Wednesday, April 30, 2008

INTERVIEW: Jerry Mullane; Contest Rep

Jerry Mullane is a restaurateur, an event representative for the KCBS, a raconteur and an official Certified BBQ Judge instructor. We are delighted that he has agreed to this interview.

For those that follow the rumors and murmurings of the BBQ world, Jerry is a legend. He once killed a man for over seasoning his brisket. He has been known to stop time to allow contestants to get their turn-ins in before the clock ticks 5 after. Although married to the wonderful Linda Mullane (who is on the KCBS Board of Directors), Jerry has sired children on 8 of the 7 continents. Much like Paul Bunyon and Pecos Bill, Jerry strides through American myth and legend like the giant he is.

If we receive his assent, we may speak with Jerry in the future about training new judges, but we wanted to concentrate on repping at events for this interview.

Let’s get some background before we start. How did you enter the world of BBQ?

Back in 1995 my son Chris was an exceptional soccer player. He played on a number of teams at the same time, so Linda and I were constantly going to games and tournaments. Each weekend was booked and we had a steady stream of friends, like us who were traveling every weekend.

Well the last game of Chris’s junior year in High School he broke both his Tibia and Fibia bones. Although he did play again he did not want to play on teams other than his High School. So suddenly we found we had our weekends open. After seeing an ad looking for BBQ judges, in the local newspaper, Linda and I attended a CBJ class, and judged our 1st BBQ competition the following day and we’ve been hooked ever since.

Who was the person (or people) that had the most impact on you as you got into the competition scene?

There have been a number of people that had a major impact on my BBQ Odyssey. The 1st people were Bob and Debbie Pelt our trainers. Butch Lupinetti of Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ, who we met at our 1st contest, became a good friend and mentor. Mark Gelo of The New England Barbecue Society who requested and then trained us to become the reps we are, and for that matter the entire NEBS organization has always showed us friendship right from the beginning even though we were from “Jersey”.

Most of all I would have to say the greatest impact of our BBQ Odyssey was Jack McDavid, formally from The Food Network show Grillin and Chillin with Jack McDavid and Bobby Flay. Jack, although a celebrity always took time to mentor me, even today. The funny thing is he always seemed more excited than me at any of my “awards or accomplishments”. He truly is what BBQ is all about and a true statesman for Competitive BBQ. He is a fountain of knowledge whether it be BBQ, cooking in general or just day to day BS. Warning: Don’t discuss politics.

Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, there is no better hog cooker than Jack. Just ask him. Just kidding. I am proud to call him a friend and a mentor.

Where is your restaurant located and what is your specialty?

Our restaurant is located in Drexel Hill, PA right outside of Philly. We specialize in Roadkill. As a matter of fact our motto is “You Killem, We Grillem. Seriously we do southern style BBQ, cooked low and slow. We also do Tex Mex and some Cajun/Creole, but mostly straight forward BBQ, Take Out and Delivery only.

How did you segue into an official role at events?

Mark Gelo of NEBS was scheduled to Rep the North Wildwood, NJ contest and had a work conflict. He knew we lived in NJ and asked if we would be willing to rep the contest in his place. He would train us over the next three contests and then we would work under Ed Roith and Lee Henry for our final contest. At that point we would be released on our own after the contest. Due to unfortunate circumstances Ed came in alone, and he decided we would be the Reps for the contest. He would be there for guidance if needed. As it turned out all went well and Ed was able to enjoy his trip to the Jersey Shore.

What is the job of an Event Representative?

Basically a rep is the go between from the Organizer, cooks and judges. It is our job to make sure all contest rules are obeyed. We arrive the 2 days before the contest and greet the teams as they arrive the following morning. Most of the contests we do now are either 1st year events or larger contests. In 1st year contests’ there is a lot of trepidation on the part of most organizers. Teams are usually skeptical and unsure just how they are going to be treated. Both organizers and teams feel relief when we are there. We have gotten to know most teams over the years and have earned a reputation as being fair and honest. Teams know they are on a level playing field when Linda and I oversee a contest.

How many events have you ‘worked’?

We have judged roughly 50 contests as CBJ’s and repped about 75.

What is your normal event schedule? How many events do you work a year? Do you attend any events as a competitor, judge or fan?

We begin the season usually in March with a few CBJ’s classes. Our first contest is usually in April in Salisbury as fans you might say. It’s great to see old friends in a relaxed atmosphere, for us anyway. Throughout the next 6 months we run several CBJ classes and rep roughly 14 contests. If time permits we try to compete at least once during the summer. Time for us to judge has become almost nonexistent.

What is the biggest problem that a competitor can avoid by proper preparation?

STRESS. We always suggest that cooks be prepared, by knowing the rules, both KCBS and any that the contest organizer might have included with the cooks packet. The biggest obstacle that a competitor can avoid is stress. Be prepared by knowing the rules and turn in times. We always cover both at the cooks meeting. Work Backwards. By now the competitor should know how long it will take to get to the turn in table. Remember possible crowds of on lookers. How long it takes to plate after garnishing? How long does it take to slice and or select the product you will be turning in as your sample? How long before do you need to remove your product from your smoker or grill? You want to practice, practice and practice until all of these times become routine. By knowing your capabilities and time frame you can eliminate much of the stress of competing. You will never get away without some stressful moments - This is BBQ – some days are diamonds and some days are stones. If you remember to stay enthusiastic and upbeat – If you tell yourself – It’s only BBQ, to quote a former board member, then you can be sure you’re going to have a good time no matter what the final outcome. There will always be another contest down the road. Let’s enjoy this one and remember there are NO STUPID QUESTIONS. If you feel funny asking in front of other cooks, wait until after the meeting and we can discuss anything then.

What services can you offer a competitor as the Event Representative?

We try to stress the “KISS” system. If a competitor will keep his or her entries basic and not try to overwhelm the judges they will do much better at the CBJ table. In the Chicken, keep it simple – 6 thighs or 6 legs, etc. If you try to add variety it can work against you when a judge has their eye on a piece of dark meat and when it is their turn to take from the box all of the dark meat has already been taken.

Pork – If you do one thing well don’t try to overwhelm the judges with additional choices. Judges are told to score each type of meat presented separately and divide by the number of types. If you do great pulled pork and a judge gives you a 9 but then he judges your sliced a 5 you are going to end up with a 7.

As I said Keep it simple. Judges have enough to think about without doing math. I also try to tell the new cooks what I’ve seen, what presentations score high and what ones have scored low. But once again, a different day and different contest, each one is a crap shoot. It all depends on the judges table that day.

What services can you offer the event organizer as the Event Representative?

With a new event we like to meet and greet with the organizer in advance, even in the prior year, if at all possible. We also like to visit the proposed contest site to see how it will conform to a BBQ contest. We have visited a couple of sites that were actually on the side of a hill and one at a ski resort. The organizer thought it would be great to do the contest right on the ski slope, roughly a 45 degree angle.

Now Linda will hold their hands and explain what makes a “Cooker Friendly” event. She emphasizes the needs of the cookers over the needs of the organizers if they plan on making their event even bigger in the following years.

We recently developed a Power point presentation, which we present to charitable, civic and fraternal organizations. We personally are not big fans of the “for a buck” organizers. We have seen a number of contests come and go when the profit is for someone’s pocket as opposed to a charity or non profit where the proceeds will promote BBQ and be used for humanitarian activities.

What part of the process is the most difficult for you?

DisQualifications- There is no doubt that this is the most unpleasant part of our job, but a necessary evil. I believe that a team that is DQ’d deserves to have the reason explained by the rep immediately following discovery and not wait until results are handed out and then have to approach the reps for the reason. This is especially important with new teams, they need the reinforcement of the rep explaining the reason for the DQ and it gives them time to be consoled by the other teams, many of whom have experienced a DQ themselves. I feel waiting until the end does an injustice to the team and does absolutely no “Customer Service” to a member of our family.

What part of the process is the most enjoyable for you?

Knowing the results and watching the teams try to figure out after the 4th category awards have been given out which team will be called for Reserve Grand Champion and Grand Champion.

I guess another part of “enjoyment” has come from seeing old friends again, but also watching new teams become part of our family, that we will see at future contests even if their results are not what they were hoping for. We try to explain that this is the beginning of a long journey and each journey begins with a single step. We encourage them to study their results and make the changes they feel necessary and try again. Practice makes perfect. Get out on the forums. Ask questions, read books by the masters, Ray Lampe, Mike Mills, Paul Kirk, etc. Take a class if you can. The guys above who are teaching can save you years of struggle with their tips and techniques. I know they worked for me. We are currently working with Current and Past Grand Champions as well as rookie teams to present classes for all levels of competition at realistic prices that even the occasional Q’er can afford.

