cooking and even a greater love for family, the barbecue community will dearly miss Mike, but they will never forget the man simply known as “The Legend.”