Thursday, March 19, 2015

Congrats Bill Gillespie

Really nice job on this cookbook. Lots of great info.  Grab it on Amazon. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Here We Are In 2015

I know I said I wasn't going to post on here anymore.  Well, I lied.

The 2015 season will be our tenth on the BBQ circuit.  I can't believe that I have been cooking competition BBQ for more than 20 percent of my life.  There have been a lot of great times, and plenty of lowlights too.  We have won five KCBS grand championships, two grilling grand championships, cooked the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ three times and been called to the stage each time. It's been a fun ride so far.

 I have seen so many teams come and go over these last ten years.  Some were very successful and just decided for their own reasons that they just didn't want to do it anymore.  Some were just a train wreck and never figured out what it's all about.  Some transitioned into the business of BBQ, which makes it harder to get out there and compete.  I really miss seeing some of those who have moved on, some I'm happy they're not around any more.  But we keep on going.

If I was going to walk away, I think this last year would have pushed me to do it.  It was a tough year for us on a personal and professional level.  My real job has become more and more difficult, and various factors with our living situation had become a huge distraction. 

We got decent calls during the BBQ season but struggled at times.  We finally win a big contest in September, taking grand champion of a contest in Allentown, PA and winning $3,250.  On paper.  The organizer stiffed us, the other winners and pretty much anyone he could fleece.  As of this writing we have collected $325 of those winnings, and that only came after the media jumped on the story and us threatening legal action.  We probably will have to sue to get the rest of the money.  But the good news is that the contest is in the Jack draw, so that's something.

Many frustrations.  But I have no interest in walking away. 

There are a few reasons.  I enjoy the travel, and some of the people we see out there.  Since we moved closer to New York we have been cooking more Mid-Atlantic than New England.  That has been a nice change for us, as we have met a lot of cool people on teams from the region.  Also, I left the New England Barbecue Society board last year on not the best of terms, so not seeing some people who drove me to walk away has not been such a bad thing.  And I really do enjoy a road trip, and BBQ gives us plenty of opportunity for that.

How many things in life are you going to be good at?  Through a lot of practice and cooking dozens of contests, we usually can expect to have decent results.  While we are not one of those top teams that expects to win every event, we always have a puncher's chance when we high step into town and have proven we can win against a strong field of teams.  If you're good at something and you still enjoy it, why quit?  For a few years I have had the discussion about packing it in with myself many times, and have determined that I just don't want to quit.

So now what?

In the short term, I need to throw a new floor in our trailer before the first contest, which will be Staten Island in early April.  I have stayed in game shape cooking for my brother's restaurant, Le Jardin du Roi in Chappaqua, NY.  They're a French restaurant, but more and more people are coming in for the ribs, burnt ends and other BBQ items my brother and I have been cooking for them.  It's been a great partnership, and is continuing to grow.  Stop in for some BBQ, it's not exactly our competition food but most of the elements are there. or on Facebook.

Longer term, we have pretty much our usual season planned.  Last year we cooked ten contests, which tied the most we have ever cooked in a year.  This year we will probably do about the same. 

So far the plan for 2015 is Staten Island, Green Lane PA, Roc City Ribfest, Mohegan Sun, Harpoon, Sam's Club Harrisburg, possibly New London and definitely Bear Smokehouse in Hartford.  That gets us into September.  We also have a trip to visit family in Tennessee planned for April, where I am taking Max to the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway.  And it looks like my brother and I will be road tripping to the Grateful Dead's final shows in Chicago on the July 4th weekend.  Looking like a real busy year.  Who knows, maybe I will post again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2013, A Season

The 2013 competition BBQ season is in the books.  Q Haven had a respectable year, and even qualified for the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ.  But overall, the season was a step backwards for us.

By far 2012 was our best season.  Counting grilling contests, we won three grand championships, one reserve grand, and came close at several other contests.  I had certainly hoped this would carry over into 2013 and there was really no reason why it shouldn't have.  While we finished towards the top at nearly every contest, we only won once, and at the two biggest money events of the year we laid colossal eggs.

The season started with a KCBS contest in Staten Island, NY.  Decided to rough it at this event, didn't bring the camper because I didn't want to tow in through NYC.  It was just me and J Ambrogio, who volunteered to help out since Sheila couldn't make it.  The highlight was first place brisket, the low points were the bad weather and cooking on a hill.  Finished 5th overall.

