Tag Archive: King of the Smoker

  1. MABA Teams Have Strong Showing at Prestigious KOS Event

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    By Brian Walrath, Pitmaster of Brown Liquor BBQ

    Four MABA member teams had the extreme privilege and honor to compete in the annual Smithfield King of the Smoker Invitational earlier this month in Rancho Mirage, California.  Sterling Ball of well know Big Poppa Smokers created this event years ago to bring together the best of the best to compete in one last contest of the year in a format where the playing field is about as level as you can get.  It’s a literal who’s who of barbecue royalty mixed in with teams that have qualified by kicking butt week in and week out on the KCBS circuit and finishing toward the top.  Sterling hand picks 25 teams and provides much of what they need to cook, in many circumstances, a very long way from home!

    Our very own MABA President, Luke Darnell of Old Virginia Smoke was fortunate to be invited, along with Scott Adams and his team, Sauced!, Chiles Cridlin of Wolf’s Revenge, and Dave Pavone of Pavone Brothers BBQ.  Dave earned his way in by winning the Smithfield BBQ Classic earlier in the year!  All of these pitmasters had such a memorable time that they wanted to each share a little about their experience in California.  Way to go guys and thanks for sharing!

    Scott Adams, pitmaster of Sauced!

    When you get an invitation to spend a weekend at a beautiful resort in the Palm Springs, California desert and cook against 24 of the top pitmasters in the country it doesn’t take you long to say ‘Yes!’.

    We’ve been fortunate enough to get this invitation 2 years in a row and each time it has exceeded our expectations.  Being able to test your BBQ skills in an old school, no gimmicks, no frills, no holds barred cook off you really get to see who is the best pitmaster.  With a crowd like this you can have this event 24 times and you would potentially get 24 different winners.  There is a reason they call it King of the Smoker.

    Not too long ago, a BBQ competition used to be showing up with a smoker, a table and few chairs and a tent and sleep (maybe) while tending the fire and cooking meat you bought at the local grocery store or maybe local butcher.  The King of the Smoker takes you back to those days by making the playing field as even as you can make it.  Everyone gets the same meat, 2 whole chickens, 3 racks of ribs, 3 pork butts and 1 wagyu brisket.  Having major sponsors like Smithfield and Snake River providing the meat (and meals) show how important they think competitive BBQ is to their business  Add to that 2 prep tables, 2 chairs and the usual equipment (foil, pans, gloves, cutting boards) and you providing your knives, rubs, injections, marinades and sauces.  Most everyone gets to use the smoker they use back home and you are doing all of this under a tent, out in the open, for all to see.  No heading off in to your RV or trailer to put those secret touches on the meat without prying eyes.  It really is an event unlike any other.
    Sterling Ball, aka Big Poppa, and company make it a 5 star event and all of this is done to bring BBQ to the public in a way its not really presented anymore.  Out in the open for all to see.  Getting to interact with the ticket buying public after turn ins is a blast.  These patrons know they are seeing the best of the best and being able to go up and strike up a conversation with a top pitmaster is a truly unique experience.  And on top of it all money is raised for a great cause, the Casey Lee Ball Foundation.  Everything done here raises money for the foundation.  The event really takes BBQ for a good cause to a new level.
    Luke Darnell, pitmaster of Old Virginia Smoke
    This year, Old Virginia Smoke was blessed to be invited to cook at the Smithfield King of the Smokers event in Palm Springs, California.
    There is no other event like it.
    Sterling Ball and his team from Big Poppa Smokers make sure that the BBQ teams want for nothing.  All of the food for all of the functions – expertly prepared.  1st class entertainment.  Great learning opportunities and a real focus on interacting with the public.  Basically—a BBQ amusement park.
    The best part of the entire event however is the focus on charity, particularly raising more than $170,000 for the Casey Lee Ball Foundation.   The charity doesn’t stop there, as Big Poppa Smokers also awards funds to his teams in the Elite Team program to the charities of their choice.  The focus is on giving all weekend, and the experience was an inspiration.
    We had a fantastic time, meeting new people and seeing old friends, and cooking BBQ in an amazing setting.  There were many funny moments that you just don’t have at a BBQ contest, because we were all basically exposed.  There was no trailer to hide in.  Everyone had the same amount of space, and cooked out in the open. There was singing, dancing, lucky beers, unlucky beers and a camaraderie that has rekindled the love and excitement of what we do.
    Very proud of how the MABA teams cooked and participated!  The Mid-Atlantic is strong and did well in an all star field.
    Dave Pavone, pitmaster of Pavone Brothers BBQ

    KOS…Oh My!

    Pavone Brothers set out to win the Guinea Pig in Smithfield, VA in August 2017.

