Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One Minute Monday
Royal Prep

It’s only Monday and I already feel like I am behind. This weekend is the American Royal, as most people who might actually ready this dribble already know. The task of preparing for a contest is made even more challenging in that we have two events to get ready for: the Open and the Invitational.

Double the meat we have to buy and trim.
Double the rub and sauce we’ll use.
Double the charcoal and wood we’ll burn.
Triple the beer we’ll drink.

Chris and I have been through our check lists, been to a few stores, and still need to visit a few more. I think we have about 95% of what we need for the upcoming contests, but getting the last 5% and then packing it all up and getting everything ready to go is a real chore.

We’re in space 738. Stop by and say hello. I’ll the be the guy passed out in the corner of the tent.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

BBQ & A: Round Six

Every competition cook is in constant pursuit of the big one. That one win that overshadows all the others. For some it's a signature grand championship, like the Royal or the Jack. Others have sentimental reason...and some may not even be a grand championship or even a first place call for that matter. Sometimes just getting that first call is biggest call you'll ever get!

This week we ask a few cooks to give us their biggest wins, with contributions from:
The always entertaining and insightful Steph Wilson of TheSlabs.com teams up weekly with Kyle Laval to cook championship BBQ and brew up award winning sauces and rubs.
Teacher, cook and BBQ pitchman Rod Gray of Pellet Envy - fresh off his amazing 3rd straight win in three years at Smoke on the Water in Hot Springs, AR.
Finally, a cook from a team that maybe becoming just as well known for their clairvoyant pork bone-pickin' pooch, as they are for their awesome brand of competition BBQ, Greg Anthony from Ribs 4 U.

1st place chicken at Jack Daniels. We didn't have a vehicle to pull our own stuff down there. We rented a trailer that was bigger than the Jeep that pulled it. Our buddy pulled the pit. Good times!

Reserve Reserve Grand American Royal Invitational 2003. (3rd overall). Didn't get one call. We were flabbergasted! I remember my Dad saying 'Holy $#!&! They did it!' He passed away unexpectedly later that month, I'm glad we had that time.

Laurie, MO Grand Champion...It might have been 2000...it was our first win. My Dad promoted a dirt track in Warrensburg, MO and he and Mom came down to watch the awards and they were running late. Mom thought they should get to the track and Dad said out of five years it wouldn't kill them if he was 'late'...we won! I'm glad they were there.

In no particular order, the 2003 Mandalay Bay Heatin' Up The Bay event in Las Vegas, Nevada because it was filmed by the Food Network and still airs.

2007 Smoke On The Water in Pine Bluff, Arkansas because it's far and away the largest grand champion prize we've ever won.

Lastly, the 2006 World Pork Expo/Great BBQlossal in Des Moines, Iowa because it was a collaborative effort with Steve Farrin of I Smell Smoke and Scottie Johnson of CancerSucksChicago.com and none of us had every cooked a hog before.

Our biggest win was last year at Butler, MO. There were 41 teams and we won the chicken, ribs and brisket categories and finished 10th in pork. We were Grand Champion with a 30 point spread over the Reserve GC.

Of course our first ever GC was big to us, at Shawnee, KS in 2006.
I suppose our last big win would be our first ever category win at Laurie in 2005 (in chicken), and also finishing 2nd in brisket that year at the American Royal.

Monday, September 21, 2009

One Minute Monday...
The weekend that was: Lettuce reflect.

Some people who stumble upon this goofy collection of ramblings might not be aware of all of the little intricacies that are involved in competition BBQ. We cooks can get pretty bent out of shape pretty easily when it comes to changes to our routines and the rules we know. I guess that is one of the nice things about competing in KCBS contests – we know what to expect at every contest, every time, no matter if we competing in Maine or Missouri.

So when the edict came down late last week that we couldn’t use parsley in our boxes for presentation in last weekend’s contest, a lot of folks were upset. I am not going to go into what I think about how the ruling came down, or how the board arrived at this decision or even that the tainted parsley that led to this whole thing was pulled long before last week.

I immediately thought of one of the answers Donnie Teel gave me for one of the previous “BBQ & A” posts. He basically said that when the unexpected pops up, that is when the good cooks separate themselves from everyone else. So a major congratulations goes out to all the cooks who competed and succeeded last weekend. I also have to say that the lettuce-only boxes that Chris put together for us looked almost as good as our parsley boxes! Maybe I’ll even post a picture of one of them if anyone wants to see one.


