Interview With the Champs – Wolf’s Revenge
by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ
Pitmaster Chiles Cridlin and Randy Grigg of Wolf’s Revenge from Richmond, Virginia have been on the competition trail for a while now. Chiles takes a more analytical approach to barbecue and puts in a lot of time practicing, researching, and learning his craft from a wide variety of resources. Wolf’s Revenge has become a marquee team in the Mid-Atlantic over the last few years and they have a legitimate shot to win anytime they pull up the trailer and light the smoker. Chiles agreed to answer a few questions about their team, approach, and recent HUGE win at the Sam’s Club Regional event in Charleston, South Carolina.
Congrats on winning the Sam’s Club regional in Charleston, SC. How did you qualify for the regional contest?
Chiles Cridlin, Wolf’s Revenge:
Thank you and it’s still a bit much to believe. After all, we were competing against friends and mentors who consistently turn in award winning BBQ. We qualified at the Harrisburg, PA SAM’s Club back in June. We were fortunate enough to finish Reserve Grand behind that winning machine of a team Checkered Flag 500. Have you heard of them? 🙂 We also competed at our local home SAM’s qualifier in Richmond, VA. It’s a good thing we Reserved in Harrisburg because we landed 8th in Richmond and would not have made it to the regionals otherwise.
Tell me about going all the way down to Charleston to compete.
It’s a solid seven hour drive from Richmond with pulling a trailer and fuel stops and a trip we were not looking forward to. We competed in the SAM’s local there back in 2014 and were beaten up pretty bad with our recipes and swore we’d never go back (famous last words). We were over 6 hours into the trip when we realized the generator on the trailer had broken a weld on the muffler and had to be shut down. SAM’s club contests only offer a single 20 amp power outlet so having a generator is a must if you have a trailer when it’s hot – and boy was it HOT. We were anticipating not having ours to use but a trip to Lowes after dinner and some pipe clamps kept us up and going. It’s a good thing too because around 9AM, the SAM’s generator blew a radiator hose and the entire competition was without power. I’m thinking we may need add a spare to our spare.
Did you feel like you had a good cook and were confident going to awards?
It was a very good cook for us, at least better than our average anyway. Our chicken was a bit overdone for our liking (I’m blaming the North Charleston heat on that one) and we were a surprised that we received a call. Our ribs were some of our best ever but no call (it happens) and we tried something very different with the pork box which paid off. Pork has not been a strong category for us this year. We definitely had some table luck on our side for that competition. The best part of the cook was when Tuffy Stone shared the North Charleston / South Carolina mustard secret with both us and Jimmy Richardson from Smoke-Aholics. I’d like to say it kept is in the running but we will never really know for sure.
Let’s talk about Wolf’s Revenge…tell me about your team name, your team, and your competition set up.
My godson came up with the name back in 2011. I was competing as Big C’s Stew-n-Q prior but only doing one or two competitions per year. I had added a few friends to the team and it wasn’t just Big C’s any more. Everyone knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Our version of the story has a different ending where the brick house gets turned into a smoke house and the wolf gets his revenge! Another friend did the artwork, T-Shirts were made and Wolf’s Revenge BBQ was up and running. Randy Grigg is our primary team mate and we have a few other friends that help out as their time permits. Randy’s schedule allows for the twenty plus competitions per year and he does most of the driving. We have a 34′ Custom Concessions BBQ vending trailer and I am thankful Randy does not mind doing the long hauls like down to North Charleston. By the way, I would recommend Custom Concessions to anyone looking for a commercial vending trailer. Their customer service and quality are amazing and I feel very good about the money invested in that purchase. If we are going to continue with this kind of schedule, we will need a 5th wheel with living quarters. The only other thing that would make us unique is our smoker. We designed it, built it with the help of Chase Architectural Metals here in Richmond and is the smallest, portable rotisserie that can fit all the competition meats and has its own built in temperature control system. I have three months of nights and weekends into grinding, welding and electrical work. Our first competition with it back in 2012 earned us a Reserve Grand right behind 3-eyze in Palmyra, VA. Its part water cooker, part Ole Hickory, part… well, it looks like a hotel ice maker so I am told. Anyway, it works great and we can’t afford to make another one any time soon.
So, will you make the trek to Bentonville, Arkansas for the Sam’s Club finals?
You better believe it! Hotel reservations and vacation requests have already been made so it’s just a matter of waiting for the date to get here. We have two more competitions between now and then. (Tilly’s Harley Davidson in Salisbury, NC and then Sunset Beach BBQ in Cape Charles, VA). We’re taking advantage of every opportunity to tweak our timelines and recipes.
Ok, I always ask our winning pit masters this…what’s the one tip you have for those teams to help them break through and win their first GC or up their game in competition BBQ?
Take a class. Take another class after that. There are a few teams that pick on me for taking as many classes as I do but here’s my philosophy…
- Taking a class is cheaper than a contest by the time you add the cost of your meats, entry fees, etc.
- Classes are usually full of really cool people that have the same interest as you such as learning and winning and there is more social interaction at a class.
- There is no stress in taking a BBQ class like there can be at a BBQ competition.
- There is always something to learn from an accomplished BBQ instructor.
- You get more sleep at a BBQ class because most likely, the big meats will be on while you’re snoozing away.
- BBQ almost always tastes better when it’s cooked by someone else and you didn’t have to stand in the smoke for hours.
- You get free stuff like rubs and t-shirts and discounts with the major suppliers. The list goes on…
I can honestly say I have enjoyed some classes way more than some competitions. It’s just a win-win and I always take something away from a class that I can use. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new. Our biggest breakthroughs has happened because we ventured out of our comfort zone during a competition, but we only change ONE THING AT A TIME. You have to keep some control over your cook to learn from it.
Tell our MABA audience about the special thing you serve at the traditional MABA good luck shot on competition Saturday morning.
First, let’s be politically correct and call it the MABA Toast. MABA Shot just does not sound good coming back from the Recovery Fest.
Randy is our resident Barista. Coffee drinks are his specialty but right now he is making something he calls the “Peppermint Patty” He always has a cooler filled with chocolate, coffee cordials and schnapps’. What he makes is full flavor, not full alcohol though. We all still have to cook and be on our game.
What’s in store for the rest of the year for Wolf’s Revenge?
They say be careful what you wish for and there is some truth to that. I cooked my first contest back in 2008 and dreamed of getting to the American Royal Invitational or the Jack Daniels. We’ve been blessed (truly) to be invited to participate in both this year which means a lot of driving, logistics, time away from work and families. As much as we are looking forward to the experience, we also know that we are the small fish in a very big pond. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to get where we want to be. Oh yeah, and let’s try not to forget Rule #1 of BBQ… Have fun!
Anything else to add before we sign off?
Wow, there are so many folks that I want to say thank you to for helping us to get this far. Let’s start with KCBS and MABA for providing the framework for the hobby that we have all fallen for. The other teams for some great camaraderie and of course our friends and families that support us while we pursue BBQ perfection. Oh… and the Tuffy Stone North Charleston BBQ Mustard secret? Tuffy walked over to our trailer with a bottle of French’s and waived it over our smoker like he was blessing it. He said that’s all we ever need to know about using mustard in North Charleston.
See you on the BBQ trail,