By Amy Overbey, MABA Board Member and Co-Pitmaster of Team Meat Coma
WHO IS ON THE TEAM AND WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Gordon Stebbings – Lutherville, MD
Justin Eckard – Hampstead, MD
Luke Thomas – Towson, MD
Josh Ackerman – Lutherville, MD
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN COMPETING?
We competed a handful of times in both 2015 and 2016, but 2017 is the first year we set out to treat competitions as more than expensive camping trips.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR TEAM NAME/LOGO?
TEAM NAME – We used to compete as Dr. Chim’s Smokeshow. It wasn’t long before we realized that the name wasn’t nearly as witty as we’d originally thought, and we became tired of having to constantly explain it to folks who aren’t big fans of the movie Anchorman. It turns out 99.9% of people have never seen that classic film! So we needed a new name – all of the obvious sexual double entendre that is common in bbq team names was out because our families sometimes attend events. I assume the next part is something that a lot of folks went through when arriving at a team name; think of a great team name, then do a search on KCBS.com and subsequently have your dreams crushed because six other teams already have the name. One glorious day I searched for ‘Porks & Rec.’ No one had that exact name! I sent one email, they updated our name. It was an anticlimactic end to nonsensical self-imposed stress that only bbq teams will understand.
LOGO – A friend of mine was both an Under Armour employee and an aspiring hipster. In his free time he used company software to draw our logo. He opted for the upright pig on a spit instead of the correct hog-tied more morbid version that I suggested. I think he made the right call.
WHAT SMOKER(S) DO YOU COOK ON?
Humphrey’s Pint and a Louisiana Grill.
IF YOU COULD ADD A 5TH CATEGORY, AND IT CAN BE ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I know the correct answer to this one…An eating contest. Ten minutes. Two members from each team. Anything from McDonald’s. In an effort to avoid garnish we would prefer breakfast sandwiches or McNuggets, but we’d settle for Big Macs. Dipping sauces are optional.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO COOK (CAN BE A FAVORITE COMP, BUT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE, CAN BE ANYWHERE)?
While on vacation.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BEVERAGE AT A COMPETITION?
Cans of Flying Dog Raging Bitch, but we also have drinking traditions.
ANY COMPETITION SUPERSTITIONS OR SOMETHING YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT AT A COMPETITION?
No superstitions…other than which specific shirts each of us wear at various points during the weekend, our lucky piece of wood, Friday night pina coladas, James E. Pepper Rye, my specific turn-in day deodorant, Justin’s cooking shoes, graham crackers, salt and vinegar chips, Josh isn’t allowed to sleep in the trailer, exact place we each stand at awards, Wild Berry Skittles…I honestly forget most of them.
WHAT IS YOUR GO TO FOOD AFTER A COMPETITION?
Pizza on Saturday night, then Sunday morning biscuits and gravy.
IF YOU WEREN’T COMPETING ALL WEEKEND, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Depends on the time of year. Ideally, it’d be the fall, and I’d likely be neck-deep in watching college football while simultaneously cooking an epic meal and reminding my 2 year-old daughter not to bite the dog. Roll Tide!
by Mark Gibbs, Pitmaster of The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
The 2017 Mid Atlantic BBQ region kicked off in cold style in Brunswick, Maryland with the first annual Great Brunswick Throwdown. Beth Johnson and her team did a great job under some tough conditions to make this first year event a good one. There were a few logistical hiccups, which we find at most first year contests, but Beth was there to do her best to make us all comfortable! The small town of Brunswick was very welcoming to teams and we all did our part to help add to the local economy too. A couple of the local eateries were pretty packed when we visited them!
The weather was the story of the weekend. The high for the event may have been in the upper 30’s. I know that the thermometer on the big blue trailer was reading about 17 degrees at 2:30am on Saturday. Despite the chill in the air, the smokers were rolling and the 50 teams all were able to get turn in’s done and on time! Well done teams!
It was great catching up with old friends and meeting some new friends this weekend. The social scene was a little off because of the cold weather, but everyone seemed happy to be back out on the BBQ trail again in 2017. I know that the consensus among the teams that I spoke to was a resounding yes to a 2nd Annual Throwdown in 2018!
