Life has changed quite a bit over the past couple of years and I haven’t found myself needing the capacity that the Backwoods Pro Jr affords me. Rather than have it sit unused, I decided to list it for sale to see if there was any interest.
Indeed there was, and I’m happy to say that the pit has a new home. The new owner picked it up recently and now I’m down to a single Big Green Egg as my only BBQ pit…for now.
Through our efforts this weekend, I’m pleased to announce that Pig-Con Delta was averted. I received this traffic from the Kulinary Command Battle Staff (KCBS) commander to let me know that we have completed this exercise and that we’ll be doing it again next year.
EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE
TO: TASK FORCE BACKWOODS
FROM: KULINARY COMMAND BATTLE STAFF (KCBS)
SUBJECT: OPERATION HICKORY SMOKE III
1. BY ORDER OF LIEUTENANT GENERAL HARWOOD “LUMPY” CHARKOAL, COMMANDER KCBS, ALL “PRO JUNIOR” FORCES ARE DIRECTED TO STAND DOWN AND RESUME NORMAL OPERATIONS.
2. ASSUME POSTURE: PIG-CON ALPHA
3. THE COMMANDER AND HIS ENTIRE STAFF EXPRESSES THEIR DEEP APPRECIATION FOR YOUR PATRIOTISM AND DEDICATION TO THE MISSION (REAL WORLD). DUE TO YOUR EXORDINARY EFFORTS, ADVERSARY “GRUMBLING BELLY” HAS BEEN SUPPRESSED.
4. FOR FUTURE PLANNING PURPOSES, EXPECT AN RFF (REQUEST FOR FOOD) FROM KCBS ON OR ABOUT 23 OCT 2012. THIS RFF WILL INCLUDE DIRECTION FOR TF BACKWOODS TO EXERCISE DEPLOYMENT OF THE RAGING INFERNO BRIQUETTE SYSTEM (RIBS) AS A CONCEPT DEMONSTRATOR.
END OF MESSAGE
EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE
I never served, but I can support those who do. And the best part is that I can do it with something that I love to do; BBQ!
Ever wonder if you’ve got what it takes to venture out on your own and start your own BBQ catering or restaurant business? I know I have, and I do. I mean, who among us hasn’t walked away from a BBQ joint thinking, “My BBQ is at least that good”. Do you get stoked when friends and family lavish compliments on you and your BBQ and tell you that you should go into the restaurant business? I’m guilty on this one too.
If you answered either of the above questions in the affirmative, then a great place for you to start is with OnCue Consulting’s Business of Barbecue. OnCue is the hospitality consulting service from 17th Street Barbecue. Amy & Mike Mills are the father daughter combination and driving force behind the venture. They operate BBQ restaurants, catering, and vending operations every day and have a wealth of knowledge in what it takes to be successful.
In December, my wife spotted their ad for the 2-day “Business of Barbecue” seminar in the KCBS newsletter The Bullsheet. She contacted Amy and the two conspired to enroll me in the January class as a Christmas Gift. So last week I made the trek to Murphysboro, IL, and along with 19 other folks who share a BBQ dream, I got a first hand look at the operation and a ton of information to think about.
We met on Sunday night at the Marion, IL location of 17th Street Barbecue for a welcome reception. That’s where I got my first look at the kitchen operations for a BBQ restaurant. We got a personal tour from Amy, then a nice reception with drinks and appetizers.
Mike Mills at the Ole Hickory pit named Black BettyMonday morning we arrived at the banquet facilities at 17th Street’s restaurant & catering operations in Murphysboro, IL. We kicked off the day with more eats, while Amy laid out the agenda for the next 2 days. We each introduced ourselves to the rest of the class and I began to realize that I’m not the only one who has dreams that they aren’t quite yet ready to reach for. There were a number of folks in the class who were in the process of opening a BBQ business (restaurant, catering, or vending), but there were also a good number of folks who were there to satisfy there own curiosities. To their credit, it didn’t matter to Mike & Amy where you are in the process; they shared their insight and experience equally.
