Saturday, January 26, 2008

INTERVIEW: Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe

Ray Lampe is the thought of by many as the wandering ambassador of BBQ. Affectionately known as Dr. BBQ, Ray is the author of numerous cookbooks, is much sought after as a lecturer as well as competition teacher/mentor and has the chops to continually place in some of the largest and most prestigious cook-offs in the nation.

We are grateful that Mr. Lampe has taken the time to be interviewed.


Q. Ray, we know that you are extremely active in the world of BBQ. Is there anything that you are working on currently that you are particularly excited about?

Yes I do keep pretty busy with BBQ. In May my latest book will be out, it’s The NFL Game Day Cookbook and I’ll spend a lot of time in this year promoting it. I’m also one of the instructors for the new BBQ Mastery program at The Greenbrier which starts in June so it’s going to be an exciting 2008.


Q. What’s your earliest memory of true BBQ?


I grew up in suburban Chicago and real BBQ just wasn’t a part of the culture. I first became aware of it in 1982 when Mike Royko began a series of columns about properly cooked BBQ ribs that evolved into the first Royko Ribfest, which was my first cookoff.


Q. What sparked your interest in cooking? Did you cook as a child?

I’ve told this story a million times but it’s the truth. I took a bunch of honors classes as a freshman in high school but quickly discovered girls and partying so by sophomore year I was looking for a change of pace. Foods 101 looked like an easy class that would be full of girls so I signed up. It turned out I enjoyed the cooking part as well and I’ve been cooking ever since. I guess that was 1972.

Q. What prompted your jump from backyard enthusiast to competitor?


The first BBQ I ever cooked were the ribs at that first cookoff, so I guess I did a competition before I cooked in the backyard. Then the quest for the perfect rib began in the backyard. Somewhere along the way I got a cheap bullet smoker and then in 1991 the first KCBS contest near Chicago was held and I competed in it.

Q. How many BBQ events do you attend a year? How many of those are cook-offs?


It’s been changing a lot over the past few years as it’s swung from a hobby to my business. In 2008 I’ll be doing something BBQ related just about every weekend but a lot of it won’t be the events you are referring to. I expect to cook in about 6 contests this year.

Q. As a BBQ ‘veteran’, do you take any particular measures to stay ‘fresh’ or on the cutting edge?

Nothing in particular but I’m always talking to the guys who are winning and listening. The target is moving fast these days and you’ve got to try to stay aware of what’s going on. I have to concede some because I don’t get to cook much anymore but I don’t ever want to be considered a has-been.

Q. When talking about cooking, who are your influences?


Jim Burns was way ahead of the field way back when in Chicago and he helped us all. Ed Roith was a great help to me in the beginning as well. Mike Lake and I cut our teeth together and helped each other a lot. John Beadle from Michigan was a great mentor and became a great friend. He’s gone now. Bill Myers was a great cook from Texas that helped me, he’s gone now too. Mike Scrutchfield was at the top back then and always offered a tip anytime you asked. Bubba too. Fast Eddy has helped me a lot over the years. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

Q. What equipment to you use most frequently when competing?

The Big Green Egg. I keep an FEC100 around but cook mainly on the eggs.

Q. Do you have a particular philosophy about the sauces that you use in competitions?


No, I’ve switched a lot over the years. I feel using the correct sauce is very important but I think it’s a flavor of the month thing with judges.

Q. Do you choose your sauce depending on the region you are in?


Never.

Q. Do you use the same sauce for each of your entries, or do you change the sauce to suit the meat in question?


Usually the same but sometimes I’ll use two.

Q. What is your favorite commercial sauce?


For eating, Gates. For competing, these days it’s Head Country.

Q. If you couldn’t be doing what you do now for a living, what else would you like to try?

I’m so invested in this that I can’t even imagine another career. Over the road trucking would be fun but with the fuel situation it’s got to be tough for those guys.

Q. Outside of BBQ, what hobbies do you have?


Not many any more. My hobby became my job but I still love doing it so I don’t need much else. I love to cook in the kitchen too but I’ve now been lucky enough to include other types of cooking in my books so that’s now my job too. I’m a very lucky and happy man.

Q. What’s your favorite BBQ related book and non-BBQ related book?


The Cookout Book from the Ward Ritchie Press 1961. I found this book in a second hand store and when I got it home I realized it was about the first known BBQ cookoff held in Hawaii in 1960 and sponsored by Kaiser Aluminum. I found another copy on Alibris and gave it to Carolyn Wells.
Off the BBQ topic, The Doubleday Cookbook.

Q. If readers of this blog would like to find more information on you, your cookbooks and what’s coming up with Dr. BBQ, where should they go?


My website is www.drbbq.com but I have a hard time keeping it up to date. www.biggreenegg.com has a where’s Dr. BBQ page that gets updated more than mine.

We would love it if you would be kind enough to provide us with one your sauce recipes.

This recipe is from “Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Road Trip”, a cookbook from St. Martin’s Press 2007.

Dr. BBQ’s Texas Barbecue Sauce
This sauce is pretty typical of what I was served in the barbecue joints of Texas.

4 T butter
1/3 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
2 T flour
1-1/2 cup beef broth
1 cup tomato sauce
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
1 T cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 t fine ground black pepper
½ t brown sugar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook 2tow minutes. Add the flour and cook stirring constantly until the onion is soft. This will take about 4 minutes. Add all of the other ingredients stirring to blend. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.

Makes about 3 cups

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