Congrats to Luke and Kim Darnell from Old Virginia Smoke on the Grand Championship and to Chiles Cridlin and the Wolf’s Revenge team on the Reserve Grand! OVS took home top Chicken honors with a 180 score, Beer Meets Grill brought home the big Ribs trophy, Wolf’s Revenge tore up pork with a perfect 180 and Lo’ & Slo’ won the Brisket category. A shout out goes to all of the teams that were called and we are looking forward to Urbanna, Virginia and BBQ Gives Back for the next stop on the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association schedule!
First place winners:
Chicken – Old Virginia Smoke (perfect 180!)
Ribs –Beer Meets Grill
Pork –Wolf’s Revenge (perfect 180!)
Brisket –Lo ‘N’ Slo BBQ
Grand Champion –Old Virginia Smoke
Reserve Grand Champion –Wolf’s Revenge
Eric Forrester, owner of Mason Dixon BBQ Supply in both Frederick, MD and the flagship store in Greencastle, PA has been in the barbecue game for well over a decade and has one of the most unique contests in the nation. He’s a wealth of knowledge of competition barbecue in the Mid-Atlantic and has always been a big supporter of MABA and a business member of the association for a long time. We wanted to get-to-know Eric a little better and find out more about his start in barbecue, his businesses, but mostly his KCBS competition, the Ironman. He was kind enough to answer all of our questions and I think you’ll agree, it was quite interesting and as Eric is, quite entertaining!
Tell us a little about your history in barbecue and how you came to be the owner of two barbecue businesses in the Mid-Atlantic.
I was born at a young age and everything after that was blur until I got my glasses at age 7….(Ha, thanks Groucho Marx!) At 14, my first job was in the restaurant business and that continued through and after college. I was recruited by General Mills (they owned Red Lobster back then) to become part of a 5-person team to open new restaurants along the Eastern seaboard. I opened 12 restaurants in 3 years and closed and re-opened another 4 stores.
When the GM stopped opening stores, I was assigned to the Red Lobster in Hagerstown, MD and I decided to go back to school for my masters degree and “escape” the restaurant lifestyle. I catered for a couple of years and after getting my masters, I got into manufacturing and eventually owned a part of a company that made construction equipment. I sold my share in 2001 and became the COO of Blue Ridge Mountain Cookery – BRMC made high-end catering grills for the military, restaurants, rental, and universities. My “foodie” side kicked in and I started getting into competition barbecue on custom smokers that we built and a Jedmaster Smoker. We competed in 10 competitions from 2004-2006 under the name Smoked Encounters of the 3rd Swine. Primarily in MIM (MBN) comps; our best finish was RGC at the National Capital BBQ Comp in DC. In 2007, I left BRMC and started my own company – CELF Services, LLC., doing sub-contract metal finishing work for military applications.
In 2009, things were moving along pretty wall and I was looking for more to do and to maybe get back in the food business. I had decided to purchase a bar/restaurant in Shippensburg, PA; so after my wife stepped on my head (in a good way), I decided not to go into the bar business, but to open a BBQ Supply Store instead – she was good with this! I was friends with the guys at Meadow Creek and was selling their units to the military through a GSA Contract already, so I modeled my store after their store in New Holland. That was it – Mason-Dixon BBQ Supply was born! I still have/kept CELF Services and thought Mason-Dixon would be a write off for me for a few years, but we have done well and it has never worked out that way!
After getting beat up by Maryland customers for a few years, I opened the store in Frederick in 2014 and have considered opening a 3rd location in Winchester, VA…we’ll see.
When was the first Ironman event here at Mason Dixon?
The first official event we did was in 2012 – The Go Naked BBQ Show(down) – a ribs & chicken Backyard Event that forbade the use of any electronics to prep, cook, or finish with. No pellet cookers, no Guru controls, no electric knives, no stay-in thermos, etc. We kept it as Go Naked for 2 years and then added THE IRONMAN component and turned it into a 4 meat competition in 2013.
Eventually I wanted to grow this into a full-blown KCBS Comp. I had run several other competitions – Smoketoberfest (3 yrs) and the Memorial Day Pignic – and wanted to get sanctioning, but ran into issues with KCBS. Our format was fun, hard, and the teams seemed to like the challenge, but KCBS said we couldn’t force teams to limit their meat…that’s when I had an epiphany (or stroke, who knows) that we could be KCBS sanctioned if the teams voluntarily agreed to the limitations. So that’s what we did and went KCBS in 2014. This is officially our 4th year as a KCBS competition as THE IRONMAN.
