As I begin to prepare for my upcoming 2014 competition schedule, I’m taking a look back at my awesome 2013 season. I wish I had done more comps and had more time to practice, but the surprise cookbook deal and a career change forced me to lay off the competition circuit for a while. Can’t wait to start again! Meanwhile, I was very proud of my team and the opportunity to represent a quality business towards the end of the year and into the new season. Many personal bests and goals were met in such a small sample size too…what a great year!
Main Street Blues Festival – Washington, MO (KCBS)
BAM! Just like that MLG got it’s first top call!!!
Blustering conditions in Washington, MO led to a frantic couple of days for a barbecue contest. The winds and the competition were vicious and we survived an extremely cold April night. For our first competition of the year, it was tough and exhausting…and that was just for Friday alone! I don’t know how I got through Saturday, when I actually had to cook and serve pulled pork for the People’s Choice side contest. All I know is, I couldn’t have done it without my crew…Dad, Tony and The General (Jamie).
Surprisingly, my chicken was the best the judges tasted that day! In fact, I was one “9” from attaining a perfect 180 score. Chicken was a total shock, yet we were almost disqualified for being late. Luckily, we made it on time and the judges loved it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t capitalize on this great score and compound it in the other categories.
Sams Club Tour (KCBS
How sweet it is to get my first top ten overall call in such a loaded field of BBQ teams and $500,000 of total prize money on the line. Despite the wet and frigid conditions (which may or may not have helped), we were 6 points shy of advancing to the next round in Oklahoma City, OK.
Once again, my team showed up when it mattered most at turn ins. By far, turn ins are the most exciting moments in competition BBQ, it’s comparable to those competition food shows on Food Network. Of course, chicken was almost DQ’ed again…with 3 seconds left to spare! And it took 1st place again…WOOHOO!
Brisket cost me a trip to Oklahoma City, OK. I need some serious practice, I got hammered for tenderness and flavor…horrible!
Legacy BBQ Championships (KCBS)
A few of my BBQ buddies came up with the idea of forming a super group and invited me to be apart of it. Bill Grenko, Alan Bowman, John Yeast and Arthur Aguirre (me) joined forces to create BAJA Pit Crew. We kept this project low key to surprise our competition in Effingham, IL. While it did surprise lots of folks, we finished middle of the pack…nothing to brag about, but we did have a lot of fun and we got 2 calls.
This was the most fun and relaxing time doing a competition. It was great to hang out with these fine pitmasters during the the whole event.
Grillin’ with Izzy (SLBS)
First GC of 2013!!! I had an opportunity to get sponsored for this BBQ competition. We partnered up with Fireside Hearth & Home (Arnold, MO) and we competed as Fireside Smokers for this SLBS event. We had a slick venue, inside the Gateway Grizzlies baseball park. My family had a blast watching baseball and winning the event.
Fireside Smokers results
- Grand Champions
- 2nd Chicken wings
- 1st Ribs
- 2nd Beef sliders
After the contest was over, we were packing up to leave and a huge storm came through the ballpark…I swear it was a tornado. We helped three senior citizens back inside the ballpark while our stuff was getting soaked and blown across the parking lot. The boys were terrified as we saw metal rails skating across the parking lot, just missing our vehicle. When the storm stopped and we all calmed down, we packed up the remains of our scattered equipment and left Sauget, IL. I may had to drive home wet and cold but winning was pretty sweet.
Wildwood Bash (SLBS)
Once again competing as Fireside Smokers…this time I enlisted the help of my friend Chef Todd Kussman to help create 8 dishes for the judges. This competition had almost one hundred teams competing over 3 days.
- 23rd Overall
- 36th Chefs Choice
- 29th Pork Steaks
- 54th Dessert
- 60th Chili
- 46th Chicken
- 8th Ribs
- 2nd Pork
- 39th Brisket
In the last comp of the year, my ribs finished strong, while my chicken was a disappointment for the first time this year. The surprise was pork, I changed the recipe, something I normally don’t do during the season, but I wanted to see how it did at such a large event…it passed. Brisket…I hate you. Chef Todd cooked up a phenomenal Spanish paella served in mason jars and infused with apple wood smoke….brilliant! I don’t care what the judges thought of it…that tasted delicious! So did the buttermilk raspberry pie and chorizo chili….mmmmm!