Tag Archive: North Carolina

  1. Interview with the Champs – Old Colony Smokehouse

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    By Brian Walrath, MABA BOD and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ

    Congratulations on your recent victory on Chopped!  You sure made the Mid-Atlantic proud and represented the great state of North Carolina well.

    Thank you! Being part of Chopped! was a great experience and I appreciate you asking me to share a little about it.  

    How did you prepare for the show?

    When I got confirmation that I was going to be on the show, I binge watched every Chopped! episode I could find, mainly just to get a feel for how to handle the mystery ingredients.  I put myself in the shoes of the competitors and paused the TV after each round’s ingredients were revealed and I’d try to think of as many dishes as possible to make with those ingredients.  I think that exercise really got my brain working in the right direction.  I also paid attention to the available pantry ingredients and the personal tastes of the judges.  Looking back I’m not sure if any of that preparation helped me.  Once you open the basket and the clock starts ticking, you have to act on instinct.  There’s not enough time to make well thought out decisions.       

    What were you expecting?  Was it anything like you anticipated?

    I didn’t really know what to expect but I can say that I was surprised by the amount of production that goes into a single episode.  Competitors show up before 6AM and if you’re lucky enough to make it through all 3 rounds, you don’t get out of there until around 11PM.  That’s a 17 hour day of filming a show that only airs for an hour, with only an hour and 20 minutes of actual cooking.  I had no idea it would be that involved. 

    I also didn’t expect the high level of security and secrecy about the show.  When you walk in, they make you empty your pockets and take everything away from you except the clothes you’re wearing.  You don’t get it back until it’s time to go home.  There are security guards at every door and the competitors are escorted everywhere, even to the bathroom, throughout the day.  

    But the set, the judges, sequester rooms, and the clock are just like you see on TV.  Walking into the Chopped! kitchen for the first time was a really cool feeling.

    Who did you think was your biggest competition in the NC pitmaster show?  Were you surprised by any of the results?

    I knew that I would be competing against 3 other North Carolina cooks in the first episode.  While I didn’t know who they would be, I had some ideas of who the producers might have chosen to represent our state.  So, I was not at all surprised to see Jerry Stephenson of Redneck Scientific and Christopher Prieto of Prime Barbecue at the studio.  They are 2 of the most well-known NC BBQ guys out there.  I didn’t know Melanie Dunia from The Pit in Raleigh, but anyone who watched the show saw very quickly that she has some serious skills.  With that caliber of competition, I really felt like I was the underdog of the group and honestly I was surprised each round that I wasn’t the one who got chopped.       

    How did it feel to win the NC show?

    To win the NC episode was an amazing feeling and something that I really had not even considered a possibility.  It really elevated my pride having world renowned chefs giving such positive feedback on what I consider everyday NC dishes.  Having success using dishes that were inspired by my family and my childhood made it that much better.   

    What was your expectation and plan going into the finals?

    I had no idea who I would be up against in the finals.  Based on my experience and the judges’ comments in the North Carolina episode, my primary goal was to work faster and manage the clock better so that I would have enough time to focus more on the presentation of my dishes.  In the first episode, I simply ran out of time and felt like I left a little something on the table in each round so I really wanted to make sure that didn’t happen in the finals.  

    What are you most proud of having done this experience?

    I’m extremely proud that I was able to showcase some of my heritage and give a look into my family who has been a major influence on my love of food and cooking.  When people from other states think of North Carolina, they usually think of the big cities like Raleigh and Charlotte.  But most of North Carolina is made up of small town people who are poor in economy and rich in heritage.  Being one of those people, I was really proud to bring small town NC to a national stage.  

    What one thing would you change if you could looking back at either episode?

    If you watched the finale, then you know I got chopped because I served some undercooked turnips in my entree.  I used the greens from the turnips in my chimichurri sauce, so technically, I would’ve been fine not using the rest of the turnip.  With that in mind, if I could go back and do it again, I would just stick with the greens and not screw around with the rest of the turnip.  

    Would you do it again?

    100% without question I would do it again.  The whole experience was a lot of fun and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I would really like to do a true grilling competition that takes place outside using charcoal, wood, and fire.  Maybe they’ll bring back that format and give us all another shot.   

