So…I’m still trying to get back in the swing of the ‘Blog Thing’ and am willing to promise that I’ll do my best to do ‘nearly daily’ updates over the ‘off-season’ months! That said, the ‘off-season’ has come a bit earlier this year for us! 2012 has been (like all others) a truly GREAT year for us and like many businesses…we’ve had more than our fair share of challenges! SO…with the exception of a couple gigs that have already been scheduled…we’re pretty much done for the season! We will be using the Fall months to retool our menu, work on the ‘Chuckwagon’ menus and recipes and begin the process of filling up the open dates in next year’s calendar! We’ve already got a pretty full Spring in 2013 and Summer will fill up (especially weekends) by New Year’s Day! SO…if you’re planning on Booking….give us a call or e-mail me and let me know; Jim@GreatQ4U.com to save a space! BONUS: This month…you can save 5% off your total tab and lock in at 2012 prices if you Book by 10/31/2012!
OK…now on to the subject of the day…BBQ and it’s people! I’ve been working at a Pit in one fashion or another for over 20 years! It all started because I had developed a love of Eastern North Carolina BBQ at a small shack just east of Greensboro North Carolina with a pile of Hickory that was bigger than the building out back! I still remember the incredible smell, taste and texture of that Pork and more importantly I remember quite clearly the old, wrinkled black man who manned the Pit! He took the time to talk to me and let me know that he had been working that Pit for more than 30 years…he had NEVER let the fire burn out. I’ll never forget him or the impact that he had…and continues to have on me!
After moving to Central PA…the one glaring weakness of the area became readily apparent to me….what they called ‘BBQ’ here back then wasn’t even CLOSE! It was initially what we knew to be ‘Sloppy Joe’s’ growing up in Pittsburgh…then it was Half Chickens cooked over Charcoal and sprayed with a Vinegar and Butter mixture (GOOD Stuff…just NOT what I considered to be BBQ) and finally…the ‘Pulled Pork’ that was cooked in a Crock Pot and then SMOTHERED in a sweet sauce….MAYBE some liquid smoke in it…but again…NOT my memory!
SO….I did my homework, decided on a Pit…took a few years to dial in a BBQ Sauce that I thought was ‘proper’ for an Eastern Carolina ‘Que’ and figured that the best way to gauge my efforts was to compete! (WAY before TV made it popular) My first Competition was a BIG one with LOTS of BIG names in BBQ at it…Pork-In-The-Park…in Salisbury, MD! It remains a personal favorite and it’s a REALLY great place to simply take the family and have a good time…check it out if you can! I then competed in several more Competitions before people asking me to ‘cater’ their parties, weddings, etc…took me in a different direction! I never went to a competition expecting to win and was never disappointed with that notion…although we did hold our own at a few! (NC sauce doesn’t hit the taste buds of many judges with great enthusiasm, but it’s what I like…so it’s how WE do it! :)) – What I found to be the BEST part of Competition BBQ were the PEOPLE!!! They would bend over backwards to lend you a hand! Everyone was willing to provide advice and even samples of award winning stuff…not secrets, but good info for a guy still ‘cutting his teeth’ nonetheless! BBQ People are among the most friendly I’ve ever been around!
As we moved into Catering…there were more people…this time they were customers, but still people and HAPPY ones at that! I was neck deep on the Procurement side of Transplant Medicine at the time, but the thing that I LOVED about BBQ Catering was that not only did our customers ‘GET’ what we were doing, but they LOVED it!!! – TONS of smiles around every table and buffet line and lots of interest in how we achieve our results…a VERY nice counterpoint to the Transplant job, which was incredibly rewarding in a different way and didn’t involve many smiles!
In 2011, following the Tornadoes in Alabama, Joplin and the Flooding in Central PA that occurred following Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Rita last year, I’ve had the great fortune to be able to haul the Big Pit out and cook for Disaster Victims. First on my own in Alabama, then as a small Part of an INCREDIBLE group in Joplin and then as a Founding Member and ardent supporter of Operation BBQ Relief (www.OperationBBQRelief.org) which has now become a National Non-Profit Disaster Relief initiative that has provided over 150,000 FREE meals to Disaster Victims all over the country! In addition to the incredible satisfaction that comes from helping neighbors…no matter where they are…the people that donate their time, services, products and support to this effort are ALL INCREDIBLE and again have been VERY Inspirational to me!
Finally, we wind up here…today…planning for ‘next season’! I think about all of the ‘BBQ People’ that I’ve met of course, but the Food Suppliers and Manufacturers…Farmers and Sales People…Artisans and ‘Hardware’ makers…ALL INCREDIBLE and INSPIRING people! I have met so many and have benefited in innumerable ways from their influence and commitment to making it the way it’s supposed to be made…whatever “IT” is….BBQ, BBQ Tools, Food, Meat, whatever….there are a LOT of GREAT people out there and because of BBQ….I get to hang out with a LOT of them!
As we begin our journey into yet another year of making GreatQ4U!….I am thankful for the PEOPLE that I’ve met along the way and the impact that they have ALL had on me! BBQ is FILLED with GREAT people…so is AMERICA! So..thank you ALL!!! – Have a GREAT week!