Next up, Green Lane, Pennsylvania.  Really tough field, one great call for 2nd place pork.  Finished 6th overall.  This is a great event but the bad weather really made things tough, many had to be towed out of the flooded field!  I slammed the Expedition into 4WD and blasted through the mud, getting out without needing a tow.

Up next was our last trip to the Greenwich Town Party.  While the concept of a contest organizer giving teams $1,000 to cook food for a BBQ people's choice with $12,000 in prize money looks great on paper, losing to a local restaurant that cooked pizzas and Asian wings was a little too much for me this time.  No more GTP for us.

The confidence began to rise the following weekend at the Monadnock Up In Smoke BBQ Festival in Swanzy, New Hampshire.  This was a great event with endless possibilities for the future.  We got calls all over the place in both the grilling and the BBQ contests.  In grilling, we took second in dessert, third in wings and 5th in the bacon category to finish fourth overall.  In BBQ, we took first place ribs, sixth in chicken and seventh in pork to wind up third overall.  Our friends Jared and Suzanne Huizenga killed it at this contest, winning both grilling and BBQ.  If you are not going to win, it's always great when your friends do.

Took a few weeks off to cook some catering jobs (somebody has to pay for all this ridiculousness) before heading up to Lake Placid NY for the I Love BBQ Festival.  This was one of the first contests we ever cooked in 2006, and we always come back up to this beautiful mountain town whenever we can.  Really glad we did this year, as we took 3rd in pork, fifth in ribs and sixth in both chicken and brisket to take grand champion honors.  This win got us back to the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ for the second year in a row and the third time in our seven years of competition BBQ.

A couple of weeks later we jumped right back into it, cooking the Pork in the Park contest close to home in Stamford, CT.  This ended up being a ton of fun.  We were inside a "courtyard of friends," made up of JC's Wicked BBQ, Diva Q, Stubborn Bull, Fire and Spice, BBQ Brethren and more.  We finished 5th with yet another call in pork, 3rd place.........

And that's where I stopped writing in January.  It's now May 14th.  I hate to leave work unfinished so I'll wrap it up.

We cooked Harpoon, Sam's Club in Long Island, New London and Atlantic City before heading back to the Jack.  Got good calls at all, but no wins.  Bombed AC, finished towards the bottom, which was like a kick in the nuts.  The Jack in October was fun but difficult, as it was just me, Sheila and Max with no helpers.  We still got a call for 6th place Pork, 11th place Brisket and finished 22nd overall among the world's best 2013 teams.

The 2014 season is now upon us, we finished 6th out of 41 teams in Staten Island, and that's been our only contest of the year.  We have all kinds of scheduling issues this spring, but have around 10 events on the schedule through October.

I may never post on this blog again.  If not, thanks to all of you who have read it over the years.  As you know social media has moved past blogs, and so have we.  But I appreciate all of you who have read, commented and messaged me over the years.  Even the insulting ones, some of those were my favorites.   You can find us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the future, and of course at Peace and Love.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Q Haven BBQ Catering

Q Haven's schedule is filling up fast for the 2013 season.  Q Haven is available for BBQ catering in Connecticut and southern New York.  For more information about having Q Haven's championship BBQ at your next party or event contact Ted Lorson by e-mail at

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Q Haven BBQ!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dinosaur BBQ In CT

Heard that Dinosaur BBQ is now open in Stamford.  I have previously visited their locations in Syracuse and in Troy NY and enjoyed the food.  I especially liked the fried green tomatoes.  Since Sheila works in Stamford a visit is certainly coming soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The 2012 Season In Review

Since I took a sabbatical from blogging for most of the 2012 season, I wanted to give a recap of the season, which was by far Q Haven's best since entering the competition circuit in 2006.

We kicked off the year with the New England Barbecue Society sanctioned Snowshoe Grilling Challenge on March tenth, which is the annual beginning of the competition season in New England.  We started the season off by scoring second place in the burger category, ninth in strip steak and eighth overall.

Next up was Grilling on the Bay in Brooklyn, New York two Saturdays later, which was also a NEBS event and ended up being Q Haven's first grand championship of any kind since 2006.  We took first place in the vegetable category with stuffed jalapenos, and also got calls for sixth place chicken wings and ribs and eighth place chef's choice to win grand championship honors.  It was awesome to finally win a contest, after cooking over 50 events between wins.