    What was the hardest part of the experience?

    There were a lot things that were challenging: working in a kitchen you’ve never been in before, having limited ingredients, not knowing what’s in the pantry and where things are, not knowing what utensils you have to work with, etc.  But I didn’t realize the hardest part until the morning of the finale.  Filming Chopped! is physically and mentally exhausting.  As I mentioned earlier, the episodes start filming really early in the morning and it’s not over until late at night.  We filmed the NC episode on a Wednesday, I spent a little over 12 hours on Thursday filming promos and other things, and was back at it for the finale on Friday morning bright and early.  Factor in the periodic adrenaline rushes followed by sitting around waiting for producers throughout the day and you get exhausted.  Having to find a way to push through the exhaustion was without a doubt the hardest part.      

    What was the best part of the experience?

    So many good things have come out of this experience, but the best has been the support shown by my BBQ friends and family.  The nights of the episode airings I really thought my phone was going to melt because of so many calls, texts, and messages.  The BBQ community is awesome in so many ways and this is just one of them.  

    You’re also having a great year on the KCBS circuit with your most recent GC at Crisfield, MD at Smokin on the Dock of the Bay.  Tell our readers a little about that day.  

    2018 is shaping up to be a pretty good season for OCS.  We’ve fallen short for one reason or another several times this year but we’ve been blessed with some good luck too.  The Crisfield contest was one where luck just went our way, I think the margin between GC and RGC was around .03 points.  We turned in 3 solid boxes and 1 not so solid and the points just fell in our favor.  The venue for the Crisfield contest was awesome.  We were lucky enough to get a spot in the grass right up against the bay.  Anybody who did not participate in that event this year should definitely give it a look for 2019.  

    You’ve been competing a lot more this year.   What contests do you have left on your calendar for 2018 and what are your goals moving forward?

    We have.  The contest count in 2018 has gotten out of hand quickly.  We were initially thinking of competing in 17-20 this year but we’re at 21 now with a few more on the schedule to finish out the season including 2 great contests that are less than an hour from home: the Eastern Carolina BBQ Throwdown in Rocky Mount, NC and the Currituck Heritage Festival in Powell’s Point, NC.  The goal for the rest of the year is to stay consistent.  We’re close, but not quite there.  Hopefully we’ll figure out the secret to consistency and finish the year strong.  

    Anything you’d like to add?  

    I’d like to thank everyone for their support throughout the whole Chopped! process.  As I mentioned before, that was by far the best part of the experience.  I’d also like to put in a plug for the Currituck Heritage Festival.  I’m sure everyone has seen that this event has been rescheduled for the first weekend in November of this year.  They have an amazing venue with RV hookups, indoor showers, and first class hospitality.  Anybody interested in adding one more contest to their schedule this year should really check this one out.

  2. Kings of Q BBQ cook off and Festival, Ayden, NC – May 19-20

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

    Ayden is home to barbecue in the barbecue proud state of North Carolina.  It’s also home to Bum’s Restaurant and Skylight Inn…two eastern North Carolina landmarks for barbecue.  Now, in only its second year, the Kings of Q BBQ cook off and Festival in Ayden, NC has become truly a hidden gem of KCBS contests in the Mid-Atlantic.  This small town of just under 5,000 folks, rolls out the red carpet for us barbecue competitors.  Everything we need is taken care of.  And if it’s not, you won’t go an hour without someone from the town checking in on you to make sure they get it right!  Even the mayor stops by multiple times during the event to check in on you and see that you have all you need!  And if you need a ride on a golf cart…just see our old buddy the fire marshall and his boys and they’ll hook you up!  Power, water, ash barrels and grease barrels are literally steps from our site!  And, it’s always nice to get a little further away than normal and experience southern hospitality and catch up with some teams we don’t see all the time in our usual stomping grounds.

    A couple big questions about who would take the top prize were soon to be answered.  Would Redneck Scientific defend their title among the craziness this year of opening a restaurant and vending the event?  Would Old Virginia Smoke pull of wins in back-to-back weeks?  Would Muttley Crew continue it’s hot start to the season?

    The results were interesting…here they are:

    Congratulations to Jerry Stephenson and Roxanne Manley for repeating as Ayden Grand Champions!

