Tuesday, March 18, 2008

INTERVIEWS: The Hot Dawg Truck


The Hot Dawg Truck Team Bar B Que is a competition team from Long Island, NY. They are fairly new to BBQ competitions, but they are certainly not new to cooking. They own and operate The Hot Dawg Truck, a gourmet hot dog stand in Nassau County, NY.

Let’s be completely honest here. I’m a bit intimidated by Rod, the chief cook for The Hot Dawg Truck. It’s not his size, although he’s a big guy. It’s not his tattoos, although he has a few. It’s not his demeanor, as he is certainly jovial. It’s that he can out-cook me in a space that seems slightly larger than a postage stamp. That’s just not fair.

The Hot Dawg Truck Team Bar B Que is what I’m terming a mid-experience team. I hope to have interviews with teams of varying experience for Competition Month. I couldn’t be happier to present this interview with Rod.

Q. What’s your earliest memories of cooking and who helped you get your start?

A. I started cooking at an early age. We didn't have cable so I found myself watching PBS channel 21 allot with Julia Child, Graham Kerr (the galloping Gourmet) Justin Wilson & Mary Ann Esposito. I found myself writing down their recipes and trying them out on my family & friends. My mother had a box of recipes (some that I still use today) that I would copy down and put my own spin on. Some successful, some failed. It was not until I ended up in county lock up did I have my first experience with industrial equipment. I ended up working in the jail kitchen and one of the cooks there seen I had an interest in cooking so he took the time to show me a few tricks of the trade such as making roux's and sauces (including BBQ sauce), he also taught me some knife skills. That was the extent of my professional training. Now days I like to call that college.

Q. How did you get interested in BBQ?

A. I had an interest in all kinds of cooking (I liked to eat). A friend of mine asked me to help him out roasting a pig one night. I had done a few pigs before on a rotisserie which came ok for the time it was. When I got with him they had just finished welding up a 275 gallon oil tank from a house that they had made into a indirect heat pig cooker/smoker. I had never seen anything like it! The cooker can handle 6 to 7 pigs at a clip 35 to 40 lbs each. I now own it and I still have that cooker in my arsenal cookers today. He taught me a whole new way to cook...BBQ! Like most people in the north I thought grill'in was BBQ'in. He introduced me to using different woods, indirect heat and then Beef Brisket which was the most delicious thing I ever tasted on the planet! I was hooked from there. I have since taken over roast'in the pigs for that event every year. Last year our Team BBQ got involved. This will be my 13th year roast'in the pigs for this event.
A funny story, after learning how to some what use a smokers I got my first Brinkman stand up water smoker and decided I was gonna do a turkey in it for a small party. Well I started the coals early in the Am (with lighter fluid of course) and put together the smoker. I had all kinds of trouble keeping the fire going, no temperature gauges, I swore I knew what I was doing cause I had watched my friend do it... After about 15 hours and 4 bags of charcoal I kept cutting into the turkey to see that is was still pink inside, who knew? The sun was setting and people were hungry and mad! Finally I lost my cool and took the turkey like an Olympic thrower and did a full 360 spin and hauled it over the fence into the neighbors yard! Ended up ordering pizza! The dogs next store loved me! It was back to the drawing board.

Q. How long did it take you to move from having an interest in BBQ to becoming interested in competing?

A. Probably about 10 years. I never knew there were BBQ competitions I did it cause I enjoyed doing it. Each year I would find that more people were interested in BBQ then the year before and some would offer to help me each year just to learn how to BBQ. We ended up with a BBQ crew which became a competition team once we found out about competing. We just added 2 new people to the team which brings us up to nine members.

