Comments Off on FAQue Features Tom Gearhart of Mudville BBQ
By Amy Overbey of Team Meat Coma
WHO IS ON THE TEAM AND WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Mudville BBQ consists of myself, my brother Greg and best friend Brian, plus several ad hoc members who cook with me when I’m short-handed. We are from Springfield, VA.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN COMPETING?
We started in 2015. The BBQ Battle in DC was our first contest ever. Looking back I probably should have done backyard for a little while but I thought, ‘the hell with it’ and jumped right into pro contests.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR TEAM NAME/LOGO?
I am originally from Stockton, CA which was built during the California Gold Rush. In its early years the city had several names, one of which was “Mudville”. I designed the logo to be a reflection of where I came from and the sport that I love. In the center of the medallion are the three KCBS proteins (chicken, pork, and beef) and the outline of the state of California. The two stars represent our Nor Cal pride — proud to be from and live in Northern California. I love the simplicity of our logo.
WHAT SMOKER(S) DO YOU COOK ON?
We cook on two custom Humphrey’s Elite Pints. Their names are Vincent and Jules.
IF YOU COULD ADD A 5TH CATEGORY, AND IT CAN BE ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I think the ancillary categories the day before are great to shake things up a bit and add some character and uniqueness to a competition. I would like to see these become more prevalent on Friday nights. The SCA event that we did on Friday at the BBQ Jamboree this year was a lot of fun and we’re cooking a contest in California later this year that has a taco event on Friday.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO COOK (CAN BE A FAVORITE COMP, BUT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE, CAN BE ANYWHERE)?
We have to favorite comps to cook – DC because it was our first, and the BBQ Jamboree because it’s where we got our first call ever and first category win back in 2017. But I love to cook with my two sons at home and get them involved in BBQ. They’re 5 and 2 and their favorite thing to do when I’m cooking is stick their finger in the rub shaker and taste the rubs I’m using.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BEVERAGE AT A COMPETITION?
I don’t drink too much at a competition but when it’s time to relax I like to have a Founders All Day IPA. It’s a great session IPA that you can drink all day. Some would call it the “perfect lawn mowing beer.”
ANY COMPETITION SUPERSTITIONS OR SOMETHING YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT AT A COMPETITION?
Too many to list but I always make fresh omelets on Saturday morning to keep the team fueled for the day ahead. I don’t think we could do without that. We always fly the Mudville Republic flag and right before turn-ins start, I say the Ranger Creed to myself in my head to get myself focused. We also, always walk our last entry in as a team for good luck – a tradition we got from Poke n Smoke.
WHAT IS YOUR GO TO FOOD AFTER A COMPETITION?
Chinese food from Asian Grill in Springfield because it’s pretty much the furthest thing from BBQ that you can get.
IF YOU WEREN’T COMPETING ALL WEEKEND, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
If I’m not competing then I’m thinking about competing, or practicing, or doing some recipe R&D. If I’m doing that then you can find me on the golf course, or playing with my sons.
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU OR YOUR TEAM?
I am very thankful for the opportunity to cook alongside so many talented pitmasters and cooks in MABA. From top to bottom I truly believe it is the most competitive and talented region in competition BBQ. If you look at the list of teams in the biggest events of the year and the invite-only events, MABA is always well represented. I’m proud to say that I cut my teeth in the MABA region. DC will be our last MABA event ever as my family is moving back to California. But I look forward to tearing up the CBBQA and seeing my MABA family again at national events around the country.
by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ
Aporkalypse Now of Springfield, VA recently took top honors at the Giant National Capital BBQ Battle on the streets of Washington, DC. This is Aporkalypse Now’s second DC BBQ Battle win in a row and that comes with an automatic entry into the prestigious Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in October. Mike Fay, former MABA President and Pitmaster for Aporkalypse Now was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions for this edition of Interview with the Champs! Mike has been involved in competition barbecue quite a while and heavily involved and knowledgeable about competition barbecue in the Mid-Atlantic region. When he talks, most folks listen…enjoy his unique perspective below and get to know the rest of the team below…thanks Mike!
Congratulations on your recent win in Washington DC at the Giant National Capital BBQ Battle. How did it feel to go home with the Grand Championship?
Mike Fay, Aporkalypse Now: Thanks, winning the DC BBQ Battle is a great feeling; not only is it an automatic entry to The Jack Daniels Invitational but it’s a win against a top field of competitors in a great setting. Winning it for the second year in a row made it that much more special.
How did your cook go…did you feel confident heading to awards? MF, AN: We thought we hit all our marks but as we all know, it’s anyone’s game once it goes into the tent. With the field we were competing against confidence was…medium. Our chicken has been consistent this year, I liked the ribs but though they might be on the dry side, pork was good, and we thought the brisket was superior. But you just never know; I’ve quit trying to predict the future.
Tell us a little about your team and teammates, where you’re from, how long you’ve been cooking. MF, AN: I started Aporkalypse Now 5 years ago based out of Springfield, Virginia. We have an eclectic group with members from Northern Virginia (myself and Dennis) Havre De Grace, MD (Don) and New York City (Todd). We’ve been cooking together for the last three years and it’s become a very strong unit.
