Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shotgun Fred Pirkle-

A True BBQ Visionary

If you look back over the many improvements and or innovations in the realm of outdoor BBQing and grilling in the past 20 years or so, few could argue that one of the most innovative is the development temperature control devices for use on BBQ cookers. When you mention temperature control devices the name BBQ Guru comes to the forefront almost immediately. http://www.thebbqguru.com/ Shotgun Fred Pirkle, the founder and developer of the BBQ Guru temperature control devices would be considered by many to be Thee BBQ Guru. Especially when you look at the definition of the word guru: an influential expert; somebody who has a reputation as an expert leader, teacher, or practitioner in a particular field.

I first met Fred back in 2007 when I was in the market for a BBQ smoker. I called him with some preliminary questions and Fred spent a long time explaining the advantages to his product and answering the questions of a complete BBQ novice. I didn’t make a decision right away and what further impressed me was two months later when Fred made a follow-up call to me asking if I had found a smoker yet. Eventually I decided to purchase a new unit from the BBQ Guru. When I picked the unit up at their Warminster Pennsylvania facility, Fred spent several hours with me going over the operation and care of the unit. I was impressed then and continue to be impressed by the level of service provided by his firm.

Over the years I have had the privilege of hanging with Fred and his crew at numerous BBQ contests all over the northeast, many times sharing a cold drink and swapping stories. It is easy to see how Fred comes up with many of his products and ideas; here is a guy that is always thinking of ways to make something better. His parent company, Thermomegatech is a leader in the field of manufacturing temperature control values and devices for use in numerous industries and applications all around the world.

Fred’s talent as an inventor is evident both by the number of patents he holds as well as some of the many ideas and prototypes he has developed, many of them outdoor cooking related. I enjoy nothing more than running into Shotgun Fred at a cook off and seeing what his latest project is. I think what I enjoy most is listening to Fred as he explains the reasoning and or particulars regarding his latest development, passionate would be an understatement.

Not long after they began to distribute BBQ Guru products, Fred and business associate BBQ Bob Trudnak became interested in the growing sport of competition BBQ cooking. They started their own team “The BBQ Guru” in 2005 and have become a force to be reckoned with when competing in BBQ contests all over the Country. During their short time on the circuit, the Guru Gang has collected numerous accolades as well as several grand and reserve championships. In 2010 they took home Reserve Grand Championship honors from the 22nd Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ contest held each October in Lynchburg Tennessee, an accomplishment Fred is quite proud of, and deservedly so.

In the spring of 2008 while at a BBQ contest in Salisbury Maryland Fred suffered a stroke. He has worked very hard at his therapy relating to his recovery in the years since the stroke and had begun to once again become more of a regular on the BBQ circuit. In June of this year, Fred received a setback when he was diagnosed with ALS or what is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Fred stopped by the BBQ Guru site last month in New Holland, Pennsylvania and was inundated with visitors and well wishers. His spirits were high and I know he will continue with the struggle and challenge resulting from this latest development.

In the past, while watching Shotgun Fred take his walk to the stage at a BBQ contest it was very evident that this is a guy with great passion for BBQ as well as life itself. Few can dispute the fact that the BBQ world has benefited greatly as a direct result of the vision and numerous contributions made by Shotgun Fred Pirkle. He recognizes problems and finds solutions in a way that few others have done. I am proud to call him a friend and look forward to seeing what Shotgun Fred, Thee BBQ Guru, has up his sleeve to make outdoor cooking and BBQ easier and more efficient today as well as going forward into the future. Godspeed Shotgun Fred.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Holland Summer Fest 8/26-8/27

Who invited this floosy named Irene?

The elephant in the room for this weekend was a pushy, uninvited guest by the name of Irene. The news reports during the week preceding this much anticipated event were dominated with forecasters and prognosticators attempting to predict the future. Whether or not you are a believer in your local weatherperson, the possible tract and estimated effects of this storm where not to be taken lightly.

Contest organizers fielded numerous calls leading up to the contest and had 6 teams cancel, some at the last minute. Most of the cancellations were from teams with waterfront interests and were completely expected. Contest Chairman Chuck Sheffield said they were able to move 1 team from the waiting list to make a field of 67, still 5 teams short of their normal number of 72.

Early on Friday it appeared that Irene would be making her effects know to the southern Pennsylvania region late on Saturday night. As the weekend progressed, her predicted arrival time continued its march toward the contest turn-in window. To say that this pushy bimbo was dominating conversation, thoughts and contestant mind sets would be an understatement. She elbowed her way into the cooks meeting as well as any and all contest related chit chat held throughout. In a typical intruding Mother-in-law fashion, Irene did her very best to cast a pallor over both days of the contest. (Authors note: Any similarities between a Cat 3 hurricane and my or anyone else’s Mother-in-law is strictly coincidental and not by any means meant to be intentional. It is also not meant at all to be derogatory towards hurricanes and or tropical storms)

Fortunately for all involved, the early rain bands were the only effects felt during the contest. Awards were moved up and teams scrambled to get their sites broken down and stowed away before things got dicey. The wind was never really a factor with the exception of a few gusts during awards. One stronger gust got everyone’s attention just before the start of the awards ceremony when it brought down a large tree limb. Fortunately, no one was in the immediate area therefore no one was injured.

Most teams were loaded up and moved off the grassy contest surface before awards. Sheffield reported the entire area was cleaned up and vacated by around 6:30 PM on Saturday. He also notes the real heavy stuff from Irene did not begin to pound the park until nearly 8:00 pm Saturday night. I guess the weather people were right, although I’ll never admit that one.

The contest Grand Champion was 4:20 Q with Jack’s Down Home BBQ coming in as Reserve. First place chicken was won by Christmas City BBQ while Pigheaded BBQ captured the top spot in ribs. The BBQ Guru walked in the pork category and the contest GC, 4:20 Q was the winner in brisket.

The Summer Fest has three ancillary categories as well. First place for the chefs choice event was Red Lion Spicy Foods. Christmas City was the top finisher in the sausage category and the team of PA Midnite Smokers was called to the stage to claim the top spot in whole hog.

This contest has become a much sought after invite here on the east coast. Chuck and his committee of volunteers and organizers do a fine job and usually the weather cooperates. Spending a weekend in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country is a treat no matter what time of year it is. If you want to get on the waiting list my suggestion would be to apply early; this is one you just have to cook.