Battle of the Brisket VI: Mission, KS

We’re back on track for this week, after I took last week off. I was busy getting ready for our upcoming contest in Mission, KS so I didn’t get my posts up last week…thing is, the contest is just a few blocks away from my house – so one would think I could get my stuff together and be ready to go by Friday afternoon…but not so much.

Chris and I put together a pretty nice little party on Friday night – lots of friends and family stopped by to see us and that was pretty nice. We like to do a party at this contest because so many of our friends live near the contest site, in and around Mission.

The party was a hit, but unfortunately for us, not all of our contest turn-ins were. We won this one last year and we finished in the reserve grand spot the year before, so our sights are set high at this event. We did pull out a first place call in brisket and coupled that with a 9th in pork, but we bombed our chicken and rib turn-ins. When the smoke cleared, we had a nice 7th place finish out of 60 teams.

I also have to mention how proud I am of my wife, Jammie. For the first time ever in five years of cooking in BBQ contests, the Dodge County Smokers team turned in an entry for the dessert category. Jammie prepared a really good white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. She did not get a top 10 call, but she came as close as you can get - 11th place!

We have a little bit of work to do before our next contest in two weeks…it’s the big one – The American Royal Invitational followed up by the Open. Stop by and see us if you are out there – space 738.

two stooges

Old timey sepia tone pics by Val Wilson...

Dessert prep
off to the judges

Jack decides to run up and help Chris and Megan claim our award for the pork category

First place brisket

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

BBQ & A: Round Five...Are you ready?

Be Prepared. The Boy Scouts base everything they do on those two words. Hey, four million kerchief clad scouts can’t be wrong!

You don’t have to be a successful competition cooker to realize the importance of being prepared for a contest. This week we found three of the top cooks in the country and asked them about their precontest routines. Once again, we got some great, honest answers from some really good guys.

This week our contributors include the chief cooks of three of the top KCBS teams competing today and all have competed for Team of the Year championships:

Mike Wozniak – Quau - Brimfield, IL
Joe Amore – Smokey Mountain Smokers – Seveirville, TN
Kelly Wertz – 4 Legs Up – Great Bend, KS

Mike: Sunday is a relaxation day. By Monday or Tuesday we are looking for meat for next week’s contest. This can mean a trip to several stores. By Wednesday or Thursday I trim up chicken and ribs and make up any sauces or injections that we might be low on. I don't want to do to much prep work at a contest, mainly just cooking. I don't do a lot of trimming on pork or brisket, so I leave them in the cryovac until we get there.

Joe: My routine runs like this: I return home on Saturday night late or by noon on Sunday. That is when my week starts for the upcoming weekend. I first start by washing my trailer and truck. My wife cleans up the living quarters in the trailer and I take care of the kitchen. It gets cleaned, stocked and ready to go for the next weekend. I pull my butts and briskets out of the freezer (yes I cook frozen butts and briskets). The next step is to make my injections and marinades and put them in the trailer. It’s about an 8 hour day to do all of the above. On Monday I empty my holding tanks, fill fresh water and clean my smokers. On Tuesday we prep parsley and take care of the yard work around the house. Wednesday we load the trailer with all the meat including the chicken and ribs and have everything ready to go for when we leave on Thursday morning. So, I would say I have about 18 to 20 hours in getting ready for the contest.

Kelly: Tuesday or Wednesday morning we head to store for a few basic supplies. By Wednesday afternoon, during a restaurant break, we prep parsley and get that put in trailer fridge. Then we make our brines and injections if needed and prep for extra categories or Friday night meals. Wednesday evening, between grilling steaks and restaurant work, I prep sauces and rubs and load trailer and complete our checklist. Thursday morning, I buy my chicken and Thursday night, it’s more work in the restaurant kitchen and I prep my contest meat and get that in trailer fridge. Friday morning, load ribs for restaurant, fuel up the pickup, give the checklist a final check, then help with restaurant lunch run before I head off to the contest. All totaled we probably spend around 4 hours prepping for contests - of course that is with a lot of restaurant work thrown in the middle of all that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One Minute Monday...Holiday Edition

So I've had a long holiday weekend to think about the Jack Daniels draw. As I reviewed the list of teams that did and did not make the cut (for lack of a better term), I found myself happy for for some of those guys and dissappointed for others.

