Grillin' On The Bay - The Truth - Really
The legend of Grillin' On The Bay is well known, but like most things its beginnings are much more humble. Today I debunk the legend and tell you the truth.
I first entered into the world of competitive barbecue back in 2004. I looked around at who were the players from New York City and at the time only two names emerged; Sam Barbieri (I hope I got the spelling of his last name right) from the Waterfront Ale House and Robbie Richter from Big Island Barbecue. I got to know these two fine gentlemen and the fact that a guy from Brooklyn (Sam) and a guy from Queens (Robbie) were competing and winning, made me more determined to enter the fray, which I did that very summer by cooking with Phil Rizzardi as a member of The BBQ Brethren team.
In the off season I continued with my life as a parent and responsible citizen of Sheepshead Bay by serving on our local school's sports association board of directors. Now 2004 was not a particular good year for the sports association with rising costs nearly putting us out of business. One particularly dark and stormy night, our board met to discuss ways to raise some ducats without putting the touch on our usual band of suspects. We ended the meeting without any real new ideas, but we were determined not to let the organization fail.
Heading out to my car, I thought I heard someone call to me as I was pondering what a new fund raiser could be. Getting in my car my phone rang. It was Robbie. "Hey Rob, do you know where we could hold a barbecue contest in the city?" he asked. A light popped on in my head of such colors I had never seen on this earth and I replied "I have a place if we can make it a fund raiser."
The next week Robbie set up a meeting between me, him and Matt Fisher, aka The Hampton Smoker who is currently employed at RUB Barbecue and who quickly became one of my best friends, at the Union Square Barnes and Noble. We sat on one of the upper floors throwing out ideas about what we could do, who should do what and anything else we could think of. Things were looking good.
But there was one stumbling block; Robbie wanted to cook at Grillin' On The Bay (Yes, we came up with the name that very night!) After much discussion it was agreed that we all felt that an organizer shouldn't cook at his own event and Robbie stepped aside leaving Matt and I to put the contest together. Sometimes I wonder if he planned it that way all along.
Matt and I looked around and found that the New England BBQ Society had been hosting a one day contest every year up in Massachusetts called The Snowshoe Grilling Challenge. This event sounded like it was very similar to our ideas for Grillin' On The Bay and decided to check it out. I don't remember now if Matt came on that first trip to MA, but much of what Gary and Michelle Taft were doing we stole for our contest. Watching that contest, judging at it, I knew that Grillin' On The Bay was going to work.
NEBS was kind enough to agree to sanction our event and to supply the representatives who ran it. That's a story in and of itself and I'll get to that another day.
So, one a beautiful day in March 2004, Grillin' On The Bay was born. That's the truth and I'm sticking to it. Others may remember things differently, but this is how it was burned into my memory by a column of fire and smoke.
We are much indebted to the Tafts of the award winning barbecue team Lunchmeat, Robbie Richter, our continuing sponsor, RUB BBQ, the guys at the Waterfront Ale House for donations to the event every year and the rest of the NEBS board of directors for the success of this "little" Brooklyn event. We couldn't have done it without them.