We split into 2 groups, ribs & chicken. Mike took a group into the catering kitchen and we spent some time learning about preparing and cooking ribs for the restaurant. The other group teamed up with one of my Mike’s very capable pitmasters to do the same with chicken. On Wednesday, the groups reversed and did the same.
Amy Mills with Braddog
Later on Tuesday, we wrapped up the marketing & PR piece of the seminar and then spent time as a whole class working on butts & brisket for the next day. At the end of the day, we had another great meal and had the opportunity to network with our classmates.
Wednesday, we covered vending and catering until it was time for the butts & brisket to come off the cooker. We enjoyed the butts & brisket for lunch, then wrapped up our second day with a discussion on pricing, a trip to the company store, and both individual and group photos with Mike Mills.
Overall, it was a great experience and one that I’d highly recommend. Mike, Amy, and their capable staff were great hosts. I came away energized and ready to put a few cooking techniques into practice. I also came away with a whole new perspective on the business of barbecue. Am I ready to run out and open a restaurant? No, but I have satisfied many of my curiosities and I know where to turn for help when I am ready to chase my BBQ dream.
I have the good fortune of living in the middle Mike Mills’ BBQ empire. I’ve enjoyed the BBQ at his restaurants in the midwest for quite awhile, and frankly it’s the yardstick that I use to measure most other BBQ restaurants (not to mention my own BBQ). I’ve also had the pleasure of making the virtual acquaintenace of Mike’s daughter Amy via the very active BBQ community that exists on the internet.
Last night my family treated me to dinner at 17th Street Bar & Grill, Mike Mills’ restaurant, for my birthday. As I commented via Twitter on the way to dinner, “If I can’t BBQ myself then I’ll gladly eat at 17th Street”. Amy picked up my message on Twitter and let me know that it so happened that Mike was going to be at the O’fallon joint for last night’s airing of “Food Feuds” on the Food Network. She let Mike know I was on my way and asked him to say hello.
Sure enough, Mike found us shortly after I arrived and I had the opportunity to chat with him for several minutes about the Food Network competition, eating and enjoying other folks’ BBQ, and the possibility of joining him for one of his On-Cue classes after the first of the year.
In spite of his accomplishments, Mike was as common as cornbread. He is exactly who I thought he’d be after reading his book “Peace, Love, and Barbecue“. It was like chatting with an old friend. Mike even sent around some special appetizers for us to sample and made a second stop by our table just to make sure that things were good.
Mike Mills and his family are perfect examples of the kind of folks that I’ve had the good fortune to meet along the way as I’ve enjoyed this uniquely American pastime called BBQ.
Oh, and congratulations to Mike and the crew at 17th Street for the win over Pappy’s Smokehouse on Food Feud last night.
A good friend & co-conspirator in some of my BBQ adventures is retired from the Air Force and now working as a civilian at the air base. Recently, he was on a project that had him and others working all weekend. So, we decided we’d show the service men & women a little BBQ love.
I received this flash traffic on Friday:
TO: HEADQUARTERS, BBQ-OLOGY
FROM: TASK FORCE FAT BOY
REF: OPERATION HICKORY SMOKE
OVERALL OBJECTIVE OF THIS OPERATION: DECISIVE SUPPRESSION ADVERSARY CODE NAME “GRUMBLING BELLY”
BBQ-OLOGY IS AUTHORIZED TO COMMENCE OPERATION HICKORY SMOKE ON OR ABOUT 2200L (0300Z) ON SAT, 6 NOV
DESIRED COMPLETION TIME/DATE OF OPERATIONS: ON OR ABOUT 1000L (1600Z) ON SUNDAY, 7 NOV
TASK FORCE FAT BOY WILL PROVIDE SUPPLIES AND SUSTAINMENT (BEVERAGES) TO BBQ-OLOGY NO LATER THAN 2000L (0100Z) ON SAT, 6 NOV
TO COMPLETE OPERATIONS, BBQ-OLOGY WILL BE REQUIRED TO RENDEZVOUS WITH TASK FORCE CAMBRO AND TRANSPORTATION TEAM ODYSSEY TO TRANSPORT REQUIRED SUPPLIES TO THE FEB (FORWARD EATING BASE)
ARU (ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT AND UNDERSTANDING) TO TASK FORCE FAT BOY
END OF MESSAGE
Based on the after action report, I’d say that the BBQ was a success and “Grumbling Belly” was soundly defeated.
