BBQ Bravado

By, Jim Knepper

There’s NO shortage of it out there these days and it has been amplified by media attention to our art form and it’s most visible purveyors…competitors.  No doubt that in Meat Rakeorder to take a long, laborious task and make it palatable to TV audiences, there has to be drama, conflict and even occasionally resolution, afterall that’s how TV goes.  It’s also present in the Competition Circuit in no short supply…as it should be.  Afterall, if you’re going to compete, you ought to be doing it to win, hence the purpose of competition.  It’s also increasingly become present among folks who cook BBQ as a business either full or part time and sometimes it’s backed up by the products, others it isn’t.

I am writing this post not to lecture anyone on how to behave as they pursue their love of creating great BBQ nor am I taking a position of me being any better than anyone else, I am instead examining this ‘bravado’ from the perspective of a guy who thinks that the BEST thing about BBQ (next to eating it) are the people who produce it!  Reason for this observation is that recently I’ve connected with some great folks on all ends of the BBQ spectrum via our various social media outlets and have been reminded again just how good BBQ people are in general.  From farmers to butchers and other Pitmasters, large production operations and small outlets of various packaged BBQ products, even BBQ Restaurant and Catering owners who are committed as can be to their art form.

If you’ve never been to a BBQ Competition and you are a fan of the product, I would suggest that you take some time this year and go to one!  You can find one near you on Sam's Tour Richmond 2the Kansas City BBQ Society’s website (www.kcbs.us) and when you go there are a few things you should know.  First of all, there are VERY FEW competitions that will allow the teams to provide you with ‘samples’, primarily because of Health Codes and liability, so you can ask, but don’t be surprised when a team can’t let you taste their goods.  Also, you should know that Friday evening and early Saturday morning are the best times to interact with the teams.  By mid morning on Saturday, things are getting busy and Pitmasters and crew are finishing up ‘turn in boxes’ so they have a pretty focused effort underway.  I think that you’ll find that the folks who compete are in general, a great group of people that are more than willing to answer questions and provide tips.

Another great byproduct of the increasing popularity of BBQ is the amount of folks who are getting ‘into’ the BBQ Business.  From full and quick service restaurants to roadside Roll TideBBQ ‘shacks’ there are LOTS of outlets for authentic smoked BBQ products these days and you should support as many of them as you can if you’re a true fan.  Sure, there will be those you like more than others and you’ll most likely even have a favorite, but every Pitmaster’s got their own twist and signature taste and BBQ isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ proposition.  There are many ways to get to that finished product and the more you cook the better you get.  In my humble opinion there’s too much ‘mine is better than so and so’s’ in our market place, worse there’s never really any need for openly trashing a place that you don’t like as a way of supporting the place (or places) that you do like…it doesn’t really serve any purpose and I think subverts the history of BBQ which is a very communal art.

Lastly (because no one wants to spend their whole Monday morning reading my thoughts) I would say that if you’ve got a local butcher or a farm in your area that pays Embroidered GQ4U Logoclose attention to how they raise their animals or even raises ‘heritage’ breeds of proteins, you should do all that you can to support them.  It’s not only helping the BBQ community to thrive by increasing the availability of product, it’s healthier!  I read somewhere recently that if you buy pre-packaged hamburger meat in a super-store, you could be getting meat from >150 cows in every burger!  You won’t find that at your local butcher or local farmer’s market and it keeps the money you spend in your community.

So, while there is NO shortage of bravado out there in the BBQ world about how mine is better than so-and-so’s or you don’t know what you’re doing if you don’t use MY techniques, there are far more folks in the BBQ community that are willing to commit to their art and their customers.  They talk mostly about their own product and Tuffy and Jimpassionately about where their proteins come from and how they prep and cook them, not about their competitors.  We support each other and we do far better together than we do individually it’s not such a crazy concept.  It’s good to be proud of your BBQ and if there’s a spot you don’t like, don’t go back.  As for the competition circuit, it’s ultimately up to six judges who’ve spent a lot of time learning how to judge and tasting all kinds of different BBQ.  Not everyone wins every time because the palates of the judges changes from competition to competition and table to table and that’s a good thing!

Don’t let the BBQ Bravado throw you off, there are a TON of good people in BBQ and I would say that if you’re interested in consuming, cooking or competing…go out and get some, you’ll find a bunch of great people and a growing number of them making great product!  Of course, I’m always available to ‘talk BBQ’ and we do teach classes, do catering and more!  Visit us at www.GreatQ4U.com or give us a call at 717-254-1937 to learn more about GreatQ4U! – Thanks for reading along and have a GREAT Monday!

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Monday = PROGRESS! Catering and Tailgating Schedules Filling Up!

By, Jim Knepper

So, with the addition of our Primo Grill/Smoker and BBQ Accessory retail Shop it’s been a busy ‘off season’ for us at GreatQ4U! and I am not complaining!  As I’ve typed on this Dimples Shrimplespage before, we have a LOT going on in addition to the retail shop!  We’ve got our Spring and Summer Catering schedules filling up fast and have been diligently working on new menu, buffet, display and service options.  We are cleaning and re-stocking and getting ready for the best year ever.  We have been working hard on getting the ‘BBQ Battlewagons’ (our two Antique Firetrucks) ready to roll for parties and BBQ Sauce sales at area Flea Markets in the Spring….you get the point!