    GC: Redneck Scientific
    RGC: Macadoo Heights BBQ

    Chicken: Hickory Barbecue Company
    Ribs: Bobo’s Que
    Pork: Bobo’s Que
    Brisket: Macadoo Heights BBQ

    Full results here.

  3. Hog Happnin’ Shelby, NC

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    by Stephanie West, “The Neck” Pitmaster with 270 SMOKERS

    screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-4-23-05-pmFifty-six pro BBQ teams arrived in Shelby for the 25th Annual (and final…) Hog Happnin’.  That’s right, Jerry & Joyce have decided to go out on a high note, while the Hog Happnin’ event has emerged to be one of North Carolina (and MABA-land) favorites!  This year’s event was a true celebration of their team’s tremendous work to raise over $250,000 for the local children’s home charity.  (Please note, if you’d like to purchase a commemorative item, contact the Hog Happnin’ organization thru their Facebook  page – they recently published a cookbook ($12) and also have sweatshirts, pins, hats, etc. – all proceeds go to the children’s home.)

    screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-4-23-23-pmOne of the more popular activities during Hog Happnin’ is the Simply Samplin’ competition where participating teams engage with the judges on Friday evening for on-site judging of their desserts, gumbo/stew, seafood, pizza, vegetables, and meat.  Whew!  This year, the crowd favorite proved to be 7-year old Kenzie Fink of team House of Smoke who captured 1st Place in Dessert with her Salted Caramel Apple Mini Cheesecakes!  She is now completely hooked on competitive cooking and will surely become a staple on the ancillary circuit!

    Grand Champion:  Rocky Top Barbecue
    Reserve GC:  Sauced! Barbecue Team (who also won People’s Choice Pork!)

    1st Place Chicken:  Wolf’s Revenge
    1st Place Ribs:  Rocky Top Barbeque
    1st Place Pork:  Smoking Butt Heads
    1st Place Brisket:  Sauced! Barbecue Team

    Click here for the full results from Shelby!

  4. Hog Happenin’ – Lincolnton, NC

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    By Stephanie West, MABA Vice-President and “The Neck” Pitmaster for Team 270 Smokers

    As the 3rd event out of 7 in the Old North State Series, we ventured to Lincolnton, NC for Hog Happenin’ under the impression that the four-legged variety was the star of this small North Carolina town.  Indeed, there were hogs by the thousands…they’d taken over every street and byway, capturing the attention and awe of bystanders…but it was the wheeled variety that was being celebrated at this festival!  Biker nirvana, I’d say!

    Image from the festivalAnd did I mention it was HOT?  Lord, have mercy, it was hot and humid!!  97 in the shade, and we were oh so very thankful for that shade!  (It was so hot that we skipped our traditional “team meeting” shot and instead passed out popsicles to neighboring teams!)

    26 teams competed in Lincolnton, with most hailing from North Carolina.  And North Carolina prevailed!  MABA’s own Redneck Scientific crushed it, capturing their 3rd GC of the year with a 706.2400 – marking their entry into “The 700 Club”!!  Jerry and Roxanne swept 1st in Ribs with a 180, 1st in Brisket, 2nd in Pork, and 3rd in Chicken!!  RGC went to Checkered Pig with a 691.9200.  Team 270 Smokers took 1st in Chicken (their first 180 in Chicken), and Elite BBQ Smokers did the same in Pork.  Overall, it was a pretty large spread in team scores (from 560 to 706), with no “table of angels” or “table of death”.

    Cash and trophies were awarded to GC, RGC, and the top 3 in each category, framed certificates were given for 4th thru 6th.  Payouts to just the top 3 was a pretty controversial topic, and it’s something that you may want to think about if you’re considering this event on your schedule next year.  If you do go, enjoy the small town charm and all the biker bling you can imagine!

    Image of motorcycles parked




    First place winners:
    Chicken – 270 Smokers (with a perfect 180!)
    Ribs – Redneck Scientific (with a perfect 180!)
    Pork – Elite BBQ Smokers (with a perfect 180!)
    Brisket – Redneck Scientific

    Grand Champion – Redneck Scientific
    Reserve Grand Champion – Checkered Pig

    Check out the full competition results here.