A couple of years ago I was in my local grill and fireplace store, Hearthside Grill and Fireplace in Belleville, IL. As I chatted with the folks there, I found out that they were in process of becoming a Big Green Egg dealer. They took my name and number and I told them that I’d be happy to help them out any time and I’d like to be on their mailing list for any special events.
I’ve probably only been in the place a couple of times since then, but out of the clear blue sky I got a phone call about 2 months ago. It was the lady I’d spoke with and she was inquiring about whether I’d be available to demonstrate the Big Green Egg at their annual Grillfest. It seems that the regional BGE representative wasn’t available and all the other manufacturer’s reps would be there demonstrating their products. I readily agreed and the day finally arrived.
Grillfest 2010 at Hearthside Grill in Belleville, ILI enlisted the help of my neighbor and good friend and together we prepped 100 ABT’s, ribs, a fatty, and pork tenderloin for the event. I arrived at 7:30am and found the other reps alredy on site and beginning to cook. So I quickly got a fire going in both the large and extra-large Big Green Eggs that the folks had for me to use.
Dave Dey & Jay “Braddog” BradshawI staggered the start time of 3 racks of ribs so that the finish times would be staggered throughout the middle of the day. That worked really well. We put the fatty on with a pan of biscuits and had samples of those early in the day. We also had ABT’s going in small batches throughout the day.
Along about lunch time, the local Papa Murphy’s showed up with 16 ready-to-bake-pizzas so we configured the XL BGE for baking pizza. This was the first time that I’d cooked on an XL and the first time I’d cooked pizza on the BGE. This rocked! I’ll definitely be doing this again at home.
There were a couple of notable moments during the day that really provided me with a little personal validation.
I noticed the Holland Grill rep hanging around and listening to my conversation with a prospective buyer. Afterwards, he commented, “You guys are waaay better than the BGE rep”.
One of the guests had spent a lot of time with me talking about the BGE. He then wandered over to the Traeger tent and sampled a rib. He happened back by as I was serving up rib samples. He leaned over to me and said, “I know it’s not a competition, but your ribs beat the Traeger ribs hands down”.
It was a long day, but I loved it. I think the dealer was satifisfied with our effort and maybe they’ll ask us back next year.
I recently enjoyed the series of BBQ Round Tables conducted via the BBQ Central Radio Show (I subscribe to the podcast via iTunes). Over the course of 4 weeks, Greg Rempeinterviewed some of the top BBQ teams on their techniques for preparing each of the four KCBS meats.
I listened intently as the BBQ pros talked about trimming, rubbing, injecting, smoking, wrapping, presenting, and in same cases even tasting their product before turning it in for judging. I say in some cases, cause not all of them even bother to taste the product before turn in. I guess you gotta “run what ya brung” some times. So it may not matter what it tastes like.
For the most part, the pros agreed on the majority of the steps and there were only slight variations in their process. However, I was surprised to hear that 2 out of 3 of the pros only cooked pork butt for ~ 6 hrs. or so. They are starting the process around 3:00am, wrapping the butts after 3-4 hrs, and calling them done at 198* or so. They seem to focus their turn in on the “money muscle” ( I still haven’t figured out exactly what that is and I’m not brave enough to Google it ).
So I thought, if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me. I did a couple of butts recently and I used this hotter, faster method of cooking. What I discovered is that the outside of the butts were really good and pulled easily. However, at the core I thought they were still a little stringy and tough.
So I wonder, is there a difference between competition pork butt vs. pork butt prepared for consumption? It sure seems like it to me based on this one attempt. I have a coupe of big parties to cook for in the next month and I’m gonna stick with a 12 hr low ‘n’ slow for now.
What do you think? Is there a difference? Drop me a comment and let me know.