I’ve been cooking for fun for a long time and didn’t get into competitions until I joined MABA. I’ve always had a competitive streak and been drawn to the “science-y” side of cooking, so those two assets have really helped. In the ‘it’s a small world’ category, I met Don through the competition circuit, yet he went to high school with my cousin. Don’s been with me for three years and it’s a great match. I met Todd when I was up in New York City cooking with Myron Mixon (there’s a whole newsletter’s worth of stories there) and he’s become the Aporkalypse Now road warrior traveling from NYC all over the country just to meet up and cook with us. Dennis is the “kid” of the group; he was interested and wanted to come and “just watch” one weekend. He never left and has cemented himself firmly in our team. I’m grateful to have all of them.
What kind of equipment and set do you have? MF, AN: We cook out of a 26 foot porch trailer with two Myron Mixon Vulcan V33’s on the back. Having two identical cookers allows us a lot of flexibility.
How many GCs is this for your Aporkalypse Now? MF, AN: I believe this was number 16.
What makes Aporkalypse Now different or unique? MF, AN: Tough question. We work hard to be as consistent as possible in everything we do when we cook a competition, almost to the point of obsession I suppose. Unique? We use a platoon philosophy where everyone on the team knows and can perform every task. This allows us a lot of flexibility when it comes to doing other things at comps while still keeping our eye on the prize.
You’ve been a very successful competition team for a few years now…can you share a couple of your favorite experiences out on the circuit? MF, AN: Want me to tell stories out of school eh? Winning DC back-to-back has to be right up there. We traveled down to Florida for two invitationals this past winter. Smokin’ at the Track in Homestead and the Sonny’s Invitational in Orlando. These were both great experiences. Of course favorite experiences have to include being invited to and participating in “The Jack”, especially last year when we were accompanied by our friend Dillon Booth. I think we aged his mother 10 years with some of the shenanigans that went on.
I enjoy chatting with you about barbecue for many reasons, but mostly because of your wealth of knowledge and experience. How do you feel about the current state of barbecue and where do you see it going in the next couple, 5, 10 years? MF, AN: I think the competitive BBQ scene will be very different in the next couple of years:
Bigger and more People’s choice contests
Events are looking for ways to draw the public in and allow them to participate and interact with the teams like they see on TV. I predict that more and more events will try and go the route that the Mohegan Sun competition has gone regarding a semi-vending format; the competitions in Fredericksburg, VA and Woodstock, VA are almost there now. Fans want that interactive experience and teams need to be prepared to participate on some level. Watch out for the SCA (Steak Cookoff Association). Steak cookoffs are rapidly growing in popularity due to their short duration and visual appeal to the public. I see more and more events going to a Saturday-Sunday format with steak and grilling events on Saturdays. We should all start practicing now.
More corporate sponsorships and invitational events.
We’ve seen two added last year – Smokin’ on the Track and Sonny’s. I’ve been told that Smokin’ on the Track will be back with a more fan-based interactive format with big money and more media opportunities. I think Sonny’s will quickly become one of the premier events in BBQ, partially due to the $68,000 prize pool but also its corporate backing. Rumor is a major sporting goods retailer will be rolling out a Sam’s style ladder tournament in 2017. Mohegan Sun is poised and has the potential to be one of the biggest payouts in BBQ. I wouldn’t be surprised to see BBQ end up in a NASCAR style tiered format where you have big money invitationals and a second tier local “feeder” circuit to qualify teams to go to the “show”, much like the World Food Championships. A lot of this is dependent on KCBS getting its house in order and addressing a number of issues to be able to show that BBQ competitions aren’t 60% skill and 40% luck.
There will be contraction on a local event level.
BBQ cooks are smart people. They’re starting to look closer at the benefits of attending one contest over another. There are a number of old established contests that are feeling the pinch of new contests aggressively pursuing teams. Contests with high entry fees/marginal infrastructure and low payouts are going to be pushed out by newer contests willing to do what it takes to bring in teams.
Due to this special qualifying GC, what competitions are now added to the 2016 calendar for Aporkalypse Now? MF, AN: Obviously we will be attending “The Jack” in October. Now that the American Royal is the following weekend, we’re looking at making a 3 contest loop out of it.
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?z MF, AN: Take my class! Seriously though, it’s all about consistency, refine your process and take a hard look at what you are doing. If you don’t know why you are doing something perhaps it’s something you don’t really need to do. Focus on your cook and drill down your process to where everything comes out the same every time. Ask yourself “Do I really need to do these 15 steps when 5 will get me the same result?”
You’ve done a lot for barbecue in the last decade, especially in the Mid-Atlantic…what gives you the most satisfaction from what you see out there today on the circuit? MF, AN: First and foremost is the friendships I’ve gained. Seeing teams grow and establish themselves as forces on the circuit is right up there too. The camaraderie in BBQ is second to none.
Any parting shots or comments? MF, AN: Just looking forward to the rest of this season and many more competitions, Friday night pot lucks, and good luck shots with all our friends.