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. lejardinchappaqua.com 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.