    Not that we don’t want to win them all but this one had a seat at the King of the Smoker up for grabs.

    KOS is a prestigious competition that only a handful of top notch teams get invited to. Well, we won; it was a surprise to even me.

    This was a double edged sword. Why? Because all I could think of was how to get ready for KOS. The logistics are a huge undertaking, NOT The KOS team, Jessie, Jody and James the flame.  They know just how to make everything work and man, work they did. Sleep…not so much.

    Now here is a thought, you call someone you do not know 2,500 miles away and say, “Hey, I am Dave Pavone and I get to cook KOS, would you mind lending me your  Jambo?”  I expected a very long silence, but right away I got a, “sure thing, I’ll have it there for you on Friday morning.”  From then on it was unreal!

    Our plan for KOS…family, food, and fun, and try not to come in last just like every competition we cook.

    At KOS,  you only need to worry about cooking.  It’s the Meca of BBQ, it’s BBQ Christmas, it’s the biggest, bestest BBQ party you will ever see. Every one is treated like kings and queens.

    I have never cooked a competition that catered to the cooks like this one. The welcome party was food, drink, music, and who knew Annella Kelso from Snake River Farms could sing? Full of surprises!

    I woke up early eastern time on the west coast, all very still on the competition site.  Then Big Poppa’s trucks started rolling in, and in what seemed like minutes, tent city was set up and everyone’s cook area was setup.

    If you said I need…you can bet it was there. We were provided box lunches on Friday during set up. Then right into meat draw.  Dinner followed and this was all top-notch food…no slacking.  I did not fix breakfast burritos as I would normally do, so I was pleased to see tamales being handed out to all the teams; and man I could have just keep eating them, they were the best I have ever had.

    Our cook went as normal, but I really liked our chicken and felt that was our best shot for a call.

    Our ribs were, well our ribs (not a good year for ribs).   The pork was average and I just knew it would not hold up to this group of cooks. Now my brisket – I loved my burnt ends but I overcooked the flat to my standards.

    We finished Chicken 17th out of 25, ribs 14th out of 25, pork 24th out of 25 (say what), and brisket 2nd out of 25, for a finish of 19th out of 25. So we were on top and on bottom and some place in the middle.

    On the plane ride over Jayne asked, “How do you feel?” My answer, “It’s like I am Rocky, I just do not know if I was doing the first or second show ☺.”  I made sure I met every team and every team had time to say hello and spend time talking. Poor Johnny Trigg,  I think I talked his ear off. Every team was top notch. Hell I got to cook next to Chris Lilly, needless to say, I was star struck from one end of this comp to the other.

    My goal is to get back to the best competition I have ever seen. Sterling Ball and crew not only out did any competition I’ve ever seen, but they also raised $160K plus for the Casey Ball Foundation that benefits kids pediatric kidney foundation. Just a note with all this BBQ competition and fund raising going on, Sterling’s son Casey was set for a kidney transplant the following Tuesday. I don’t think I could have kept my head on the competition especially one this far over the top.

    Chiles Cridlin, pitmaster of Wolf’s Revenge

    It’s not just about competition BBQ

    Over the past few years we have seen the social media postings about King of the Smokers or KOS for short.   Yes, it’s an invitational contest that is organized by Sterling C. Ball, or “Big Poppa” as we have come to know him.  Ok, so it’s a BBQ contest.  What’s the big deal?

    Guess what?  It’s A VERY BIG DEAL and arguably one of the biggest deals in BBQ!  This contest brings together 25 of some of the best cooking teams in the country, including more than a hand full of legendary pit masters!  This is also an invite to cook for one of the highest payouts (over $75,000.00) in all of competition BBQ.  King of the Smokers is a KCBS recognized contest  (I am not saying sanctioned because Team of the year or TOY points are not awarded) but the philanthropy, hospitality and format are like nothing we have ever experienced in BBQ.

    Imagine putting your rubs, spices and knives in the cargo hold of an airplane and traveling to the other side of the country.
    No trailers, no running water, no electricity for the pits, no digital monitoring devices or electric knives!  Only one lonely lightbulb from a single clamp on painters light is allowed to guide us through the cold desert night.  We also have no idea what the judges may be looking for on the West Coast.  The cook has not even started and we are already feeling the challenges of being outside of our time zone and way outside of our comfort zone.   The venue is the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort in Rancho Mirage, California and its five star all the way.  Every meal, including the reception, Sterling’s handmade tamale’s for breakfast, Smithfield and Snake River Farms provided proteins for dinners…  It was all over the top.  This could be a little intimidating as we are used to sleeping in trailers and eating gas station hot dogs, not fine dining and resort hotel rooms when on the road competing.

