Thursday, July 10, 2008
ISS Competition Cooking Class
You want me to do WHAT to my chicken?!???!
The weekend of July 28-29 team mate Al and I traveled to Warminster PA, just north of Philadelphia to the home of the BBQ Guru for the I Smell Smoke cooking class. The class was to be held in a contest format and included everything from meat selection to box building and presentation. Steve Farin even promised to reveal their new, top secret and successful chicken method. I couldn’t wait; we both were looking forward to the event.
Dan Hixon from the successful 3 Eyzs BBQ team, fresh off their third Grand Championship win at The Art of BBQ held in New Jersey, was planning to join us for the weekend. Al and I arrived early and began to set up. We were about halfway finished when Jim from Pequea Pullers parked next to us, remember Jim , the “cherry guy” from Bel Air. Jim is a good cook and an all around nice fellow from near Lancaster PA. He always travels with a jar of cherries that are usually swimming in some type of high octane rum. Another word to describe them would be flame throwers, wow, they are strong.
Anyway, before we finished our setup, out new neighbor Jim was set up, had out his lawn chair, had mixed himself a drink, and was lighting up a cigar as he sat down to watch the rest of us finish our work. Now, either I am bringing way too much junk or Jim has a bit of Houdini blood in his veins, (maybe from all of those cherries), but I gotta pay attention to my buddy Jim next time to see what I am doing wrong. He’s always got a prime seat to watching the world go by, and I have to admire that!
It wasn’t long and the class began. Steve and the rest of the I Smell Smoke team did a great job of explaining how they select the cuts that they cook and also what they do to prepare the meat for the cooker. They were very patient and answered all of the questions that were asked. Regular readers of this blog will know that Steve Farin is my BBQ mentor and basically taught me what little I know about cooking competition Que. I had cooked with Steve in the past but never had the opportunity to take notes and observe his work from a student’s perspective. It was great.
After demonstrating all the prep work, we were all given a full load of contest meats to take back to our sites and get ready to cook. The ISS gang wandered around, observed, answered questions, and gave pointers to everyone as we prepped our own meats for the cooker. Dan, Al and I worked to get our meats ready as instructed. It was then that Steve asked if I had any extra room in my cooker for his big meats, as they did not bring their competition trailer which contains the cookers they use in competition.
“Sure” I said without even hesitating. I had plenty of room. It wasn’t until after all of the meat, his and ours was prepped and shoved into the Tall Boy that it hit me. What if I blew it and ruined his meats. He was the teacher, the instructor, the Mack Daddy, if I didn’t properly cook his stuff, I couldn’t hide in the back of the class like I could if I had only ruined my meat, the whole world would know, particularly Steve, my friend and mentor. I couldn’t let him down. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink all night, worrying about the cook. It was even worse than at a contest, and I can’t explain why.
The next day when I joked with Steve that he had applied too much pressure on me with his meat cooking, he calmly, (as he always is), said that if mine didn’t turn out, he would just grab someone else’s to use for demonstrational purposes. Why didn’t I think of that, if I had, I might have been able to grab a few hours of shut eye.
The BBQ Guru team did a great job with the class setup. They served up a super dinner Saturday night that included Phili style pork loin sammys, complete with broccoli rob and provolone cheese. I had never had this sandwich before, but it sure was good. After dinner we were given a tour of the Themomegatech / Guru shop. My only comment here is WOW. I always thought that Shotgun Fred, the company founder was an on the ball guy, but I think I had underestimated him, genius is more fitting. The guy has 23 US patents registered in his name. Speaking of Fred, you will remember he suffered a stroke while attending the contest in Salisbury this past April. Fred was in attendance at the class on both Saturday and Sunday, looking good and in great spirits. It was a real blessing seeing and speaking to Fred after what he has been through.
Overall, I found the class to be very informative and helpful and I look forward to using some of our newly acquired skills in the next competition, which for us is July 25-26 at Stevensville, MD. I also enjoyed hanging out with fellow competitors Dan, Steve, Brett and Jim. It was good having time to shoot the breeze without the pressure that exists when involved in a contest. Anytime you get that many BBQ cooks together, you know you are in for some good stories, a few cold beers, and a lot of laughs, trust me, this weekend did not disappoint.
If you ever get the chance and you want to try and improve your game, I would suggest taking a class. Even for an experienced cook, it is great to see what others are doing and I am sure you will pick up a few tips that will help you gain a few more points. It is money well spent in my humble opinion. Even for the average backyard BBQer, (like yours truly), a class cuts months and months off of the learning curve.
Some of you may recall my battle this winter past with our friend the yardbird. I have to tell you, these guys at ISS have a whole new twist on the chicken attack. If I had known then what I know now……well..…I guess its back to the drawing board!