Talk about the special rules association with the Ironman format?
1. No electric devices to be used in the prep, cooking, or presenting of competition meats – no Guru/Stoker/Flame Boss controls, no Pellet Cookers, no electric rotisseries, no electric knives, no stay-in thermometers. Just you, your pit, and meat. (Maverick/Thermopen/stick-in thermos are OK – food safety!).
2. Limited meats! If you call yourself a Pitmaster, you should be able to cook! In most comps you can cook as much meat as you want…but at THE IRONMAN, you can only cook (1) brisket, (1) pork butt, (1) rack o’ ribs, (7) pieces of chicken (1 to taste). There is even a “challenge group” now that puts all (7) pieces of chicken in! (Editor’s note – I have it on good authority that the winning chicken box in 2016 contained all 7 pieces!)
What made you decide to do a contest in this non-traditional way?
Eric: As with all good ideas, this was hatched in a bar and drinks were involved. Some of you might remember Tim McMaster (Porter Mac’s Rockin’ Q) and Dave Nash (Pot Belly BBQ)…well, we were all drinking (not sure how that happened) and started talking about the Pitmaster TV show and how one of the competitors on there couldn’t operate the Egg without the Guru…some of you might remember that…ugh. See, I still feel the same way about it. Don’t get me wrong, electronic controls are marvels of science, but you should know how to operate your Pit without one – especially if you call yourself a Pitmaster on national TV. Anyway, one thing led to another and Go Naked BBQ was born.
Two years later we were trying to make it even more challenging and Mark Flanigan suggested limiting the meat. I thought this was a great idea, so we did it and THE IRONMAN was born – incorporating the “no electric” clause as well! We have toyed with the idea of having teams bring their meat in and putting it in coolers, then having a blind draw where the teams “draw” for meat coolers, but I think this will put KCBS over the top and will threaten our sanctioning. This would, however, make the field more level when it comes to meats being cooked, i.e. – one team can afford the expensive Wagyu brisket and another team can’t…but again, I don’t think we can get this through KCBS.
This has been a very popular contest over the years, why do you think so many teams like it so much?
Well…like any good comp, it has a lot to do with the organizer…ha! We’ve traditionally been the first cook of the season for many of the Mid-Atlantic teams and we are an “inexpensive” contest to start with. A lot of teams really like the different format as well. It’s a challenge and makes you really tend to your pit and your food – one mistake can cost you, there’s no “fallback” entry!
THE IRONMAN now sells out each year and we attract teams from 7 different states and Canada. We are also what I call a “cooks competition” in that, while this is in conjunction with the Mason-Dixon BBQ Open House, we don’t attract 10,000 spectators, so the atmosphere is much more relaxed and the public doesn’t get in the way. The cooks can socialize and have some fun without any concern for the public interfering with their cook…or their fun.
THE IRONMAN has also introduced 22 new teams to BBQ competition over the past few years. This year we’ll have 4 teams that have never competed before. At $200 it’s inexpensive and you don’t have all of that meat cost normally associated with a competition. Also, because it is low-key, these newbies can really talk with other teams and get a leg up.
Let’s talk about the weather shall we? Your contest has always been at the beginning of the typical “BBQ season” in the Mid-Atlantic and sometimes the weather can be, I’ll say…interesting in Pennsylvania in late March, early April. Can you comment on that and also give us your annual promise for weather conditions for this year’s contest?
As I explain to everyone, weather is a state of mind. Do you see birds whining when it’s cold? No, they just freeze to death and fall off the line! But they don’t feel sorry for themselves at any point! So, while weather at THE IRONMAN has been temperamental at times, it’s still fantastic if you have the right mind-set! And if you freeze to death, we’ll give you a nice send-off!! That’s how we roll!
We’ve had cold, windy nights (I think the record for lost canopies is only at 9!), nice nights, rainy days (maybe a little sleet), and one beautiful day!! So THE IRONMAN, like me, is well-rounded.
Last year, we had a great weekend with temps in the mid 50’s, partly sunny, and no 50mph winds until after 3pm on Saturday. Despite rumors that I had sold my soul to the devil for good weather, that’s completely untru…there might have been some dancing and sacrificing of chickens, but that’s voodoo and not the same thing! This year I’ve sent a letter to Donald Trump asking for an Executive Order for tree-e-e-mendously good weather! I think I’m in!!! But just in case, bring a long sleeved shirt.