    The contest format is not typical for KCBS.   All the teams are given coolers via lottery containing two whole chickens (you have to turn in both white and dark meat), three Smithfield Prime racks of ribs, three Smithfield pork butts and one Snake River Farm brisket.   No one gets to bring in their own meats and there is even a secondary inspection after the coolers are received.   When you are used to turning in six thighs, one quickly realizes that two whole chickens don’t have six of anything.  More pressure…  At least we didn’t have to garnish our boxes and that’s a big relief.  Oh, chicken turn in time is 11AM and not noon.  All times have been moved up by an hour.  That’s ok, just keep the curve balls coming.

    Next we (and most other teams) had a smoker loaned to us that we have never cooked on before.  We were fortunate enough to land an Ole Hickory ACE BP (Big Poppa that is) and a brand spanking new BPS drum.   We fired the ACE up on Friday to make sure it would reach and maintain our preferred cooking temperature.  Bingo!  It worked like a charm and we can keep our timeline.  Santa needs to bring us one of these!

    All the teams are provided a 10×10 tent, two 4 foot plastic tables and basic supplies such as gloves, foil, paper towels, foil pans and charcoal.  A trip to the local Walmart revealed that there was an unexplained shortage of Blue Bonnet margarine…  Who would have bought all that?  Onto the next store and then the next.

    A quick look across the courtyard and we see the banners going up on the tents of all the teams.   It took the fingers on both of my hands to count that there was not one, not two but SEVEN pit masters that I have taken classes from!  To me, all of these guys are living BBQ legends and the ones I have not taken classes from will be or at least should be teaching BBQ classes in the future.  Either way, no pressure here, right? I am sweating and its 50 degrees out.

    With the exception of carving up the two chickens, our cook went without a hitch.  Barry and Randy (Wolf’s team mates) continuously reminded me how much faster the other teams were at trimming their meats on both side of us.  Thanks guys, more pressure.  With a few adjustments, we succeeded in nailing our timelines and still managed to make appealing presentations, even without garnish.  We finished first place in chicken with a score of 180, 11th in ribs and although our pork and brisket were near the bottom of the pack, Wolf’s Revenge BBQ placed 14th overall in a field of 25 of the toughest competitors and conditions we have ever faced.    As tough as it was, it was a very even playing field and tested our cooking skills in a way we had never been tested before, all while still having fun!

    That’s just the BBQ.  For those of you that have not picked up on the philanthropy and generosity that BPS does for different children’s charities, it’s worth taking a read at elite.bigpoppasmokers.com.   This single Smithfield KOS 2017 event raised over $167,000 for the Casey Lee Ball foundation for Pediatric kidney Disease Research.   100% of every dollar raised goes directly to the cause as this is truly a non-profit foundation.  In addition to the money raised for the foundation, Sterling also announced the contributions raised for the BPS Elite Teams.  Each BPS Elite Team gets to choose a charity near and dear to their hearts.  Based on how a team performs during the year, their KCBS points are tallied and a dollar value is assigned.  BPS cuts a check to the chosen charity on behalf of that BPS Elite team.  Over $35,000 dollars in donations were announced for those charities that span coast to coast and all for benefit of children.

    King of the Smokers is the best example of what can happen when big BBQ comes together with great cooking teams and both corporate and private sponsors, all for a great cause.  Everyone wins, especially the kids that benefit through BBQ.

  2. Interview With the Champs – Scott Adams, Sauced! BBQ

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    by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ

    The Sauced! BBQ team is a family team that’s been competing since 2009 and steadily have been getting better and better every year.  With a dozen grand championships to this name, pitmaster Scott Adams and his crew are starting to become one of the elite teams in not only the Mid-Atlantic, finishing fourth overall in 2016, but the entire country with a ninth place finish in all of KCBS!  Scott was gracious enough to answer some questions about his team and offer up some nuggets of wisdom that has helped him along the way.

    For folks who may not be familiar with Sauced! BBQ Team, tell us a little about your team, set up, equipment.

    Scott Adams, Sauced! BBQ:
    Sauced! BBQ consists of myself, my wife Joline, and my 2 kids, Zoe and Zane. We started out on an offset stick burner that I heavily modified before adding a Backwoods Party I bought on the cheap from another team.  We replaced the stick burner with a Stumps Elite 4 in 2013 and then went all Backwoods adding a G2 Competitor to go along with a Party. We’ve been using that setup since 2015.

    You’re already off to a great start in 2017, but let’s talk about 2016.  You cooked nearly 40 contest last year!  You had a great run including 5 GCs, 8 RGCs, impressive showings in the Sam’s Club National BBQ Series, and in Kansas City in the Open and Invitational.  Tell us about last year.

