Wednesday, December 10, 2008

BBQ Folks = Good People

My good friends Tuffy and Jack

Many stories have been written over the years about the good people that you can meet on the BBQ circuit. I had read a lot of those stories over the years before I became a competitor. Stories about people helping each other, offering tips, lending equipment, helping set up, sharing camp food and drink, and even praying when needed. After two seasons on the BBQ circuit, I can tell you that those stories are true.

As many of you already know, I owe the success that we have enjoyed as a team to my good friend and mentor Steve Farin of the I Smell Smoke BBQ team. Steve took me under his wing and showed me the ropes, let me cook with him and still today, offers advice and guidance whenever it is needed. I have gotten to know his parents as well and now it is easy to see why Steve is who he is, good people all around.

In our two short years, we have also become friends with many of the other competitors from around these parts. Teams we have set up next to are the easiest to meet, we always try and introduce ourselves as we are setting up. Many that I have come to know on the various forums that I visit from time to time have also become good friends. I enjoy looking up a team that I have communicated with over the net and speaking to them in person. It is great to put a face with the name. I have even known a guy that let a forum friend prep his chicken. Although I can try and blame that one on too much firewater on behalf of the trimmer, the fact remains, these are some really good folks.

The only complaint that I have is in the contest setting, there is not a lot of time for visiting. At least, this has been my experience. It seems that when on site at a contest, we are always busy with something. The ideal situation is arriving at the contest site very early on Friday, get set up, get your prep work finished, then you might have a few minutes to walk around and visit. That is, of course, if the folks you are trying to visit have time to speak with you. I don’t like to walk into someone’s camp when they are trying to prep their meat, least we be accused of shigging.

After we get our big meats loaded into the cooker and get it somewhat stable, we will take a stroll around as a team and visit with some of our friends. I think many times this is my favorite time at a contest. Most of the crowd has gone; it is just the cooks and the smokers. We wonder about with a cold drink and shoot the breeze. Toss in some nice weather and you have got yourself a perfect evening.

There is also another time that I like to visit, that being late Friday night. I do not sleep very well when I am on the road and wound up in a contest, so I will usually wonder around the contest grounds after the rest of my team nests up for the night. I will keep stopping back to make sure our cooker is doing what I’ve asked it to do, but for the most part, this too is a relaxing time for me. The cooks are up tending their cookers and fires and all are very willing to engage anyone that comes by in a discussion about BBQ or anything else for that matter. It is a great time to exchange ideas, meet new people, tell lies, embellish stories and or BS. Good fun, good people, it don't git no bettter than this.

Aside from those times, we do not get much time to visit. Saturday morning I am busy with sauces, chicken, ribs and finishing the big meats. Erich dresses the boxes and sometimes we will even cook breakfast. With the first turn in due at 12:00, the morning usually rolls by pretty quickly. After the last box is sent to the judges, we begin to break everything down. Clean and wash the equipment. Cool the cookers, pack the leftovers, load the trailer, well, you get the picture. Most times we just get loaded up and it is time to head to the awards, every once in a while, we get a few minutes to sit down before the ceremony, but not too often. After the awards, a few handshakes, then its head for home, a hot shower and something to eat that isn’t BBQ, anything but BBQ. (More on this in another post)

At first I thought we were doing something wrong, we were not managing our time properly. Then I would see the posts on the forums, "sorry I didn’t get around to see everyone”, or something similar. Others have the same problem; they are busy at the contest with the contest. It is for this reason that I propose a KCBS sanctioned meet and greet. All teams are invited, we have a huge area reserved, teams arrive early Friday, cook all night, then on Saturday at 12:00, we have a giant picnic, everyone brings a dish. We sit around and kibitz, eat, drink, and be merry, then at 5:00, we pack up and head for home, with our designated driver of course. No contest, no trophies, just for fun. KCBS judges would be invited as well and could offer their opinions as they sampled everyones fair. I think it could also be very informative, getting input from the judges on your product. Sounds like a good time to me.

This brings me to the point of this entire post, the good people I have meet on the BBQ circuit. I have almost forgotten to mention two of the very best, my good friends, Tuffy Stone and Jack MacDavid. The truth be told, neither one of these guys has any idea who I am and have never heard of 'Who are those guys?' At a contest, they are just like your old friend. I have had the pleasure of speaking to both from time to time and found them to be very personable. They are always very friendly and will go the extra mile to help anyone they can. While I was at a contest in New Jersey, I saw Jack giving hands on advice to a first time team that had set up next to him. In addition to being nice guys, these two are both very good BBQ cooks. Tuffy and his team have won 9 Grand Championships this season and Jack has done it all from winning many Grands, to appearing on TV along side of Bobby Flay on the Food Network.

In a contest, these two are just a couple of the cooks, or so it seems. What I find most impressive is, on Saturday, late morning, along about 11:00 or so, when we are up to our elbows in alligators, you will see them. They will come past each and every site wishing the teams good luck. The thing to keep in mind is these are two of the guys that everyone is trying to beat. They come by with a smile and a wave, “good luck today fellows!”, and in my humble opinion, they really mean it. Very impressive in my book.

This October at Dover, where we were lucky enough to take Reserve Grand Champion, the past two years the contest was won by Tuffy and his team Cool Smoke. As soon as the awards presentation was over, we were still reeling from the shock of the call, the very first person to walk up and offer his congratulations was my friend, Tuffy Stone. Good people I tell ya.