What else about your contest makes this event special?
As with all my events, we do some fun stuff for the teams…on Friday evening we have a pizza party – free pizzas for all teams and team members – after all, who wants to eat BBQ?! I always think we get enough and it’s like a wave of vultures when we bring them – and I never get a piece – but I digress. In an effort to stem the pizza purge we also offer free “Boat Drinks” to all of-age competitors! A fruity concoction of rum and juices to make everyone happy! It’s a grand effort to have everyone relax and visit….because, if nothing else, the BBQ family is great and it’s a lot of fun to visit with everyone.
All of my events also involve charity…gotta give back. This year we are raising money through The Wing Thing – a People’s Choice Wing Competition! All the teams cook 10lbs of wings that are sold to, and voted on by, the dreaded public. This year we are raising money for the Greencastle Relay4Life. They are a good crew and because we work with the local branch, the money stays here and they do great things for the local community. I am a big believer in giving back.
We also invite other charities to come and set up displays at THE IRONMAN. Better Days Animal Shelter will be here, Make-A-Wish is coming, etc. Also, instead of paying Mason-Dixon BBQ, all food vendors and craft vendors have to donate their vending fee to the charity…which is also pretty cool!
LAST, but not least, it is FREE for the public to get into THE IRONMAN. We don’t charge a parking fee or a gate fee. This is a great family event that revolves around the love of BBQ. We don’t run THE IRONMAN to make a profit for Mason-Dixon BBQ. All proceeds from the event go to supporting local charities, team pay-outs, and the coveted IRONMAN trophies!
Ok, here’s your chance to plug the business(es)! Anything special going on during the contest weekend for customers, teams, enthusiasts?
As I mentioned before, we do THE IRONMAN as a part of the Spring Open House at Mason-Dixon BBQ – Greencastle. In addition to the Competition, we have sampling and demonstrations all day long – I think last year we gave away 400lbs of food! There is also live music, door prizes, etc.
We have a modified Eggfest with demonstrations, huge discounts, tastings, and 15% DISCOUNT ON BIG GREEN EGGS! In addition, if you purchase an Egg that day, we team you up with an Egghead and give you meat – that way you not only purchase an Egg, you cook on it too!
EVERYTHING IN THE STORE (with the exception of Backwoods and 270’s) IS 10-50% OFF. When you have decided on your purchases, you get to pull your discount at the register….and yes, there are 20%, 30%, 40%, and even 50% off discounts in the jar! So Weber, Meadow Creek, Uuni, and Bradley cookers are at least 10% off; as are all accessories – Mavericks, Flame Boss, Spitjack, etc.; all rubs and sauces; and charcoal, pellets, etc. – you get the idea!
270 Smokers will be $100 off and we will waive the freight and crating fee off Backwoods, so they will sell at retail alone!
For teams, we will be offering these discounts on Friday after 2pm as well! We’ll also be offering financing (with pre-approval) for 6 Months same as cash purchases! (If interested in this, let us know at least a week prior!)
Discounts will only be available at the Greencastle store! We are looking to put together an Open House at the Frederick store sometime in May! Any ideas for something cool?
Any parting words for our readers or folks on the fence about signing up for the Ironman?
The IRONMAN is about 6 weeks away and we are full at 60 teams! Yeah, I know that’s a surprise…it’s a surprise to me too! Ugh. It’s like an addiction, I just can’t say no! But WE ARE NOW DEFINITELY FULL!!!
I’m looking forward to the warm Spring weather and seeing everyone!!!!
That’s right – We’re giving away more contests, prizes, and smokers at the MABA Annual Meeting than ever before! MABA members can attend for FREE and their guests are only $10 per person.
To win the contest entries and other various prizes, you must attend the MABA Annual Meeting to win. However, we will be selling online raffle tickets for the separate drawing of not one, but TWO cookers this year and you don’t have to be present to win one of those!
Please note that with the new venue we have to have an accurate count for food and beverage! So, please register for the annual meeting here. Guest tickets can also be purchased at that link. Only pre-registered MABA members and their paid guests may attend the annual meeting.
