The Smoking Car - Lost Nation
Welcome to the Smoking Car. Every Wednesday, I will be offering various BBQ cooks and legends a chance to become WhiteTrash and post on my Blog. This is where you'll get a chance to meet some of my friends on the Kansas City Barbeque Society competition circuit.
The Smoking Car is named after the infamous old Smoking Car on the Long Island Rail Road. Back in the day of diesel trains and before the witch hunt on smokers, one car on each train was designated as the smoking car. It was always the most popular place on the train, because it was also the bar car. I remember walking into that car and getting hit by a wall of tobacco smoke so thick that you couldn't see the other end of the car. But in the Smoking Car, great friendships were made. I hope and intend that that spirit lives on here. And just like the good old Long Island Rail Road, sometimes it doesn't run on time. It's part of its charm.
So without further ado, please welcome to The Smoking Car, the first new WhiteTrash - Rich Decker of Lost Nation Smoke Company. Rich's entry today talks about his starting out in the world of competitive BBQ, from his first cook to his first contest. It's a great story...
I'd like to say I grew up in a long line of outdoor cooks but it wouldn't be true. My father was a great husband, father, grand father but he wasn't a very good cook. Our picnics consisted of hot dogs or chicken with the sauce burnt black on top of raw, bloody meat. After I got married we bought a Weber kettle then moved up to a gasser.
I always loved BBQ but until Peppers restaurant opened in South Burlington, Vermont I never knew what BBQ could taste like. I loved that place but it closed. To continue eating authentic BBQ I decided to buy a smoker and a cookbook. I got an ECB and Smoke and Spice. The food coming off that coooker wasn't fit for humans, and my dog Evan woudn't even eat it. So I bought another cooker and went to a BBQ contest.
The folks from the New England Barbecue Society had a contest at the Mad River Glenn ski area and I went for the day. I ate BBQ better then what was served at Peppers and met some of the nicest people I have ever met and they helped me tremendously with my cooking. My food, although not good, was now edible.
It was a couple years before I could go to another contest but in 2002 I went to Harpoon in
I arrived early (before the gates opened) and was able to talk to some of the cooks before turn in's. After turn in's I sampled the best BBQ I have ever eaten and talked to some great people. I wanted to compete. On Sunday I brought my wife down and we both had a great day. On the way home I was trying to figure how to get a team together. First step was to buy a WSM.
A friend gave me a used laptop and I surfed the net to learn everything I could about competition BBQ cooking with the goal to compete at Harpoon. I made lists of everything I thought we would need and started buying things. It is surprising that I still use all the stuff I thought I would need.
After the New Year I signed up for a judging school at New Holland and became a certified judge. I wanted to judge as much as I could before I competed. After talking to Rob Richter of Big Island BBQ I bought a Lang cooker. I liked the options of the other cookers I saw but the Lang gave the most cooker for the money besides my friends Jeff and Tom could weld and I have vision..
The day after I got my pit I took the cooking school run by NEBS. Jim McGrath was my teacher and it was run like a contest. I met more people from NEBS and the cooking class filled a lot of the timing issues I was having. Two weeks later I took Paul Kirk's cooking school in Philadelphia hosted by Jerry and Linda Mullane. Jerry and Linda are KCBS repÂs and seem to work every contest in the North East. From Paul I learned about how the relationship between the rub and the finishing sauce. Cooking on bad pits really help me develop rubs and sauces, I had to mask the over smoked meat.
After taking the cooking schools I cooked on the new Lang pit every chance I got. Over Memorial Day weekend I cooked for three parties, If someone would buy the meat I'd cook it with the only stipulation that I cooked all the contest meat. At this time I was developing my "style" of cooking and modifying my pit to suit that style.
Judging was the biggest learning experience. I think I judged 4-5 BBQ contests before I cooked my first one. From these I learned presentation and the flavor profiles that the judges seemed to like. After the round of judging we would talk about the meat presented to us and from these discussions I learned a tremendous amount. I still try to judge at least one contest a year.
So now my first contest is getting close, I bought all the stuff I thought I'd need to compete. I thought I knew how to cook, but I didn't have a team. I begged my sister and a friend to come up and help me, a few others and my wife also were roped into coming to help. I got tee shirts for the team and we were ready to go. The last weekend before I cooked just like a contest, we set the site up in the yard and I stayed up all night cooking using the same turn in times we would need next week. We were able to get all the boxes done and turned in on time.
So now we were ready, Lost Nation Smoke Company (I live on Lost Nation Road) was going to compete.
Unfortunately, we've come to Rich's stop here on the Smoking Car. He'll be back next week to continue the amazing story of his first contest. I can't wait.