By, Jim Knepper
…These are the things that weigh HEAVY on my mind as we begin the first full work week of the New Year. You see, this past weekend we had to cancel both our Basic and Advanced BBQ Classes that were the VERY FIRST classes we’ve EVER scheduled in January and by doing so we helped many attendees who lived in areas that were impacted by SERIOUS SNOW and WIND in the NorthEast, but also significantly inconvenienced a few others…and that is something that we TRY VERY HARD not to do!
Regular readers of my ramblings here on the Blog will know that in my ‘Previous Life’, I worked over three decades as a Paramedic (still Certified, in fact) and Procurement Transplant Coordinator. Additionally, I learned to sail in my MUCH younger years and have always fancied myself a competent sailor from a time when it was done by hand and knowledge more than auto-pilot and computer. In fact, I even served as adjunct faculty at Mass Maritime Academy teaching US Master Mariners how to be a ‘Medical Officer at Sea’ under Admiralty Law…one of the highlights of my life! SO….in addition to having a KEEN awareness of the dangerous potential of Snow, Wind and Sub-Zero temps on travel of all types, I am a bit of a ‘weather geek’ and stay VERY ‘tuned in’ to upcoming weather patterns!
Come to think of it…even as a Pitmaster, it’s important to be aware of upcoming weather patterns and the effects that it will have on your smokers and cooking process. So, I use multiple sources of information and spend hours (really) pouring over weather charts prior to ANY classes that we do because it’s a great topic for discussion among students at every level of BBQ expertise! Having done so last weekend, it was VERY apparent to me that we would have SOME kind of snow event this past weekend along with a trough of historically cold temps! With that information in hand along with the majority of class participants cancelling before New Year’s day as they were in the BULLSEYE for the snow…I made the call to cancel early in the week and notified all class participants.
Well, since then I have felt pretty badly about the consequences for the students that lived in closer proximity for us and have listened to their critiques of our decision carefully. I DO understand that folks who work on weekends and re-arrange their schedules to attend classes have to make special arrangements to do so and it is one of the reasons that I cancelled at the beginning of the week and not the end. Additionally, we’ve NEVER been OPEN for business in January previously, let alone scheduled classes…so it was a new adventure for us and perhaps I was a bit mis-guided in doing so I guess. Lesson learned and those affected have either re-scheduled or been fully refunded with offers for Gift Cards and credits to acknowledge the inconvenience that my decision caused them. This resulted in our February Basic and Advanced Classes filling up or getting close to full quickly, so if you’re interested in those classes…let me know and I’ll advise on space availability.
All of that brings me to THIS point regarding my decision to cancel. It would be EASY to say that the weather here wasn’t a Blizzard or even VERY snowy at ALL…BUT it WAS indeed COLD, as in HISTORICALLY SUB-ZERO cold and THAT presents an ‘instructional challenge’ that I had not anticipated. We work under the assumption that when teaching a class, we want to replicate as closely as possible the conditions under which our students will be cooking at home, in competition or at work. Using this philosophy, I can say FOR SURE that in addition to the REAL challenges that minus ANYTHING temps cause for us when smoking meats, they clearly don’t represent the kind of weather that the average (or even most of the hard-core) BBQ enthusiasts will be cooking in and therefore, probably aren’t ideal teaching conditions…snow or no snow.
SO…while I stand by and accept FULL personal responsibility for my decision to cancel the classes, I REALLY regret the inconvenience that it caused those who were anxious to attend. However would submit that learning to cook BBQ on ANY kind of cooker in Sub-Zero temps is probably NOT the best way for anyone to learn to do ‘Que’! Once again, for those not able to attend who were looking forward to the class, I apologize and feel horrible. For those who made the call to stay home a week out…WISE choice given the 12″+ of snow that y’all got. For ME…LESSONS LEARNED! I am pretty sure that you WON’T see us schedule classes in January EVER AGAIN!
Stay warm my friends…looks like it’s gonna’ be a VERY CHILLY week here in Central PA and across the country!