First Place Vegetables

We had more than a month off after Brooklyn, with our next event coming in May and Smoke in the Valley in Green Lane, Pennsylvania.  This was our first KCBS cook of the season, and our first since reworking the entire cooking program over the winter.  While we did not get any calls, our brisket was 13th and all four categories were in the top 23 in a field of 54 strong teams.  We finished 17th overall.  The bad news was that I forget that my slicing knife was in the dish water and I got a nasty cut, which required five stitches to close.  However, this was a great event, and we will certainly return again in 2013.

War Wound
This was followed by an unusual event we decided to cook, which was a people's choice contest at the Greenwich Town Party in our home state of Connecticut.  The categories were chicken and pork, and the format called for teams cooking as much food as they wish, but it all must be cooked on site and served in tandem on a single plate.  We finished third in pork and fourth in chicken, and did not miss winning either category by much, although we did win enough money to make it more than worth our while.  However, our good friends at JC's Wicked BBQ won both categories and a cool six grand, so it was not a disappointment at all.

Greenwich Set Up

It was another few weeks before we cooked again, making the annual trip to the New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest in late June.  We collected calls for third place brisket and ninth place ribs, finishing tenth overall.  It was also the first contest I used a new chicken process, and at 27th place it didn't work out too well.  But I learned a few things that served us extremely well in the next four contests.  We finished fifth overall in grilling in New Hampshire, including first place in the burger category.

Turn your head sideways
Then it all come together.

We cooked the Troy Pig Out in Troy, NY and took first place in chicken and brisket, fourth place pork and fifth place ribs to win our first KCBS grand championship since 2006.  We also took custody of Victor, the large plastic pig that serves as the Troy traveling trophy.  It was the first time Victor had not been owned by a Massachusetts team, and we were excited to bring him to Connecticut!

That's 2,257 days between KCBS victories for those of you scoring at home.

After a week off we headed to the Harpoon Championship of New England BBQ at their brewery in Windsor, VT.  Q Haven's roll continued with another first place chicken, second place pork ribs, fourth place pork and sixth in brisket, and once again we were grand champions.  Combined with a fourth place overall finish in grilling, strong vending sales and a great time with friends and family, this was by far the highlight of our season.  It also guaranteed us an automatic invitation to the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ in October.  We finally made it back to the Jack!
The Harpoon Team
Decided to try and ride the wave, and quickly signed up to cook the Battle of the BBQ Brethren in Manorville, Long Island NY.  For the third straight event, we took first place in chicken.  Also for the the third straight event, we took fourth place in pork.  Also got called for third place brisket, but it was not quite enough to take out Matt Ragusa and Jacked Up BBQ, who took grand championship honors and we had to settle for reserve grand.

Two weeks later it was back to Long Island for the first round of the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour event. The top six teams would move on to the regional final in Virginia, and we made it with a fifth place overall finish.  Also, we took first place chicken for the fourth straight contest.

We made it to the Sam's Club regional final in Chesapeake VA, but might as well had stayed home.  We finished 25th overall out of 30 teams, including a dismal 29th place brisket.  The only bright spot was a call for 7th place chicken.  The other bright spot was that we had a really good time.  It was just myself and my brother Cristiaan, and we had a nice trip.  Enjoyed a beautiful late summer day in Rehoboth, Delaware on the drive down, then had fun hanging out with some of the teams.  We had an especially interesting dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant with Tim Rohrs of Stubborn Bull BBQ, then got to watch him celebrate a strong 3rd place finish.

Our final event before the Jack was again in our home state of Connecticut, an event on the New London pier.  We again had a great time, and again got to watch Stubborn Bull have a great day, as they were grand champions.  We had a decent tune up before the Jack, getting calls for third place ribs and fifth place in both pork and brisket to finish 5th overall.

Then there was the Jack, where we got two calls and finished 18th overall, but I recently posted all about it and don't need to cover it further.

So what happened to turn the ship around?

Well, a few things.  First and foremost, sponsorship.  My brother Cristiaan's restaurant Le Jardin du Roi in Chappaqua NY stepped up as our sponsor in 2012.  They have covered the cost of much of our meats, rubs and other supplies, which has been a huge help.  It also helped to take Chris Hart's class, where I picked up a few tricks that certainly helped us take it to the next level.  It also helped that Sheila changed jobs, and now has a lot more time and flexibility in the summer, allowing her to be there and to be focused a lot more than in years past.

So now what?  Practicing in the cold, getting ready for 2013 is the winter plan.