What can an event organizer do to make your job easier?

Hold the contest next to Hooters.
Seriously, have enough CBJ’s and volunteers.
Then have them come into Hooters to sign in.

Ask questions. Not that I am tooting your horn but you are probably the most “Attention to Detail” organizer we have ever worked with. When not solving a problem you were asking how you could make it better next year, and your efforts will prove fruitful as your contest grows.*

Our biggest problem is always the # of CBJ’s and qualified table captains. With NO SHOW CBJ’s being as high as 25% at some contests last season, a minimum of 10% extra judges are needed. If all show we will find work for them and they will all get to sample excellent BBQ. I personally feel there is no greater sin then to have non certified, non experienced judges pulled in from the public to judge a State Championship. With teams spending Thousands of dollars to compete at a contest, expending their time and sweat, and then to have the organizer not do their job to insure we have 100% certified judges. I have been approached by many CBJ’s who have applied to a contest and told either the contest is full or not receive any reply at all.

Most are not going to take a chance and just show up, especially with gas prices today. On the day of the contest we end up being short CBJ’s and have to draw from the low end of the pool. BTW, we always check to be sure we do not have a vegetarian hidden amongst the group.

What is your favorite memory as an Event Representative?

I guess I have to say that my favorite memory is not necessarily BBQ relevant.
On July 4, 2006, the birthday of our country, Dmitry Feld, organizer of ILBBQF in Lake Placid, a former Russian Luge Competitor who defected to the US at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, took me by the hand and lead me to the center of the Olympic Oval and told me, “Here right here, Eric Hyden was awarded 5 Gold Medals in the 1980 Olympics.”

His enthusiasm is contagious, as any team who has competed in Lake Placid will tell you. Dmitry is a special friend to BBQ, and promotes it to everyone he comes in contact with. Not only did I feel awed by the experience, but it was being told to me by a true American who knew what most of us take for granted.

This is the best country in the world and we should recognize this every day.

With all the controversy regarding the war, Gary Maddox (former Secretary of Defense), of the Philadelphia Phillies, once told me “It’s time we separate the Warrior from the War”

The Warriors do a job so that we can all enjoy freedoms which so many of us take for granted.

We are the home of the Free, because of the Brave. Each day we should take a moment and remember our Sons and Daughters, Sisters and Brothers, in the Military. They make it possible to do what we love.

OK enough preaching

How does someone go about becoming an Event Representative for the KCBS?

Becoming a rep right now at this moment is not possible.
A moratorium on new rep trainees known as RATS has been put in place.
Contact Carol Whitebook, the chairperson of the Reps Committee and express an interest. I know some sections of the country could use additional reps.
You must also be sponsored by a current rep.

How has the role of an Event Representative evolved as you have been involved?

More teams = more work

When we started 16 teams was a large contest. Today our average contest is probably “50” teams. We do a lot more hand holding today than in the past. Not only at contests but on the net as well. 3 to 4 weeks before a contest we will receive maybe 40 –50 emails with questions. “Can I do this?” “Is this Legal?”, etc. And this is a good thing. If we are aware of a team “pushing the envelope” we can address it at the CBJ table and assure judges, ‘yes this is legal’, even if it has not been seen before. We always encourage teams to let us know if they want to try something that is “A little outside the box” so to speak. I have heard of a lot of DQ’s that could have been avoided had the reps had a “heads up” and been knowledgeable about what a team way trying to do.

Our CBJ’s are still trained to look for faults, not positives and I don’t think in a competitive sport such as ours this will ever change. With blind, non-comparative judging, it is sometimes hard to see positives in one entry.

Your affiliation is with the Kansas City BBQ Society. Are there parallel roles in other sanctioning bodies? Have you ever worked with other bodies?

Parallel roles are in all associations such as MIM now MBN (Memphis Barbecue Network), FBA (Florida Barbecue Association), IBCA (International Barbeque Cookers Association) out of Texas, CBA (Canadian Barbecue Association) or any of the other associations that sanction their own events.

Linda and I have spent some time studying as well as judging and competing in Memphis in May. The main difference between MIM and KCBS is MIM’s onsite judging and comparative blind judging with one entry receiving a judges “10” and others receiving lower scores and utilizing decimals.

We are currently working with the CBA to insure they have judges trained in the KCBS system but also able to cross over and judge their own CBA sanctioned events.
I personally find good and bad in all judging systems, including KCBS, but that’s for another Podcast when my alter ego “Pig Daddy” arrives and no holds are barred.

Thank you for your time Jerry and I look forward to seeing you at many future BBQ competitions.

Thank you for the opportunity Eric. Now where do I get paid?

We paid you compliments in the opening of the interview.

* Jerry is referring to the ‘Battle of the BBQ Brethren’ that I helped to organize/run on Long Island last year.


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Friday, April 25, 2008

REVIEW: La Nova BBQ Sauce

La Nova BBQ Sauce

La Nova Wings

Quality * (1 out of 5)
Viscosity ** (2 out of 5)
Aroma * (1 out of 5)
Appearance *** (3 out of 5)
Packaging *** (3 out of 5)

This sauce was used on rib and pulled pork that was cooked low and slow over cherry and apple (ribs and pork) and birch (chicken).

Well, once again we move into that difficult territory of reviewing a sauce based on what it claims to be as opposed to what it actually is. Let’s take a different tack this time and do both!

La Nova BBQ sauce is absolutely horrible as a BBQ sauce. I was thinking about being polite and saying that it wasn’t good, but that would leave ‘average’ wide open. ‘Average’ looks down on this sauce with a sneer of disdain. If you are looking to make up some ‘Q, don’t use this sauce. It’s as simple as that.

The sauce smells exactly like ‘Chef Boyardee’. Exactly. It’s sort of weird. The sauce has a loose consistency that doesn’t adhere to the meat well. It’s not as loose as a vinegar or mustard sauce, but it’s not as thick as a KC sauce and it has none of the appeal of either.

The sauce has a soft, cloying sweetness that is disturbing. It’s like a third or fourth rate ketchup. The sauce has an odd aftertaste, so your palette is tainted for longer than you might expect.

The sauce comes in a plastic 14oz. bottle that allows for easy pouring.

* Pictured above is the ‘hot’ version of the sauce.


Unfortunately you will find manufacturers that try to multi-purpose their sauces. Marinades labeled as sauces. Hot sauces labeled as BBQ. And now a wing sauce labeled as a BBQ sauce. It’s too bad and does a disservice to what might otherwise be a fine product.

La Nova’s BBQ sauce is actually a decent wing sauce. It needs a bit of a kick (which is where their ‘hot’ version comes in), but it’s not bad. We made about a dozen wings with the sauce and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It’s sad that they have to be graded and reviewed as a failed BBQ sauce when they are a decent wing sauce.

I will be reviewing the ‘hot’ version in the future, but it will only be as a wing sauce, not a BBQ.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

REVIEW: MAD Anthony Cafe BBQ Sauce

MAD Anthony’s BBQ Sauce

MAD Anthony Cafe


Quality *** (3.5 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3 out of 5)
Aroma **** (4 out of 5)
Heat **** (4 out of 5)
Appearance **** (4 out of 5)
Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork and brisket that was cooked low and slow over oak and cherry wood. The opinions are both mine and Will Breakstone’s, owner and pit-master of Willie B’s Award Winning BBQ.

MAD Anthony of MAD Anthony Café is Michael Anthony of Van Halen. It seems that Mr. Anthony is one of a growing number of rock legends that are aficionados of hot sauces and have moved into the manufacturing side of things. This could be taken as a cautionary warning, as I’m not overly enthused by dilettantes dabbling in the market place, but the quality of the sauce quickly squashed my reticence.

The majority of the sauces at MAD Anthony Café are of the hot variety, but this BBQ sauce is not. On a scale of 1 to 10 for heat lovers, I would give it a 5 (the ‘heat’ rating above the review is for quality, not spice level). They also have a hot variety of their sauce that will be the subject of a later review.

The sauce has a nice, spicy ketchup like aroma. It is pleasing, but strangely unlike the taste. The sauce itself is a very dark red with seeds and other ingredients visible in the sauce. The thickness is certainly ‘up for the job’ and is fairly standard for a KC style sauce.