Q. How did you prepare yourself for your first competition?

A. We would have monthly practices and meetings and as we got closer to competition it became every 2 weeks and then once a week. We would try all different recipes and meats to see what we wanted to enter in competition. We established a routine and who had what jobs. We would practice our set up along with grill'in and bbq'in so when we did finally rolled into competition it would all be familiar to us. Plus we got to grill and bbq almost every week, what could be better then that! We would have a meeting during practice to discuss whatever was on our teammates minds, pay weekly dues so we would have travel and food money. If you ever competed before then you know it is not cheap! Now we have several sponsors that help us out for each competition and some help out for practices as well.

Q. Was there anyone that was a particular help to you as you got started?

A. I read a few books by Paul Kirk and also one by a husband and wife I forget there names but the book was called Smoke & Spice I believe. We didn't know anyone else who competed so there was no one to really ask. We went on-line allot and read up on it too. We just kind of helped each other.

Q. Aside from Q’ing, do you have any other interests or hobbies?

A. Motorcycles & Shotguns! If you can't ride it, fight it or sleep with it, shoot it and cook it!

Q. Who are the members of your competition team?

A. Proud to introduce The Hot Dawg Truck Team Bar B Que - Rod (Big Rod BBQ) , Rose ( I'm a gurl) BBQ, Brian (the Brain) BBQ, Bob (the Whore) BBQ, Paulie (the Butcher) BBQ, Lance (the igniter) BBQ, Sharon BBQ, Jimbo BBQ & Barbara BBQ

Q. Do the members of your team have specific jobs and roles, or does everyone just pitch in?

A. Everyone has there own nitch and jobs but in general we all pitch in where we can be of help. We like to have fun with it too.
Big Rod BBQ - Pit Boss - BBQ
Rose BBQ - Chicken, grill'in and sanitary station
Brian BBQ - Seafood, grill'in and music
Bob BBQ - Lamb!, grill'in, and whoring for sponsorship
Paulie BBQ - preps all meats for cooks, dishes
Lance BBQ - fire starter, extra hands for cooks, temperatures
Sharon BBQ - camp set up, lights, temperatures, dishes
Jimbo BBQ - Drinking, set up, break down, Security (keeping people away from the cooks during competition)
Barbara BBQ - keeps camp in order, dishes
We all are in charge of taste testing. In one grill'in competition the category was chicken wing. Bobs wings came out so good that we ate them all and had nothing to turn in! oops!

Q. How many competitions did you enter your first year?

A. The first year we had the team we didn't enter any competitions. We just got together and practiced allot. The second year we entered 2. Hudson Valley Rib Fest & Sayville Long Island BBQ Battle. Both were a blast! This will be our third season as a team.

Q. Looking back, what was your biggest surprise about BBQ competitions?

A. The People. Has to be the people. The BBQ community is full of great people! Everyone we have met in BBQ Land as we like to call it, have been wonderful, friendly people.

Q. Do you set goals for your team and if so what are they?

A. We have one rule - we are here to have fun! As far as goals we always try to out do ourselves. Who ever finishes the best on the team gets the pit bosses flamed tongs until the next competition. We keep a sign posted in our camp that reads, "This is NO dress rehearsal, we ARE professionals and this IS the BIG TIME!!!"

Q. How many competitions do you plan on entering this year?

A. We have scheduled the team for the "81 Thunder Run & Chili Cook Off" we also do "The 13th annual Summer Pig Roast & BBQ" which isn't a competition we just do all the food for the days party. "The Hudson Valley Rib Fest" in New Paltz, NY & Sayville, Long Island "Battle of the BBQ Brethren" we may enter Lowell BBQ & Brews this year not sure yet. We have 2 team members that are from Rhode Island so we would like to do one up in New England way. We have all the events that The Hot Dawg Truck and Team BBQ will be attending posted on our web site. www.HotDawgTruck.com

Q. What do you get out of competing?

A. Great enjoyment and relaxation. We plan our vacations now around BBQ. Its a great feeling to watch our team come from basically nowhere and to see us receiving awards for our efforts.

Q. What advice would you offer a new team just starting out?

A. Have fun! Cook like you were at home cooking for yourself and family. Most of the people you feed at home enjoy your food chances are the judges will too!


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