Yesterday I spent the day checking out the Long Island Grill Kings Barbecue Contest. What a great day. The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny. The people were outstanding. The vast majority of contestants were friendly, open, funny and humble. (I got to work on humble before I start to compete!)
To Dean and all the guys at Grill Kings.. You did a great job! Good work! From an outsider that was just wandering and observing, everything seemed organized and very well run.
To all the contestants that let me hang out, watch, learn and eat. THANK YOU! Even if you didn't win all of you are champs.
And finally to my new friends from the BBQ-Brethren. THANK YOU for putting up with me all day and into the evening. You were welcoming and entertaining. I don't know if I'd be as gracious to a "know it all" who wasn't even competing! I really enjoyed watching you put together your first contest. I enjoyed your food and your company. Phil and Greg - you really did deserve to win. As I told you when I tasted your wings - OUTSTANDING. I'm glad the judges agreed. I didn't get to taste your final ribs, but the ribs I had before they were sauced and glazed were extraordinary. The Brethren took 1st in Chicken and 1st in Ribs! Check out their website: http://BBQ-brethren.com
One of the benefits of being only a spectator at the contest was that I got to try a least 20 different cooks BBQ. In my head I was picking the winners long before they were announced. The one thing that most impressed me about the contest was the amount of people who never cooked competitively before and just decided to give it a whirl. I salute all of you. Especially my friend Mike who took 3rd in the Ribs contest, which was the only contest he entered. His homemade cooker beat out some very expensive ones. Remember Mike, you should copyright it before Weber starts making one like it.
What I learned at the Long Island Grill Kings Barbecue Contest....
Remember, this blog is a public expression of my thoughts and feelings about the process of my creation of winning BBQ. All of my opinions are mine and mine alone and subject to change. This is really a note to myself for the future. Hopefully anyone else reading this will learn something.
First and most important -- I can win this thing.
1. Provide shade. Lots of it.
2. Provide seating - somewhere to lay down.
3. Provide comfortable work surfaces.
4. Create a private workspace for when the pressure is on and you want to work without the prying eyes of someone like myself.
5. Bring music that you like and relaxes you.
6. Water, water and more water. Water to drink, water to wash your equipment and hands.
7. Mosquito netting to keep bugs off food. But the bugs were kept at bay by all the smoke.
8. Decorations. Make the space fun.
9. If you have electricity - provide a fan so you have somewhere to cool off.
10. Provide something for the kids to do. Better yet, tell friends and family to arrive later in the day after food has been submitted.
11. A large clock to keep track of the time.
Food and Equipment:
1. Sinks and buckets. Be prepared to wash everything. A LOT. Wash you, your work surfaces, tools, equipment etc.
2. Cutting boards. Remember Paul Kirk's suggestions of counter-tops from sinks (Talk to Quan about this.)
3. Duplicate equipment. Don't loose time looking for things.
4. Organized equipment. Setup somewhere to keep everything handy and readily available.
5. Work surfaces. Think about how the Jakes or Zakes had raised the tables so that you didn't have to bend over to work.
7. Gloves and closed shoes for manipulating fire and hot food.
8. Extra presentation stuff and garnish.
9. Bring a first aid kit and drugs. Aspirin is a good thing.
10. Bring a fire extinguisher.
11. Get your food ready for finishing early. Give yourself time to setup the presentation.
12. Don't get your food in as the first entries. Maybe get them in first. Remember the a rib entry that you didn't think were so good were one of the first presented and won. But remember the judging class. The judges were toughest on the first entries they sampled.
13. Make your own sauce. (Maybe - I saw a lot of prepackaged sauces.) No one I spoke with used the sauce that they submitted for the best sauce contest as the sauce on their meat. Interesting.
14. Buy the nutemps. Almost everyone was using them.
15. Bring a garbage pail and garbage bags.
1. Cook for myself, not for the judges.
2. Keep a sense of humor.
3. Give everyone certain roles on the team. Don't wind up arguing about stupid shit at the last minute.
4. KNOW the rules. Remember the rib guy who I told to take the basil out of his presentation. Basil is against the rules.
5. Take a deep breath and take a last look at the food before you close up the package. A lot like the last look in the coffin before you close it up.
6. Prepare extra food for the masses that everyone in the neighborhood feeds. Have someone available to feed them. Listen to them. Because I could move from cook to cook, I got to taste a lot of the food before it went up. I knew some of the winners long before they did.
7. Don't worry about the food too much. You've cooked enough Q to allow your instincts to direct you.
8. Have fun.
9. Don't be a chicken shit - just do it!