The sauce in the ‘individual’ size comes in a thin, glass bottle. The bottle holds 16oz and it pours easily. They also have a large jug version (see image above) that holds half a gallon. The sauce has a nice label that is simple and reminiscent of the Van Halen logo (maybe from 5150?).

The sauce had a very nice mouth feel that added to the overall experience. The sauce was similar to a ‘kicked up’ A1 sauce, with a better body and overall taste. There was an enjoyable ‘earthy’ undertone to the sauce that strangely reminded me of a mild coffee.

Chicken and poultry would find a nice match in the sauce, but it would certainly alter the flavor. The stronger meats such as pork and brisket would fare well and be enhanced by MAD Anthony’s BBQ sauce. If you are looking for an earthy glaze for ribs, this is the sauce for you.


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Saturday, April 19, 2008

REVIEW: Russ and Frank's Fiery BBQ Sauce

Russ and Frank’s Mild BBQ Sauce

Russ and Frank’s

Quality ***** (5 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma ** (2.5 out of 5)
Appearance *** (3 out of 5)
Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on ribs, pulled pork and chicken that was cooked low and slow over cherry and apple (ribs and pork) and birch (chicken).

Russ and Frank’s Award Winning BBQ Sauces are a product of Iowa and if they are indicative of local products, I’m going to be spending a lot more time buying BBQ stuff from Iowans. They offer three sauces, ranging from mild to fiery.

The sauces come in an 18oz mason jar like bottle. The labels on the bottles are a tan color with mostly brown and white lettering. The labels have a nice ‘retro’ feel. The labels are a welcome departure from the overly slick packaging that has anthropomorphized chickens, pigs or cows.

The sauce had a ‘ketchupy’ aroma that was pleasing but didn’t do the taste justice. You could detect the tomato, sweetness and a bit of vinegar. The color was a dark red without variation. You weren’t able to see any of the separate ingredients, which is often visually appealing in lighter sauces.

The sauce has a nice thickness with a viscosity that allows for great adhesion to the meat. The sauce thickens over time and also seems to thicken when refrigerated.*

Let’s start with what would normally be a review end-cap. How much do I like this sauce? I’m almost done with the bottle. Why is that significant? I have about 20 bottles of sauce waiting to be reviewed and I have another 40 or so opened bottles in the house. I clearly have my choice of sauces and I keep going back to Russ and Frank’s.

This is the hottest of the Russ and Frank’s sauce, but comparatively it isn’t all that spicy. On the 1 – 10 heat meter I would give it a 6. It seems that there are two schools of thought for most manufacturers when creating a spicy BBQ sauce. The first group creates a hot sauce and modifies it to resemble a BBQ sauce. The second modifies a BBQ sauce to make it spicier. Both can be successful, but I prefer the second method.

Russ and Frank’s has taken a BBQ sauce and successfully added enough heat to retain the integrity of the ‘BBQ’ aspect while providing the kick that spice heads look for. It isn’t an overpowering heat, as a matter of fact it is only slightly hotter than their ‘sassy’ variety.

I use the sauce on poultry as well as ‘heartier’ meats, but I enjoy spice (maybe too much). For most people, you may want to use this with brisket or pork.

There are few manufacturers that produce across the board quality. Russ and Frank’s is one.

* Repeated from the review of Russ and Frank’s mild sauce


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Friday, April 18, 2008

REVIEW: Russ and Frank's Sassy BBQ Sauce

Russ and Frank’s Mild BBQ Sauce

Manufacturer Russ and Frank’s

Quality ***** (5 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma ** (2.5 out of 5)
Appearance *** (3 out of 5)
Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on ribs, pulled pork and chicken that was cooked low and slow over cherry and apple (ribs and pork) and birch (chicken).

Russ and Frank’s Award Winning BBQ Sauces are a product of Iowa and if they are indicative of local products, I’m going to be spending a lot more time buying BBQ stuff from Iowans. They offer three sauces, ranging from mild to fiery.

The sauces come in an 18oz mason jar like bottle. The labels on the bottles are a tan color with mostly brown and white lettering. The labels have a nice ‘retro’ feel. The labels are a welcome departure from the overly slick packaging that has anthropomorphized chickens, pigs or cows.

The sauce had a ‘ketchupy’ aroma that was pleasing but didn’t do the taste justice. You could detect the tomato, sweetness and a bit of vinegar. The color was a dark red without variation. You weren’t able to see any of the separate ingredients, which is often visually appealing in lighter sauces.

The sauce has a nice thickness with a viscosity that allows for great adhesion to the meat. The sauce thickens over time and also seems to thicken when refrigerated.*

The first thing that hits you is a sweetness that is pleasant and flavorful. Then a mild heat sneaks in and gives the sauce a jumpstart. The heat, which is certainly not overwhelming, is what elevates this sauce to the rarified ‘5 out of 5’ for quality. The spice lingers on the tongue and informs the entire tasting process. The sauce doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the meat, it enhances it.

‘Sassy’ is an excellent adjective for this sauce. It wouldn’t fall into the ‘spicy’ category and certainly wouldn’t belong with ‘hot’ BBQ sauces. The heat level is moderate at best and perfectly blended with the sweetness of the sauce.

In general, I prefer spicy sauces that offer more heat than this; but in spite of that this sauce gets our highest rating for quality. Truly an excellent sauce.

* Repeated from the review of Russ and Frank’s mild sauce


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

REVIEWS: Russ and Frank's Mild Sauce

Russ and Frank’s Mild BBQ Sauce

Manufacturer Russ and Frank’s

Quality **** (4.5 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma ** (2.5 out of 5)
Appearance *** (3 out of 5)
Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on ribs, pulled pork and chicken that was cooked low and slow over cherry and apple (ribs and pork) and birch (chicken).

Russ and Frank’s Award Winning BBQ Sauces are a product of Iowa and if they are indicative of local products, I’m going to be spending a lot more time buying BBQ stuff from Iowans. They offer three sauces, ranging from mild to fiery.

The sauces come in an 18oz mason jar like bottle. The labels on the bottles are a tan color with mostly brown and white lettering. The labels have a nice ‘retro’ feel. The labels are a welcome departure from the overly slick packaging that has anthropomorphized chickens, pigs or cows.

The sauce had a ‘ketchupy’ aroma that was pleasing but didn’t do the taste justice. You could detect the tomato, sweetness and a bit of vinegar. The color was a dark red without variation. You weren’t able to see any of the separate ingredients, which is often visually appealing in lighter sauces.

The sauce has a nice thickness with a viscosity that allows for great adhesion to the meat. The sauce thickens over time and also seems to thicken when refrigerated.

The flavor was sweet without owing too much to the ketchup that can be detected from the aroma. There is a very nice tartness that follows the initial sweetness and provides a great contrast. The sauce lived up to the billing of ‘mild’ and could easily be used on any meat. Oddly, the site recommends using the sauce when grilling but doesn’t mention BBQ. Let me correct that oversight right now. The sauce will enhance any ‘Q you are making.

Although I’m not a fan of sweet or mild sauces, there is no denying the excellence of this sauce. I have family members and friends who are adverse to any application of spice at all. I would be happy using this sauce for them and wouldn’t feel that I had compromised the integrity of the food I was preparing.

Russ and Frank’s manufactures excellent sauces and they deserve to be better known in the BBQ community.


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Monday, April 14, 2008


BBQ Joints - stories and recipes from the Barbecue Belt

David Gelin

Publisher: Gibbs Smith

168 pages

David Gelin is the author of the recently published BBQ Joints – stories and recipes from the Barbecue Belt. David was the subject of an earlier interview on the Home of BBQ where he related a bit of his background and how he went about writing the book.

Gelin’s book is a travelogue of some of the most ‘authentic’ BBQ joints throughout the nation. In an industry as idiosyncratic as BBQ, you are going to be hard pressed to find a uniform definition of an ‘authentic’ or ‘true’ BBQ joint; but I would be very surprised to hear anyone having any qualms with Gelin’s choices.

The book is replete with anecdotes, snippets of history, recipes and photos. If (like me) you are a yankee, this book opens up a window through which you can take a glance at a romanticized south. Each entry contains a little history, a bit of background, the restaurants name and address and a recipe. Mixed in throughout is a liberal dose of social commentary, discussing what is, what was and helping to form conclusions about what should be.