Sure, there is some amount of self pity involved, but we're 0 for 4 in the draw...so I think we are entitled to feel that way...at least for an afternoon. By this time, some four days later, I am passed it and looking forward. But I will say that we are not doing ourselves any favors, cooking contests mainly in Kansas and Missouri. With nearly three dozen qualifiers in each of these states, we can't expect much.

I may also be somewhat biased, but I think the difficulty a Kansas or Missouri team faces in getting to The Jack is reflected in the difficulty it takes to win in this region. I really respect the competition in the Southeast, New England, out west and in Texas. But a the same time, not only do we have to worry about the top notch teams from our area, we often face the challenge of very good teams coming in from our ultra-competitive surroundings like Oklahoma, Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas and one pretty pesky guy from South Dakota.

Winning here is hard enough, but then getting the luck of the draw? Very tough.

Good luck to the teams we butt heads with on a regular basis who will be heading to Tennessee in late October. We'll be rooting for you. Guess we'll just have to go for 7 next year!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Goin' Whole Hog

Last weekend (8/29) Chris and I cooked this whole hog for my sister's engagement party at my Dad's shop in Nebraska. We had a blast and cooked a pretty good pig when it was all said and done. We served well over 100 people with a 135lb hog that took just about 14 hours to finish.
Here are some pictures...
Chris removes the loin for slicing.
Hungry guests waiting to eat some pig.

The guests of honor: Smelly and Braq.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

BBQ & A: Round Four...The Jack!

It's Wednesday and time for another installment of the wildly popular BBQ & A!

In honor of the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Draw happening tomorrow, I thought we would focus this week’s BBQ & A on former Jack winners. You’ll find two cooks who have already been a part of the weekly BBQ & A, and an additional pair of competitors that I am really excited to have featured here. That's right...this week it's 4 for the price of 3!

I am honored to count the last four winners of the most coveted title in competition BBQ as contributors to this site:
  • Donny Teel is an accomplished competitor and has won dozens of Grand Championships as Buffalo's BBQ, but in 2005 he teamed up with fellow Okie Bart Clark of Twin Oak Smokin’ Crew under the banner of Boys from Tornado Alley to claim the top spot at The Jack.
  • Scottie Johnson took The Jack Grand Championship honors home to the Windy City in 2006 for his team, Cancer Sucks Chicago.
  • Chad Hayden of Taylorsville, Kentucky - known simply as “Podge” - cooks under the name Moonswiners and won the 2007 Jack.
  • Kelly Wertz scored the big win in the most recent Jack Daniel's Invitational last year, and came home to his restaurant, 4 Legs Up BBQ in Great Bend, Kansas as the best BBQ cook in the world.

I want to once again thank everyone for so willingly answering my silly questions. Guys like Kelly, Chad, Donny and Scottie are the real deal and I can’t thank them enough for getting back to me so quickly.

This week’s question is something that not a lot of cooks think about…and even less really have to worry about it anyway. So…how did you get that big Jack Daniel’s Grand Championship trophy back home with a long road trip ahead of you? Where is your trophy now?

Donny: Our trophy from the Jack got transported home in the front seat of the truck with Mr. Jack seat belted in. Now days the Grand Champion trophy is really small compared to the one that I have. The one I have is approx 4 ½ feet tall, made of barrell slats.
Who Kept the trophy? You or Bart?
I have it. Before we left, Bart said that if we won that I could have it since he had one already (Twin Oak Smokin’ Crew won in 2001).

Scottie: I had Jack right next to me for my drive home. He was my co-pilot. I had to get back home, so we could start making arrangements for my dad (who had passed away the Friday of the contest). I even put the seat belt on for him!!! I now keep it in my family room. I had a special base made for it from a Jack Daniel's half barrel. I am not big in displaying trophies, but I have Jack, my TOY medal, my first GC and my foundation's award for 5 years of raising money for cancer research. Everything else goes into big Rubbermaid containers.

Jack is Scottie's co-pilot

Podge: I laid it down in the back seat of my truck, and wedged some things in there to keep it from moving around. Here it is, sitting in the corner of my living room.

Podge's Jack trophy

Kelly: We usually travel to contests pretty light so trophies, if we are lucky, they usually just go in the back seat of the pickup. The Jack trophies got wrapped in blankets and stuffed in all the safe places we could find in the trailer and they made the 900 mile trip just fine. They are now proudly displayed on the Jack Wall in our restaurant..

Got a good idea for a question to ask our featured BBQ & A cooks? Shoot me an e-mail! neal@dodgecountysmokers.com