Going to New Jersey
Very early Friday morning, I’ll be driving to Asbury Park, New Jersey to compete in my first barbecue contest. Check it out here: Guitarbeque This contest will be filmed for All American Festivals for the Food network, and this contest actually has prize money.
I’m joining the BBQ-Brethren’s cooking team. I’m not sure what my role on the team will be yet, but I’m not the cook. Phil – the Grand Poobah – of the Brethren is the cook. From our conversations so far, it looks like I’m going to be his little bitch and do cleaning, organizing and all the shit stuff that needs to be done. That’s OK. Phil’s putting up a lot of money to compete in this contest. My role here is to help Phil shine as much as possible and make him look good. But, I’ll get the chance to learn from him. He’s done really well in the two contests he’s entered so far. At the very least I’ll be able to steal some recipes or techniques.
It’s going to be hard for me to let Phil cook without putting my two cents into it. I like to cook. Actually, I love it. Usually, I’m the one doing it. Not to be modest, but I’m damn good at it. At parties I usually wind up on the grill because the cook is doing such a bad job, IMHO anyway. Also, I have a big mouth and a big ego. So this is going to be a lesson in humility, keeping my mouth shut and letting Phil work his magic.
I know I can add a lot to the team. I’ve been cooking for years, although never in a contest. I’ve got my architecture and design background to help with the presentation. I’ve got my limited judging experience. I know the rules. I have a good sense of taste. I know what is good and what works.
One of the things about “spectatoring” at contests is that you get to eat a lot of teams BBQ. They always ask for your opinion. At past contests, I haven’t always been honest about the food. How can you tell someone who’s put his heart and soul into the food that it sucks? Here, I’m going to need to be honest and diplomatic.
I’m going to compete on my own stating next year but, I haven’t worked out the money yet. I didn’t realize how much it would take to do it on a regular basis. I’ve asked around at other contests and was told to expect to spend about $300 on food for the weekend. Getting into this, that’s the tip of the iceberg. Besides equipment and fuel, there’s the food, lodging of family, travel costs, entry fees and whatever I’m not thinking about right now.
In terms of equipment, you need your smoker. If you can afford a big one like a Klose, you probably could get away with one. But, if you can’t, I think you need at least 4 WSM’s to be able to compete, one cooker for each food category. Add another $800. You also need a grill or another smoker to cook for the crew while you’re at the contest. So, now you’re up to $1,000. A Klose smoker, including shipping to NY, would run about $6,000.
Then there’s the ancillary equipment. Tables, lighting, utensils, dishes, buckets and cleaning equipment, chairs, tents, radio, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, cutting boards, etc. Let’s say that’s another $1,500.
Another thing is how do you get all that equipment to a contest? I have an old beat up van that I could use, but a trailer would be best. When I buy a Klose, I know that I want one on a trailer, but that means I need a vehicle that can tow it. That adds what $25,000?
Then there’s the fancy banners all the teams have. Add about $200 for that, between artist fees and printing.
I guess the initial investment is where the real costs lie. Most of that stuff is a one time purchase. I'll put together a more detailed and accurate list of equipment when I get a chance but, man this is an expensive hobby.