These are the stories of people who take their ‘Q seriously. It is a way of life that they are helping to preserve for their children and ours. No one in this book is going to become wealthy from selling BBQ. No one is going to be able to live a life of leisure while being a BBQ dilettante. The restaurant business is difficult and the BBQ niche is an exemplar of that credo. The pitmasters and restaurant owners featured in BBQ Joints love what they do and sharing that passion is their reward.

The book is well written and well organized. What is more important is that the author knows what he is talking about. You can disagree on matters of personal preference, but there is no denying that David Gelin is a BBQ aficionado. The book is an easy read that will have a permanent home in my collection.

You can visit David’s site at

You can (and should) purchase the book at most major booksellers and online through retailers such as


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Sunday, April 13, 2008


This interview was meant for inclusion in our series for 'Competition Month'. We apologize to Red for the delay and appreciate his taking the time to participate.

My name is Red Todd and I’m from Lancaster, PA. I compete with my fiancée Doris and our team name is T.B.U. BBQ. T.B.U. is an acronym for Threads Between Us which is a small hobby/business that we have. I have been into competition cooking since 1990 when I started cooking in chili contests. Since that time I have won seven Grand Championships in the chili arena and my first GC in barbeque in 2007. It was our first competition as T.B.U. and I was really on my game.

When did you first get interested in BBQ?

I’ve been a backyard hack all of my adult life and never really did anything but grill. Then in 2001 or so my oldest brother, Jeff, told me that he had just become a certified barbeque judge. He was already competing and it sounded pretty cool. I became very interested in what that was all about and started reading everything I could about barbeque and asking a lot of questions.

How did your interest morph into an interest in competing?

I love to cook and as I said above, my brother was already competing in barbeque contests. His team was the Pennsylvania Posse and they were looking for a fourth member to help them along. Another member of that team, who later became my best friend, also approached me about coming on board. I did and the combination of my skills fit very well with the team and we started scoring stage calls from my second contest on.

Have you ever assisted in the running of a competition and if so what did you learn from the process?

Yes I have. I am currently on the organizing committee for the New Holland Summer Fest in New Holland, PA. In the past I was on the committees for the BBQ on the Farm contest in Yardley, PA, the Berks BBQ Bash in Reading, PA, and the First Capitol Smokin Rib Fest in York, PA. They are all KCBS sanctioned contests. Then, my buddy Lee Wick (PA POSSE member and best friend) and I talked about having an “Any Fuel – Any Tool” kind of contest in which we had three categories. First was the “Any Legal Foul” category in which a contestant could cook any bird such as a chicken, duck, goose or any bird that is legal to hunt or buy. The second was the “Any Legal Seafood” where the rule was the same as the foul category but could be fish or shellfish. And finally the third was the “Any Part of the Pig” category. In a KCBS contest a contestant must turn in six individual pieces for the judges to judge. In my contest a contestant could do the same or turn their entry into an entrée for the judges to taste. I’ve learned lots over the years about organizing contests and will continue to be part of contest organizing for years to come.

Have you ever judged a competition, and if so what did you learn from the process?

Yes I have and I learned that a judge must take their responsibilities very seriously. As a competitor I want the judges to do the same with my entries. I also learned that some judges have no idea what they are tasting. After a whole category entry is scored by the whole table and the score sheets are turned in, the judges are allowed to talk amongst themselves. There are some very inexperienced people who are judging. This inexperience is in the cooking arena. Some of them have no idea what spices and herbs they are tasting.

There is a vocal minority of competition cooks who believe that judges are inept and don’t have a proper appreciation for the efforts of competitors. What are your thoughts?

Well, I have judged many times and I have been judged many more times. Personally I have always felt that judging is a “luck of the draw” kind of thing. I’ve been at competitions where I’ve been up against People like Paul Kirk, Byron Chism. Johnny Triggs, Mike and Beth from BarbeQuau, etc and have out scored all of them in a contest or two but they are cashing in on $20,000 and up each year. I only have a single Grand Championship and folks like that have oodles. I think the majority of contest organizers try to have certified judges in order to draw more teams. In doing so, I also think that most teams are judged very fairly.

Do you tailor your style of ‘Q to the region you are competing in?

Yes indeed I do. The more north I go the sweeter the taste I go for and it is also a tomato base. The further south I go the more tang I go for. In the south it also depends where because I may need to use a mustard base instead of a vinegar base.

Who was your biggest influence or guide when you were starting out?

I didn’t really have an influential person for barbeque. I just love cooking and competition. I love making people happy with my cooking and I also take competition seriously.

What resources would you recommend for new competitors?

For competition dates and places I’d suggest or the Bullsheet. I’d also suggest looking at the National Barbecue News for that subject. I would also suggest that newcomers should approach some of the older competitors and see if they could attend a full contest with them in order to get some firsthand knowledge of what it takes to compete. They may have to be a dishwasher for that kind of set up but it is well worth it to do so.

What do you believe the biggest misconceptions are for new teams?

I believe the biggest misconception is that you need a huge cooker that costs thousands of dollars. I’ve seen teams win while just cooking on Big Drum Smokers (BDS) or Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) bullets.

What was the most important lesson that you learned while moving from novice to journeyman?

Practice, practice, and more practice. Competition cooking is totally different then cooking for a family event or a catering gig.

What similarities do you see among your favorite cook-offs?

The organization of them and the hospitality of them. My very favorite contest is not included in that statement though. It is called “The Deer Hunter” contest. As you know, in a KCBS contest each team must turn in six individual pieces of each meat to be judged and each team may cook as much meat as they want in order to get those six pieces. In the Deer Hunter contest each competitor may only cook a single butt, a single brisket, a single rack of ribs, and six pieces of chicken or a whole chicken. You only get one shot at cooking your meats at their best. Then, all of the teams judge each other instead of having neutral judges. This is the contest I won my Grand Championship in last year. It was such an honor to know that for that day at least, that I was judged the best out of all the competition by all of my peers. It was awesome.

How many competitions do you expect to participate in this year?

My schedule is as follows:
• May – I’ll be mentoring a fella in Camden, NJ
• June - I’ll be competing in Yardley, PA with my brother’s team (Campfire Cookers
• July – I’ll be mentoring another fella in Reading, PA (Smokin Gnomes)
• August – I’ll be cooking with the Campfire Cookers again in Bel Air, MD and New Holland, PA
• September – I’ll be competing with my own team (TBU BBQ) in Hillsborough, NJ and then in Warminster, PA

What value do you find in competing?

A wealth of knowledge to fish from as well as an abundance of new and old friends.

What type of sauce do you use in competitions?

I found a sauce in a local grocery store that is simply called “Q.”

How many people do you have on your team and what are their roles?

Just Doris and me. Doris helps with the dishes and is a great cheerleader.

Do you have a website where our readers can learn more about your team?

No team website but we do have a business web site. You can visit us at to see what we offer.


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Friday, April 11, 2008

REVIEW: Better Than Bad Sex

Better Than Bad Sex BBQ Sauce

Manufacturer Ricks Test Kitchen


Quality *** (3 out of 5)
Viscosity ***** (5 out of 5)
Appearance **** (4 out of 5)
Packaging *** (3 out of 5)
Aroma **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork that was cooked low and slow with apple wood.

Rick’s Test Kitchen offers both BBQ and hot sauces and it is clear that Rick and his helper sauce elves take pride in their work. This is the first of two of their BBQ sauces and three of their hot sauces that I’ll be reviewing. The sauces will be in a one column ‘non-BBQ wrap-up’, that will include various hot sauces and one salad dressing.

The sauce comes in a nice glass bottle with significant heft. The label is a bit sparse and almost monochromatic. The sauce itself is an attractive reddish brown that pours easily from the bottle and molds to the meat without any signs of pooling or congealing.

The sauce has a strong, bold flavor to it that tells you that the manufacturer has a definite opinion about how a sauce should taste. This is not a sweet sauce and isn’t a Texas sauce. Better Than Bad Sex defies geographic definition but would be closest to a Kansas City style sauce, but less sweet and significantly bolder.

The aroma was certainly perceptible and was a great indicator of what was to come. Unlike some sauces, Better Than Bad Sex had an aroma that almost directly paralleled the taste. The aroma wasn’t as strong as the taste was, but it was enjoyable.

The sauce offered a bold (I’m repeating my adjectives) flavor that seems to rely heavily on turmeric (although I may be mistaken). It was enjoyable, but I wouldn’t use it on more delicate BBQ, such as fish or even chicken. It seems tailor made for brisket or pork.

