Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tailgater Challenge- Bel Air BBQ Bash 2011

George Hensler of who are those guys? and Dan Hixon of 3 Eyz BBQ, are working along with Scott Walker and the team over at the Maryland BBQ Bash to offer a class for beginning competition cooks. The class will cover how to prepare, cook and present your rack of ribs for the Friday night tailgater challenge. The class will June 25th from 9 AM-2 PM.For details click on this link http://www.mdbbq.com/competition.html

Monday, April 25, 2011

NBBQA National Conference and Trade Show

…..hmmm these BBQ folks ARE good people!

I recently traveled to Greenville, South Carolina to attend the nation BBQ Associations’ National Conference and Trade Show. The event was held March 23-26 at the Embassy Suites located just outside the downtown district of Greenville. The theme of this years gathering was “Roots of Shared Success: Inspiration and education from our BBQ family tree.”

After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, I was checked in and immediately began to run into folks that I knew. Around 12:00 we were all loaded onto 2 large coach style busses for what was billed as a BBQ Tour of Greenville. Both busses were packed as we were driven to four local restaurants. At each stop we were greeted by the owners and staff, given some brief history of their establishment and then we had an opportunity to sample their wares.

For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip seeing the different smoking and cooking operations and hearing the stories of how they came to get involved in the restaurant business. Not to mention some really good eats. I was amazed at the size and quantity of the spreads put out by each establishment. If anyone returned to the hotel hungry, it was their own fault.

Thursday morning was the opening session where we heard from two very motivated individuals, Patrick Murdy of Company 7 BBQ from Englewood, Ohio and Roy Slicker from Slicks Que Company located in Sisters, Oregon. Both of the speakers told how much assistance and guidance they received from folks involved in the NBBQA and how they were very helpful in the early days of planning and working to help get their doors open.

After the opening remarks the attendees broke out to attend some of the numerous learning sessions planned for the convention. There were classes on branding, starting your own BBQ business, how to get sponsors for your competition team, using the internet to help promote, brand and expand your business and much more. The only problem I had was trying to decide from the list which session to attend. The sessions were scheduled for three at a time which meant you would miss something each time. I still haven’t figured out how to be in three places at once, when I do, I’ll let you know.

The keynote speaker for Thursday’s luncheon was Dave Anderson, better known as Famous Dave from Famous Daves BBQ Restaurant fame. Dave spoke from the heart and told his story how he built his business from a start-up operation in a town of 1,800 to its current size of over 200 locations in over 37 states. Dave’s tail of how he turned a backyard hobby into a $500 million restaurant empire is truly astounding. It was a real “rags to riches” story that was very moving, inspiring and motivational. Dave stayed around for the entire weekend answering questions and just hanging out with the rest of the conventioneers, an all around great guy.

Friday there were more sessions along with the opening of the BBQ trade show. Along the way there was plenty of time for BBQ networking. In attendance you had sauce and rub makers, caterers, marketers, restaurant owners, equipment makers, competition team members, BBQ media outlets, suppliers, just about everything to do with the business of BBQ was represented.

My observations were folks were very willing to give advice when asked. One on one and small group discussions were every where during the “down” times. These were some of the most successful people in the BBQ community all gathered together under one roof, all with a similar mission, to encourage and advise others to explore and succeed in what ever BBQ path they had chosen. It was all about the promotion of the BBQ community in general.

For me, what I observed during my four days in Greenville was exactly what I had thought all along, BBQ folks are good people, there is no doubt about it. The theme of the gathering, “Roots of Shared Success” was played out over and over that weekend. I saw folks that have traveled the road of success not only offering guidance, but offering encouragement and advice to others just beginning their journey.

My advice, for what ever it is worth, if you are in the business of Que or even thinking of getting involved, you need to join the National BBQ Association and get to next years conference. Just hanging out with a large group of highly motivated and driven people is bound to do you some good. I know it did me. When I arrived home I was so pumped up I told my wife that we were going to open a BBQ restaurant by this time next year. If you only could have seen the look on her face as she asked the inevitable question upon hearing my pronouncement, “how much did you have to drink on the plane trip home?”

The 2012 NBBQA National Conference and Trade Show is scheduled to be held in San Diego, California, you need to try and make it, you’ll be glad you did.

Pork in the Park

Salisbury MD
April 15-16 2011

The much anticipated Pork in the Park BBQ Festival was held April 15-17 in Winterplace Park located in Salisbury Maryland. The park is located in the heart of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and is always a great place to visit. Sandy Fulton and her enthusiastic group of volunteers once again rolled out the red carpet this year welcoming 116 teams from all around the Country as well as Canada.

Thursday evening found many teams already in place inside the park as the pit masters were anxious to get their fires started for the 2011 BBQ season. This event has become sort of a season opener for many of the teams in the northeastern part of the Country.

Friday morning the rest of the arriving teams were greeted with fabulous weather as it was what some would call one of those Chamber of Commerce kind of days. Teams keep their third eye on the sky as the weatherman wasn’t making any promises for what was in store for late Friday night and Saturday.

Turn-in morning broke with gray skies and very gusty winds, as the day wore on, things never improved. The heavy rain that was predicted stayed away until after awards, I still believe Sandy when she says she has an “in” with the Chief Meteorologist. After the brisket boxes went in, teams were scrambling to break camp before getting soaked. I am not sure if I have ever seen a contest of that size broken down and packed away in such short order.

In true fashion the organizers were in front of the weather issue and moved the awards ceremony into the large tent that had be erected for the judges. It was a bit tight, but everyone was dry and that was a good thing.

PA Midnite Smokers, Paul and Brenda Hess walked with an impressive win as the contest Grand Champions. They took first place in both the chicken and pork categories, second in brisket and fourteenth in ribs. They also scored well in Friday night’s ancillary contests with a second in anything butt and third in dessert.

Contest Reserve Champs were Jacked Up BBQ with Cool Smoke taking the number three spot. Aporkalypse Now won top honors in ribs and Hambones by the Fire scored number one in brisket. The Black Pig BBQ was the winner in anything butt and Heavy Hitters BBQ won the Friday night dessert division. Big Dawg’s Smokin BBQ was awarded the first place trophy for whole hog.

This contest has grown to one of the biggest on the east coast, it is well run and the hospitality shown by the organizers is second to none. It is a great way to start the contest season. If you haven’t done so already, you need to add this event on your “to do” list for 2012, you’ll be glad that you did.