    SA, S!BBQ:
    Last year was definitely a banner year for Sauced! BBQ.  We started out well at the beginning of the year and just kept adding events, cooking anywhere and everywhere we could.  We cooked in 13 states, taking home a GC in 5 of them and logging just under 20k miles travelling the BBQ circuit.  We hit many new states for us including Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas and California.  Several bucket list items were checked off including the Sam’s Final in Arkansas, receiving an invite to the King of the Smoker in California and finishing in the top 25 of all 5 KCBS standings including 9th Overall.  The one bucket list item we didn’t get to check off was The Jack.  It felt good that we had 5 bungs in 4 different states but still didn’t get the draw.  We are hoping the luck is with us in 2017 and we can get that magical invite!

    You came out of the shoot strong this year already with a GC your first time out in Lakeland, FL and followed that up with an RGC in Young Harris, GA.  To what can you attribute your early season success?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    The biggest part of our success is we didn’t really have much time off so we never had a chance to get rusty.  We cooked in to December last year and then we started our 2017 at the Sonny’s Invitational in mid-January so we really only had a month off.  That allowed us to keep that routine and flow we’ve built over the last few years with a cooking process that is pretty much second nature to us at this point.

    What are your goals for the 2017 campaign?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    We hope to continue our success in to 2017. Our main goal is to get that Jack invite and hopefully be in the mix for team of the year when its all said and done.  We’ve been 9th and 10th the last 2 years so I am hoping we can close in on the top this time around.  Also, it would be nice to take home the Old North State Series (NC events) title.  We’ve been 2nd two of the last three years so we’ll see if we can get over the hump this year.

    Let’s go back a few years…tell us how you got into competition barbecue and what drives your passion to compete so much. 

    SA, S!BBQ:
    We cooked BBQ at home for a year or so and started to get the ‘you should do a competition’ comments from the friends we invited over to eat regularly.  We started competing in 2009 at an event in Lincolnton, NC.  By the end of the comp we had won People’s Choice and had a 6th place Chicken call. That was all she wrote.  We did 5 comps that first year and gradually increased it year by year as we got better and ended up doing 40 in 2016.  The main driver is the fun and camaraderie of the competition BBQ.  Cooking competition’s week in and week out is hard work so if it wasn’t for the great people we meet and see week to week I don’t think we would do as many as we do.  It also helps to have an awesome understanding wife who also enjoys BBQ and that lets us turn it in to a family event. The kids love going to BBQ and seeing new places and old faces.

    Q: What makes Sauced! BBQ Team different or unique?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    I think we are different/unique in that we are able to travel basically all over the country and have success at BBQ.  We have recipes that travel well and we aren’t afraid to take them on the road to faraway places.  We cooked against the best at competitions all over the country and were able to stand toe to toe with them and have success.  We are very proud of that. Also, we are unique in the ‘Cousin Eddie’ beat up RV we roll up to a contest in.  We certainly don’t look the part of a competition BBQ team.  Lol

    You’re in the southernmost state for MABA down in North Carolina…do you get up to the heart of MABA-land much or have plans to this year?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    We’ll do the most events we’ve ever done in MABA country this year.  We’ll be in West Virgina, Virginia a few times as well as Delaware and possibly Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

    Lexington style or Eastern NC style?  Duke or Carolina?  Beaches or mountains?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    Ha,  let me see.  Lexington style. I need some ketchup in my bbq sauce. Neither. I am a Florida State grad so if both duke and unc can lose every game I’m all for it.  Beaches. I prefer the heat over the cold anytime.  We really hit our BBQ stride in the August, the dog days of summer!

    I like to ask in this segment, what tip(s) do you have for competition teams to go from good to great and get that GC call?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    Simplicity and repetition.  Overly complicated processes are very hard to replicate week in and week out and especially so at a BBQ contest where you are sleep deprived and distracted.  Repetition is key. Once you find a process, flavor combo or method that works you can take out as many by doing the same things the same way every single time you do them.  I am the worst person to talk to when it comes to those convo’s at BBQ events about ‘have you seen this or tried that?”  I don’t change anything so I am not up on all the new rubs, sauces and injections. I found stuff that works for me and I use it and do it the same way every single week.

    Any parting shots, things we missed or anything to promote?

    SA, S!BBQ:
    I want to give a shout out to the Q Pine Nation, a group of our buddies who compete and travel with us.  They are quite a diverse group who can do about anything you need and are certainly some of the most fun people and best cooks you’ll ever meet.  Not to mention the mad skills they possess from rv repairs to property management to cable making to cigar smoking!