Although it doesn’t live up to it’s name (and how could it), Better Than Bad Sex is an enjoyable sauce overall and if paired with stronger meats it climbs into the ‘excellent’ category.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

REVIEW: Chipotle Sauce and Marinade

Manufacturer Borderline Gourmet


Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity ** (2 out of 5)
Appearance **** (4 out of 5)
Packaging ***** (5 out of 5)
Aroma *** (3 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork that was cooked low and slow with apple wood.

Let’s clear something up right away. I’m pretty sure that ‘Borderline Gourmet’ is meant to imply that the food is gourmet and has a southwestern influence. It is not meant to be ‘borderline gourmet’ like I’m ‘borderline nuts’. It is quite clear that the dazzling array of food that they offer on their website seems to all be of the highest quality.

Borderline Gourmet's sauce comes in a beautiful and elegant bottle with a sophisticated but simple label.

The sauce has a mild but pleasing aroma that does a great job of representing the taste that is offered.

In an odd departure from the picture provided on their website, the sauce is actually a light brown, not the red depicted. The seeds and spices are visible in the sauce, providing a nice visual.

The sauce itself had a mild tomato and vinegar taste with an excellent underlining chipotle’ish’ flavor. The sauce would be well suited for chicken or even fish. The best use for stronger meats may be to use this sauce as the marinade that it is double billed as.

The sauce has the viscosity of a marinade or a true vinegar sauce, which may result in running and a lack of pooling or adhesion.

If I’m setting up the smoker or heating up the grill and I’m looking for a sophisticated and nuanced sauce with a unique flavor profile, this is where I’m turning.


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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CONTEST: April's Free Sauce

The Home of BBQ is proud to present our Free Sauce Contest for April. This month we are working with Demon Pig BBQ to bring you the chance to win some of the best sauces being produced today.

Simply visit their site at and find out what they charge for their BBQ rub. Use the comment form at the bottom of the page to let us know what the price is and you are officially entered.

Three lucky readers will win two bottles of sauce and a BBQ calendar.

Good Luck!


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Sunday, April 6, 2008

INTERVIEW: Mike McCloud of MMA

Home of BBQ Interview: Mike McCloud,

We are very pleased to present this interview with Mike McCloud. Mike is the owner of MMA Creative, the official marketing firm for the Kansas City BBQ Society. We were interested in seeing what the goals of MMA were and where they would like to see competitive BBQ in the future.

Q. Mike, thanks for taking the time to discuss MMA and its relationship with the KCBS. Before we get started, could you give us a little background on you and MMA?

We’re a full-service marketing firm based in Tennessee. We serve about 150 small and mid-size clients who are mostly located throughout the Southeast. We’ve got offices in Nashville and Cookeville, where we first opened for business about 20 years ago. We’re very fortunate to have about 25 professionals on staff who specialize in everything from PR to Web development.

Q. Way back when the possibility of working with the KCBS first presented itself, what did you find intriguing about that possibility?

My first impression was how passionate KCBS members were about BBQ competitions. I couldn’t believe how much time, effort and money were being spent by teams and individuals to compete or just enjoy the BBQ lifestyle. So that certainly got my attention.

The next thing that I realized was that outside of the industry, KCBS wasn’t really that well known or given its due respect. For example, my hometown has had a KCBS sanctioned event for as long as I can remember. But did I realize the significance of that? No, and neither did my neighbors or friends. Yet everyone I know loves to BBQ (or “grill out,” as I now realize the difference).

So to see the passion within the industry, and to see the disconnect outside of the industry….that was when I really got fired up about helping KCBS. There is huge growth opportunity if we can somehow bridge the gap and educate the public about what great BBQ really is, as well as why KCBS is the authority in this arena.

Q. Did you have an interest in BBQ prior to your association with the KCBS?

Only from the standpoint that I wanted to eat it every time I got the chance! I’m a terrible cook (ask my wife), so anytime I could eat great BBQ from someone like Tony Stone or George Sasser, I was first in line.

Q. What do you believe that MMA will bring to the KCBS that it didn’t have prior to your involvement?

First and foremost, professional marketing services to build and maintain public awareness. Through our national PR efforts and programs like The Great American BBQ Tour, I hope to make KCBS a household name so that everyone looks at the society as “America’s BBQ Experts.” In my opinion, that rising tide of awareness will lift a lot of boats: teams, cooks, events, vendors, consumers and KCBS members in general.

Q. BBQ’ing is a culture as much as an activity. What is MMA doing to ensure that they have an understanding of enthusiasts and their concerns?

Everything that we can, as fast as we can. First, we conducted a mini Info tour last year where we set up a KCBS tent at 5 contests to interact with the public, the teams and the organizers. We learned a LOT from that exercise. Second, I became a certified barbeque judge last year and I’ve already been a judge at 3 events. Third, we shut down our company for 2 days last year so that my entire staff could get integrated at the Jack event. It was phenomenal. Our associates interviewed every team, took a thousand pictures, helped out with the food turn in, and literally walked away exhausted, but totally immersed in BBQ for the first time. And finally, I had two of my PR writers attend cooking schools, one by Rod Gray and Johnny Trigg, and one by Mike Davis….just so our ability to write about the process would be spot on.

Regardless of all that, though, I really think this will be a lifelong learning process, one that we will always be able to improve on. And one day, when the hot potatoes of the marketing job are mostly handled, I hope to cook with a team at an event to see the whole soup to nuts process. But for now, I feel pretty good about our general understanding of KCBS, and we are busy at work on the many marketing elements we are responsible for.

Q. Were there specific goals that the KCBS wanted your assistance to reach, or did they want general assistance?

It was a little bit of both. Initially, the Board realized that KCBS was in a unique position but wasn’t getting the appropriate consumer or national awareness that it deserves. So strengthening the “brand” of KCBS was important, as well as bringing consistency to its promotional efforts.

Secondly, we were presented with a major PR goal, one to help break down the impression that KCBS is just a Kansas City thing. The truth about this society is that it has national appeal, with even international members! So we’ve got to help the society overcome its geographic “naming” limitations by promoting its participation throughout the entire country. Early on, there was a lot of discussion about changing the name of the society. But we advised against that because there was so much brand value established for KCBS. So now the questions we face are the standard ones like this:Why is KCBS in Birmingham? Why is KCBS in Rio Rancho? Our number one goal is to overcome that confusion and make it all understandable and welcomed by the public.

Beyond these big picture items, we’ve encountered numerous “specific” things that needed help. For starters, the web site needed to be updated and expanded. We’ve done that already, and we are continuing to expand it each month. We’ve upgraded and expanded the merchandise line. And now, we are dropping local PR into about 50 markets nationally to help promote the CBJ classes that KCBS offers….here again, breaking down the mystery of why KCBS is in town. There are literally dozens of things going on to promote and benefit KCBS through our efforts. I wish I had time to list them all, but it’s just not feasible in this one interview. We’ll share more as time permits via the KCBS web site and The Bullsheet.

Q. Once you were involved with the KCBS, were you able to bring to their attention any needs that you saw as an outsider that they were missing?

Kind of like I referred in the prior question, the big thing was the mystery of KCBS in a small American town. Our mini-tour was a huge eye opener about the disconnect for consumers at a BBQ event. So we’ve shared those sentiments, and that’s one of the fundamental opportunities that we hope to address with the Great American BBQ Tour.

Beyond that, I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in the communications to and among members of KCBS. I’ve been amazed at how many different factions there are within the society, and what a communications challenge that presents. On one hand, you’ve got event organizers and contest reps and board members. On the other, you’ve got judges, teams and just regular BBQ enthusiasts. What’s ironic is that they all love the BBQ industry, but they have different objectives and desired outcomes. And sometimes those objectives might even be in conflict! So that certainly presents a huge communications challenge that we need to find a way to help with. At the end of the day, we all need to support the mission of KCBS, even when we don’t see eye to eye on daily occurrences within the organization or the industry.

Q. From a strictly personal perspective, what would you like to see the impact of MMA be on the world of BBQ?

A rising tide of national awareness and publicity that supports all the different parties within the competitive industry. I want to see events get stronger with bigger crowds, teams to get more recognition and sponsors, and KCBS to do the same. If all that happens, we’ll see our tide rising like it did for NASCAR many decades ago, like it did for Texas Hold’em Poker just four or five years ago.