You’ll also not want to miss the announcement of new board members elected by you, the members of MABA. We’ll also be giving away awards for the Team of Year chase. You won’t want to miss seeing who finished in the top ten in each category and overall!
Contests that have confirmed they will be donating an entry to raffle off at the 2017 MABA Annual Meeting! Please support these generous organizers and if you see them out there this year, please thank them for supporting MABA!
BBQ Gives Back – Urbanna, VA
BBQ Jamboree – Fredericksburg, VA
Chillin & Grillin In The Glades – Wise, VA
13th Annual Recovery Fest/8th Annual BBQ State Championship – Richmond, VA
Que & Cruz – Louisa, VA ($150 credit toward entry)
Historic New Castle Colonial BBQ Competition – New Castle, DE
Boo-B-Que – Rehobeth Beach, DE
Que by the Sea – Seaside Heights, NJ
Red, White and Que – Cresskill, NJ
NYC BBQ Cookoff – Staten Island, NY
Salt City BBQ Festival – Syracuse, NY
Finger Lakes Fire & Smoke – Geneva, NY
Almost Heaven BBQ Bash – Weston, WV
The Ironman – Greencastle, PA
Smoke in the Grove – Spring Grove, PA
21st Annual Fire House BBQ Cook-Off – Kings Mountain, NC
Jiggy With the Piggy – Kannapolis, NC
Kings of Q BBQ cook off and Festival – Ayden, NC
Tilley Harley-Davidson Biker Blues BBQ Rally and BBQ Classic – Salisbury, NC
Butts and Beans BBQ Challenge – Newton, NC
Eastern Carolina BBQ Throw Down – Rocky Mount, NC
Earlier this month, Sauce This BBQ out of Easton, MD took home grand champion honors at the Beltway BBQ Showdown in Ft. Washington, MD. Danny, Mark, Darryl, and Ryan are a bunch of great guys and were nice enough to answer a few questions for us…check ‘em out below:
Q: Congratulations on your recent win in Ft. Washington at the Beltway BBQ Showdown. How did it feel to go home with the Grand Championship?
Sauce This BBQ: It really caught us by surprise and was frankly very overwhelming.
Q:How did your cook go…did you have a feeling this could be the day?
STBBQ: Our cook went fairly smooth other than it being confusing to cook without rain pouring down. We honestly didn’t feel like this could be the day we won the GC. To be honest, we took some extra comfy chairs to the awards and expected to stay in them the entire time.
Q: Tell us a little about your team and teammates.
STBBQ: All of us Danny Youngblood, Mark Kenney, Darryl Anderson and Ryan Davis have been friends for years. Danny and Mark were golf partners when Danny decided to form a Competition BBQ team and asked Mark and Darryl if they would like to partner up with him. We figured that there was no way he could be worse at BBQ than he is at golf so why not give it a go. Our fourth member, Ryan Davis joined us early in our second season and has a growing amount of responsibilities.
Q: How many GCs is this for your guys?
STBBQ: This is our 3rd GC
Q: What makes Sauce This BBQ different or unique?
STBBQ: Not sure if we are unique really and it is probably fair to say all of us BBQ Competitors are a little ‘different’. A huge part of the pull of competitive BBQ is meeting and becoming friends with so many teams. We have been friends for a long time so very little is off limits any more. There are lots of shots fired at each other, but all in good fun.
Q: What kind of equipment and set up do you have?
STBBQ: We have a Lang 84 Deluxe for 3 meats and a G2 Chubby for chicken. We cook out of a trailer we found in someone’s backyard after our second contest. With the 4 of us not being the neatest people, we do virtually everything outside.
Q: Will you do the Royal this year since you’re now qualified for the invitational? Any others on your radar now that you’ve got a GC under your belt for this year?
STBBQ: We doubt we can fit in the Royal this year but of course have our fingers crossed that we get a chance to go back to the Jack.
Q: 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?
STBBQ: Work hard to be as consistent as you can with your cooks and be hard on your own product.
Q: Any parting shots?
STBBQ: Shots? Shots sound good! 9:22am?
Q: I heard there was some kind of date Thursday night with one of your teammates in Ft. Washington…is this true and was it a factor in your big win?
STBBQ: What happened at the Beltway BBQ Showdown, stays at the Beltway BBQ Showdown…It was magical!