Q. Is there a one, five and ten year plan for MMA and the KCBS?

Our plans and active efforts are a lot more short term right now, simply because of the timing we faced on getting the contract approved by the Board. That happened about mid way through 07, and we were behind the 8 ball in getting everything rolling as fast as we could because BBQ season was in full swing. So to some degree, I feel like we’ve been focusing on the immediate concerns (new identity, new web site, a sponsored national tour). During the rest of 08, with the help of the Board, we hope to settle down and put long-term plans in place.

Q. Aside from the hotel discount, what benefits does the KCBS offer new members? Are there plans to extend those benefits in the future?

Don’t forget that there have always been benefits in place….like The Bullsheet, the camaraderie and support of a national network of BBQ enthusiasts. But to answer your specific question, yes, we have big plans on additional benefits. The hotel discount was just the first and fastest thing we could put in place. From there, we hope to bring other big companies into the fold with specific benefits to members. For example, we’re in talks with Costco right now for a discount offer, and we believe that a few sponsorship efforts are going to net some cool products for the entire membership base. But please understand this: we are still facing and trying to overcome the perceived geographic challenge of KCBS. Some national sponsors ask us, “why should I do something just for Kansas City?” As you can see, we have our work cut out for us.

Q. What would you like current members of the KCBS to know about MMA and your efforts?

Primarily, that we are not taking money away from KCBS, but that we’re bringing money to the table. That is happening in two ways. First, our offer to the Board – and the primary reason they chose us – was that we would provide professional marketing services (branding, PR, web, marketing) up front at NO CHARGE. Our proposition was to be paid on the back end, not the front end, which means MMA is financing all of these efforts on behalf of KCBS. This provided security to the Board so that they weren’t spending dues on our services, and the promise that we only got paid if our efforts helped to grow the society and its sponsorship program. What most folks don’t realize is that this is a HUGE risk for my company. We basically are rolling the dice and committing our services without a guarantee of payment. The contract is complicated as a result of that, but in no way does it hurt KCBS. The society is getting the benefit of a professional agency without the up front cost, and I dare say that’s something that no other agency in America would have provided to KCBS.

Secondly, our national sponsorship efforts will bring new revenue to KCBS. That means new benefits can be passed along to members, or that KCBS can invest in new initiatives like scholarship or education programs. Regardless of how the revenue is used, KCBS will become a stronger and more financially secure society thanks to our sponsorship efforts.

Hopefully, one day, even our critics will understand the risk we took to help grow and benefit KCBS, and they will welcome our involvement.

Q. What would you like non-members of the KCBS to know about the organization?

That when it comes to anything BBQ (contests, fundraising, expertise, recipes, etc…), KCBS is truly “American’s BBQ Experts.” And that if they love barbeque, they should join our society to promote our mission.

Q. What is the goal of the Great American BBQ Tour? Is the tour an attempt to support the current BBQ scene or is it to bring BBQ to a new audience? Will the tour be making stops at events that are on the Q’ing fringe, like New York, Boston, Seattle or Vancouver?

It’s definitely designed to bring KCBS and our mission to a new audience. It’s a consumer-driven tour, and it’s a sponsored tour. The important thing to keep in mind about those facts is this: we have an opportunity to promote KCBS on some one else’s nickel, and as a result, we have to incorporate sponsors’ messages as an integral part of the demonstrations.

So while this isn’t covering all aspects of BBQ (what kind of smokers exist, what it takes to create true BBQ, etc…), it’s still a terrific outreach program that will allow us to make the connection with consumers about what KCBS’s involvement is in that particular town (sanctioning the event, how we judge, how we determine what great BBQ is, why someone should join KCBS…etc.).

One day, I hope we can have an expanded, or additional tour, that focuses completely on the industry and what all is involved. But KCBS simply doesn’t have the resources to do that yet. (Perhaps some smoker companies will join us on that mission in the future by bringing the necessary funds to the table….and if they are interested, I’m all ears!)

And yes, we’re going to some events that aren’t even KCBS sanctioned. Do I think that’s a bad proposition? Absolutely not. It’s like taking our message to the “unchurched.” Everyone in our industry already knows about KCBS and what its significance is……so taking the message to new frontiers is in direct support of KCBS’s mission.

Will we hit the fringe markets? Probably not in 08, but if we achieve our goals in the future, I would say yes. With the right attitude, relationships and support, I believe we can accomplish a LOT of good, new initiatives for KCBS. And that’s why I will continue listening to all ideas and any potential sponsors so that we can charge that hill as fast as possible.


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Saturday, April 5, 2008

CONTEST: March Wrap-Up

We would like to thank everyone that entered the Home of BBQ's free sauce contest for March.

We were proud to work with Russ and Frank's in presenting this contest. Their sauce is fantastic and a great addition to any enthusiasts collection.

Congratulations go out to our winners who will each receive free sauce and a BBQ calendar.

First Place Winner: Mike, who didn't leave a last name.

Second Place Winner: Richard Staaf

Third Place Winner: Eric Neifeld


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INTERVIEW: David Gelin, Author

David Gelin

David is the author of the recently released ‘BBQ Joints; Stories and Secret Recipes From the Barbecue Belt’. We thought we would ask David a few questions about the book and his thoughts on BBQ. We appreciate his spending some time with us.

Your local bookstore can order ‘BBQ Joints’ or you can pick it up on

Q. How did you get started in the world of BBQ?

I’ve always enjoyed finding the little out of the way gems. I even loved to grill (I have had a Big Green Egg for over a decade now). But I don’t think there are any Grand Nationals quaking in their aprons.

I am an advertising art director by vocation and a photographer by avocation. They didn’t tell me when I punched my ticket on the advertising train that I would have many periods of unemployment, and that my career would be essentially over at thirty-five. It was during one of those long periods when I got the idea for a personalized mass produced wall calendar. I even got a patent for the application.

I was “advised” by a calendar distributor who told me he believed in my product and would help me get it off the ground. I produced them. Then he sent me a contract where I was paying him up front and every month thereafter. I told him that he knew my situation and that he would get paid when I got paid. He did not want to do it that way, so I was going to have to pedal them myself.

I figured that I would be pushing them around my home state of Georgia, but I also needed a little something to endear myself to book stores around the state. I was trying to figure just what that would be when my buddy, Hamlin Endicott, took me to a BBQ joint for lunch. It was there I got my answer and six weeks later I finished a prototype “My-T-Fine B-B-Q Joints in Georgia” calendar.

I never actually produced it, because I went another direction with my personalized wall calendar. That is when my friend, Barrett Batson, a published writer, stopped by and saw the BBQ prototype and asked if she could send it to her publisher. I said. “Go knock yourself out. I’m not doing anything with it anyway.” I didn’t get my hopes up because they were not a calendar publisher.

A few weeks later I got a rejection from her publisher. I showed her the letter and she said that that is not the standard form letter rejection. He really liked it and said that I had something and that I should make it into a book. I just dismissed it because “I am not a writer.” But I wasn’t doing well at my chosen field anyway. What have I got to lose? I got a crappy seasonal job that would give me insurance, unemployment benefits in the off season and in my ample spare time I put together a good portion of the book which I called “Barbecue Joints and The Good Folks who Own Them.”

Long story short. I got my book in front of many publishers and received four offers. I was most impressed with Gibbs Smith, the man and his publishing house. Since then the book has become priority one and nearly two years after signing my contract, ‘BBQ Joints, Stories and Secret Recipes From the Barbecue Belt’ will hit the shelves.

Q. What does BBQ Joints offer the reader that they would have a hard time finding elsewhere?

What separates this book from all the other barbecue books is that it tells the stories of the characters (owners) behind the joints –through their words and my photographs.

Some were born into it. Most fell into it, but now that they are doing it, they can’t see themselves doing anything else. These people work very long, hard hours. Most are far from rich, but none of them consider it “a job.” It is more of a calling. Their payment comes in the pride of consistently delivering a very fine product and the love and gratitude they receive from their communities. This may sound like total BS, but it is real. I challenge anyone who is skeptical to go to one of these places and sit back and see for themselves. Odds are, the owner knows everyone eating in his joint personally, their spouse and the name of all their kids and dogs.

Q. If you were cooking for a foreign dignitary and they wanted the proto-typical BBQ meal, what would you provide them and what liquid refreshment would be served?

It doesn’t matter what meat I am served as long as it is slow cooked over wood or coals.
That said, if I were in Texas, it would be beef of links washed down with a Big Red or Dr. Pepper. In Georgia it would be pork with a Coca-Cola. Western Kentucky it would be Mutton with some sweet tea. It can get a little complicated in the Carolinas. The meat will be pork, but in Western North Carolina it would be a tomato-based sauce. Eastern North Carolina, it would be a vinegar-based sauce, and South Carolina it would be a mustard-based sauce. I would wash ‘em down with a Pepsi, Cheerwine or Sun Drop. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Q. I know that tastes can vary from day to day, but right now, what’s your favorite regional BBQ.

I can honestly say I love it all, as long as it’s cooked right.
That said, if I could get some authentic Texas Que smoked with mesquite, or some whole hog Eastern Carolina vinegar based, or even some Kentucky mutton, I’d be very happy because I can’t get it around here (Georgia).

Q. What’s your favorite side dish that is usually served with BBQ?

I call them the cousins. If you are in Georgia, it’s Brunswick stew. Alabama, Camp stew. South Carolina, Hash. Kentucky, burgoo. Basically the same thing with regional differences.

Q. What BBQ side dish deserves more attention?

Macaroni salad. I may be all alone on this one, but I am a sucker for a great one. And quite frankly it is hard to find. I got a great one in my book complements of Denise Janow of Austin’s BBQ in Eagle Lake, Texas.

Q. With the recent ‘low and slow’ renaissance, where do you see BBQ in 10 years?

I hear that barbecue is now chic in New York City (said with the feeling of that Pace Picante Sauce commercial). That is a good thing, because even mediocre barbecue is pretty good. Hopefully it will inspire people to seek out the real thing, and ultimately bring more folks into the art that is fine barbecue.

One of the more inspirational stories in my book is that of Alfredo Rosales. He came to America from Cuba as a man. He never had barbecue until a friend took him to pseudo-barbecue chain. He loved it. Then he went to a real, venerable joint, Uncle Tom’s in Coral Gables, Florida. He instantly became more than a regular, and when he heard the owner wanted to sell. He moved Heaven and Earth to acquire it. Now he is the owner. He put a Cuban twist to the menu, but a woman enjoying ribs told me they were as good as she remembered them as a girl in the 1950’s.

Q. If you could sit by the pit and swap recipes and techniques with one person, who would it be?

No question about it, George Archibald Jr. of Archibald’s Barbecue in Northpoint, Alabama. He is truly a master of his craft and the beauty of it is you can actually watch him perform. His place is essentially a take-out because there are only seven stools in front of the counter. Behind the counter is his pit. George has one eye on the customers and the other on the pit. When the flame gets too high, he hits it with his hose.

His ribs are absolutely legendary, and he doesn’t doctor them up one iota. Just hickory smoke and a lifetime of experience.

Q. What music do you listen to most often while cooking?

What a wonderful question! I’m a big time folkie. The odds are real good that Townes Van Zandt is on my CD platter. When I go to a joint I gotta hear blues or gospel. One very famous joint had Kenny G pumped in. That would have been ground for exclusion all by itself, but he Que was mediocre.

The most disappointed I have ever been was at the Texas Chili Parlor. That place was made almost famous in the Guy Clark song “Dublin Blues”

I wished I was in Austin in the Chili Parlor Bar.
Drink’n Mad Dog margaritas, and not carin’ where you are.
But here I sit in Dublin just rollin’ cigarettes
Holdin’ back and choakin’ back the shakes with every breath.

They had Elton John’s Crocodile Rock playing. What a disappointment!

Q. Where can the readers find more information on you and ‘BBQ Joints’?

I have a web site It has a link to Amazon where you can put in an order for my book. It will be hitting the shelves in April.


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Friday, April 4, 2008

REVIEW: Grumpy's Bold Sauce

Grumpy’s Private Reserve Bold Sauce
Grumpy’s Foods

Quality *** (3.5 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma *** (3.5 out of 5)
Appearance *** (3 out of 5)
Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork and brisket that were cooked low and slow over cherry wood. The opinions are both mine and Will Breakstone’s, owner and pit-master of Willie B’s Award Winning BBQ.

I have a bit of a quandary here. Do I review the sauce on its own merits or what it is labeled as? Unfortunately, I didn’t find the sauce to be ‘bold’ at all. As a product that is labeled ‘bold’ I would hope that they would at least attempt to live up to that claim. Now here is where the problem comes in; the sauce is really good.

The aroma is nice, with a strong tomato influence. The bottle and packaging are fine, with the white pig image standing in stark contrast to the rest of the bottle. The sauce has a great thickness, having just enough viciousness to stick to the meat and having a great ‘feel’ to it.

Although I wouldn’t call the sauce bold, it did have a nice lingering flavor with mild spice overtones. There was an excellent distinction between the various flavors and the sauce offered a nice contrast to the overly blended varieties found in most supermarkets.

The sauce was appealing for ‘across the board’ use. I would feel comfortable using it on pretty much any BBQ except fish. It would also make a nice grilling sauce and I can easily see myself using it with steak.

Their website offers photos, recipes and a listing of awards. The awards that they have won were impressive, but it would have been nice if they listed which of their sauce won.

You can order the sauce (and I recommend doing so) from their website or pick it up at various locations in Colorado.


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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Interview: Martin Lersch of Khymos

BBQ and Molecular Gastronomy

We were lucky enough to be able to ask a few BBQ related questions of Martin Lersch, the owner of; a site dedicated to molecular gastronomy. Martin holds a PhD. in organometallic chemistry and is a research scientist in Oslo, Norway.

We recommend Martin’s blog ( to anyone interested in how and why ingredients become food.

Q. Martin, thank you for taking the time to discuss the science of BBQ. Before we get into ‘low and slow’ cooking, can you tell us a bit about your background and your interest in food?

I have a PhD in chemistry and currently I'm working as a research scientist. When I first became interested in the connection between food and chemistry in the late 90's, I searched the Internet without finding much information. I did however find some very interesting books in the faculty library, including Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen". Having found books about the subject, I soon started to give popular science presentations. In 2004 I was invited to attend the "International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy" in Erice, Sicily. This was a great experience and I enjoyed meeting many of the scientists, writers and chefs involved with molecular gastronomy. The website I've put up, Khymos, is in many ways what I would have liked to find at the time I became interested in the subject.

Q. Over the past few years we have been hearing quite a bit about how food cooked over a hot flame can have increased carcinogens. Would food that is cooked for a longer period of time over a lower heat be safer?

The carcinogens are formed when meat gets burnt, so although you'd like to use high heat to get the Maillard reaction going (which gives you both flavor and color) you don't want to overdo it. But even if the meat gets a little burnt, it is a good thing that for the carcinogens, as for all other substances, the poison is in the dose. So if you eat grilled meat every day you should be concerned about this, but for most people I think overeating poses a much greater risk!

Q. Serious BBQ cooks like to produce a ‘bark’ when preparing pork for their pulled pork dishes. Usually the natural ‘bark’ of the meat is enhanced by the sugar found in the dry rubs that are applied. Is there any other method that could be used to achieve or increase those results? Maybe an egg wash prior to cooking?

There are several processes which contribute to the flavor formation. First you have the sugars which caramelize. As you correctly state, this is enhanced by adding sugar to the rubs. Furthermore you have the Maillard reaction were sugars react with amino acids to form a host of compounds which contribute both flavor and color. Even though the Maillard reaction can take place at low temperature (such as in vintage champagne), things really speed up when temperature rises above 110-120 C. Obviously to reach this temperature you'll have to get rid of the water first. So using a dry rub makes sense. Apart from that it's mostly about being patient. Use fresh spices, and where possible whole spices that you ground prior to use. The heat of the grill will toast the spices, thereby intensifying the flavor even more.

I must admit that I have never made nor tasted meat which was prepared with a "bark", so I don't dare to go into further details concerning how to improve it. The best thing would be to cook two pieces of meat in parallel, for instance with and without an egg wash to see which one comes out best.

Q. BBQ sauces vary greatly depending on region. Carolina sauces are often thin, while Kansas City and Texas sauces have greater viscosity. If a cook is making a sauce that comes out too thin, what recommendations would you have to thicken it?

You either have to take out some of the water by letting it boil over low heat in a large, wide pot, or you can add a thickening agent such as corn starch. If you use onions, these will help thicken your sauce if you let it boil for a while.

Q. In competitions, some BBQ pit-masters utilize a flavor enhancer called FAB B, which contains msg. The thought behind this additive is that after a judge has consumed numerous samples of the same category of meat, the additive will stimulate the taste buds and help to separate that entry from the rest. Can you recommend any other method of ‘waking the taste buds’ without detracting from the taste?

The problem with this explanation is that if everyone uses FAB, will there be any effect at all? If the idea is to rinse the mouth you would want something acidic which stimulates saliva production, some tannic compounds to bind proteins and perhaps some alcohol to help solubilize fats. Heston Blumentahl at the Fat Duck made a "Green tea sour mousse" from these guidelines (

But even so adaption and habituation occurs in all tasting. I've discussed this extensively in a blog post (, and the easy answer is variation. Or more scientifically: increased sensing by contrast amplification. Eat something which is as far from meat as you can come, something which is cold, crisp, fresh and acidic (did someone mention a tasty salad?). This will make the next piece of meat taste much better!

Q. FAB contains the following: Hydrolyzed soy protein,
vegetable oil (soybean and or corn, cottonseed), sodium phosphates,
mono sodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium inosinate and
guanylate, xanthan gum. They claim that it enhances natural meat
flavors, makes your BBQ juicier, improves texture for better slicing
and taste and increases yields. Would you believe that these claims
are accurate? Would you recommend other methods to achieve the same

I would like to emphasize that MSG's bad reputation is somewhat undeserved. MSG is the salt of a naturally occurring amino acids and is found in many foods. Parmesan and tomatoes contain lots of it (ever wondered why the Italians sprinkle so much parmesan on their food?). Protein and yeast are excellent sources for MSG and the related compounds listed, so I absolutely believe the claim that FAB will enhance the meaty flavors. When FAB is used in a marinade, the phosphates enhance juiciness and improve texture (more on this later). This is well documented. But even so, every chef should remember that FAB or other products can only make good meat better. Therefore you should pay close attention to the quality of the meat you use.

Q. What is a smoke ring and how is it created? What is the best method of producing a significant smoke ring?

When wood or coal burns, small amounts of nitrogen dioxide is formed which dissolves in the surface of the meat, thereby creating nitrous acid. The acid diffuses further into the meat, and when converted to nitric oxide it reacts with myoglobin to form a stable pink colored molecule.

Q. Is there a point of delineating returns, where a piece of meat will no longer absorb the flavor of the wood that it is cooked with? Are you wasting your time by adding more wood for flavor after a certain point?

Frankly, I don't know. I think this question should be answered by a chef!

Q. A - How effective is brining and marinating such as pork shoulder or brisket? How much penetration can you reasonably expect? As competitors often work with a short time frame, is there a way to speed up the results of a marinade?

Q. B - If alcohol burns off, what's the advantage of using wine instead of juice? Does the alcohol "do" something before it burns off?

(these two questions sort of belong together)

Marinades penetrate meat very slowly, so it should primarily be regarded as a way of adding taste to the surface of the meat (which it does very well). An exception here is chicken and fish which are more easily penetrated by marinades. To speed up marination, use water based, concentrated marinades and leave the meat at room temperature. Piercing the meat with a jaccard will allow the marinade to work from the "inside" as well.

It is perfectly fine to use wine in a marinade. The alcohol will dissolve some fat which can speed up penetration. Wine also contains organic acids which can have a tenderizing effect. Phenolic compounds (tannins) will react with meat proteins to form insoluble complexes which in turn makes meat more juicy and tender (even though the exact reason for this is not understood). Experiments have shown that red wine works better than white in marinades.

An interesting thing with marinades is that to maximize the water retaining capacity of beef, your marinade should not contain both acids and salt as this will in fact lower the water holding capacity! If you go for acids, you can easily add salt later on.

Brining, which is immersing meat in water with about 5% salt, does make sense as the salt helps untangle protein strands. This allows spices to penetrate the meat more easily, and it renders meat juicier. Furthermore it lowers the temperature at which the proteins become "cooked".

Q. Would searing a piece of meat help to ‘seal’ the juices and allow for a more moist cut?

No. As Harold McGee pointed out, "searing is not sealing". The only reason to sear meat is to get the Maillard reaction going.

Q. What recommendations would you give to someone that is cooking over wood in a smoker if they wanted to achieve a crisp skin on chicken?

In a smoker the low heat will only be enough to evaporate the water, but only very slowly turn the tough collagen into tender gelatin. To achieve this you'll need a higher temperature, preferably temperatures around 80-90 C. But even in a smoker there are a couple of things you can do to improve the crispiness. Use a chicken which has been
dry-processed. Alternatively, let the chicken dry uncovered in the fridge for a day. Oiling the skin will improve the heat transfer. You can also pierce the skin to let the juices evaporate.

Q. Barbecuing is often seen as the art of taking a piece of meat that is tough and/or stringy and producing a tender, mouthwatering meal from it. What is it that occurs that renders a tough cut like brisket into a soft, enjoyable meat? Is there anything that can be done to enhance those efforts?

The muscle fibers themselves are tender, but they are held together by connective tissue of which collagen is most abundant. Collagen is tough, but when heated it slowly dissolves and forms gelatin which is very tender. Collagen in young animals dissolves more easily than that of older animals. Collagen starts do dissolve around 70 C and at 90 C it dissolves rapidly. But before the temperature get this high enzymes which are present in the meat will help tenderize it. These enzymes lose their activity between 40 and 50 C, but when you barbecue at low heat the meat will spend quite some time below 40-50 C.

Q. Why do some meats, after reaching optimal tenderness, seem to get even more tender the longer you cook, while others tend to get tougher if you cook past ideal time?

Preparing meat is more about temperature than time. If you like your beef medium rare you would aim for the center to be 55 C. Continued heating will cause more proteins to denature and as the contract, water is expelled leaving the dry and rubbery. Unless you have prepared your meat at a temperature very close to the desired temperature of the center, there will be a temperature gradient. So even if you remove the meat from your heating source when the center reaches the desired temperature, the warmer outside of the meat will continue to cook the center as it rests, bringing it outside your desired temperature range. It takes experience to know exactly when to remove the meat from the heat.

Q. What's happening to the meat during "resting"? Why is this recommended prior to cutting and serving?

Apart from the leveling out of the temperature gradient discussed in the previous question it is a very good idea let meat rest before serving, as this improves the water holding capacity of the meat. This in turn reduces the amount of juice you loose when you carve or slice the meat.

We greatly appreciate Martin’s time. If you have any questions that you would like us to ask Martin, please do so in the comments section. He has kindly agreed to take follow-up questions.


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

REVIEW: Pecos Bill's Widow Maker

Pecos Bill’s Lindsey’s Widow Maker

Pecos Bill’s BBQ

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4.5 out of 5)
Aroma ** (2.5 out of 5)
Heat **** (4 out of 5)
Appearance *** (3.5 out of 5)
Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork and brisket that was cooked low and slow over cherry wood. The opinions are both mine and Will Breakstone’s, owner and pit-master of Willie B’s Award Winning BBQ.

Pecos Bill’s is a family run sauce company out of northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to their sauces, they do local catering. Their sauces seem to have been created and manufactured in a staggered process, as opposed to everything being released simultaneously. I would like to believe that this indicates that the sauces are slowly worked on and developed, being released after serious deliberation and research.

The sauces packaging feature ‘wild west’ motifs, with photos of family members in western regalia on the label. I believe that the personalities of the family members are matched to the style of sauce. The packaging is eye catching and has a nice ‘retro’ feel.

The aroma of the sauce did not capture the essence of the taste. That’s not to say that it was bad, it just wasn’t indicative of the intensity of the flavor. The aroma gave you hints of the sweetness and the tomato, but not the robust heat provided by the capsaicin.

The sauce itself was an attractive red sauce that was a bit thicker than the traditional KC style sauce (we seem to be using KC style sauces as our baseline lately). The sauce had an enjoyable variation of mouth feels, as it wasn’t the overly pureed product you often see in mass produced sauces.

The sweetness is the first thing that stands out when you try the sauce. It’s a nice, light sweetness that avoids the overpowering and artificial flavor imparted by most sauces using corn syrup variations. After a second or two the heat comes. And it comes strong. The heat is considerable, but is by no means overpowering. If the average ‘hot’ BBQ sauce is a 5, this would be a 6 or 7. The heat is integrated well into the overall flavor profile. It is long lingering and yet it doesn’t overpower the taste of the meat or destroy the sweetness.

I didn’t detect any spice variation. If I were to suggest anything, it might be that they add some ancho or other low heat base to the sauce to provide a layered taste (and it may also help the aroma).

If you enjoy some kick in your BBQ, pick up Lindsey’s Widow Maker. You won’t be disappointed. If heat isn’t your thing, you may want to look elsewhere.


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