On top of all that stuff, we have a jam packed schedule of BBQ Classes coming up in OBR Harrisburg 1013the ‘pre-season’ months that are really designed around the needs of our customers…home cooking!  We may add a few Competition oriented classes in the Spring and bring in some instructors who KNOW how to do Competition Que even better than us, but our true focus is on teaching folks how to get the most out of the smokers they have at home or buy from us!  Our Basic and Advanced BBQ Classes are full until April and those classes are beginning to fill up fast.  We have a Whole Hog class on April 5th that will be a BLAST and limited to 15 folks…again with an emphasis on the home BBQ enthusiast!  All of them can be found and registered for on our website: http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html

I am reiterating my earlier post for folks that may have already received an Estimate from us for a 2014 Event or have talked with us about catering their upcoming events; BOOK SOON!  We do begin to fill our schedules pretty fast this time of the year and weDSC_0128 cannot guarantee our availability without a signed Contract and Deposit!  Inevitably every year during the months ahead, I have awkward conversations with folks who have Estimates in hand and haven’t yet booked only to find out that we are no longer available on their dates…I don’t like having those conversations, but we will never compromise quality for quantity!

Speaking of quality, we are continuing to source as many of our ingredients as possible from local sources and can work with customers to source ALL of the products for your GQ4U!events locally if you choose to do so, but with the crazy fluctuations in pricing and the production of some incredible product in other areas, we are also sourcing from the best suppliers in other areas as well.  Yet another reason to book soon is that the cost of Beef and Pork specifically are going to skyrocket this year as well as the lingering drought in California’s impact on produce prices…this WILL lead to price increases!  We will absorb as much as we can, but in order to stay in business and committed to quality…I just know that we’ll have to do it and maybe more than once!  When you do Book with us, we lock in your pricing and will honor our agreed upon pricing no matter the increases!

What about the ‘BBQ Battlewagons’?  Well, we will be rolling out to several Regional BBQ Competitions with them this season, probably from Mid-Summer into early Fall and I’ll let you know when we choose the dates and locations.  We are also going to be Station QFULLY set for Fall Tailgating parties and those spots will book up FAST!  You can reserve your ‘Battlewagon’ for games in Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore or DC and let us provide an unforgettable experience with AWESOME food and fun!  Again…I’d suggest booking early as we’ve only got two trucks to go around and those dates will fill up fast!

SO…get out there and make this a great week!  If you’d like more info about ANY of the products or services that GreatQ4U!’s got to offer, please don’t hesitate to call or E-Mail me: 717-254-1937 Ext. 1 or Jim@GreatQ4U.com

BBQ Lover? Got one in your life? We’ve got ALL you need!

We say Merry Christmas around here!  Just to get that out of the way up front…BUT, that doesn’t mean that we don’t honor ALL the Holidays that are celebrated this time of year every year!  After all, diversity is what has made America the great country that it is and we celebrate THAT every day!  BUT…we only Celebrate the Christmas season ONCE a YEAR and that means LOTS of benefits for YOU!

We recently opened our FIRST EVER retail store at our shop in Mechanicsburg, PA and it is ALL STOCKED UP with American Made Primo Ceramic Grills/Smokers and GQ4U! New Tee BackBBQ Accessories!  We’ve got sauce, rubs and LOTS of GreatQ4U! Gear from hats and shirts to Gift and Loyalty cards that are the PERFECT gift for that hard to shop for Foodie on your list!  NOT ONLY will they receive bonus bucks rewards, they can use the cards on ANYTHING we sell: Catering, BBQ Classes, Consulting, Primo Grills and Accessories, GQ4U! gear and even a 5-Alarm Fire Truck Party!

It IS without question a tough economy and we get it!  In fact we feel it every day as well and we are doing our best to help in LOTS of ways!  We are offering the LOWEST prices of the year on Primo Grills, which are not only Made in the USA, they carry a 20 Primo All-In-One Kamodoyear warranty and in addition to being the LAST Grill you’ll ever need…they are as versatile as it gets!  From smoked meats to ‘Wood Fired’ Pizza that is JUST like in the best Pizza places and even baked goods…the Ceramic Grill produces INCREDIBLE results and we will MAKE sure you know HOW to achieve them before you leave the shop!  Our Primo Kamodo ‘All-In-One’ package includes EVERYTHING you need to get started; Grill/Smoker, Cradle with HD Casters, Shelves and Ash Tool!  AND you can get one before Christmas for UNDER $876!!

Our Catering division has NEVER had more options for our customers from our ‘Real Station QDeal’ Wood-Smoked BBQ to the new addition to our fleet: Fully Fun Featured and Functional Fire Trucks that are DECKED OUT in order to provide an AWESOME party experience!  CO2 dispensing systems, Flat Screen, Satellite TV’s, Gaming Systems and ready to ‘Respond’ to your party needs, provide great food and entertainment and then clean up and roll out!  Book SOON…we’ve had a LOT of interest!  BETTER YET, we are offering our Once A Year sale until December 31st…you can save 5% OFF the TOTAL of ANY size event!  Call us for details: 717-254-1937

Our BBQ Competition Team ended the year in Harrisburg, PA back in October and after a 3 year hiatus, we rolled out with two award calls and a great bunch of memories, we GQ4U! Competition BBQare busy preparing for an ACTIVE (for us) 2014 Season and planning on attending at least 6 major competitions!  Meanwhile, we are offering several options already for our 2014 ‘BBQ Master Class’ series with dates already scheduled and filling up in Jan, Feb and March so far with more to come.  For up to date info on dates and times, visit us online at: www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html

We’ve also got a full service Hospitality Consulting division and are capable of helping you work on everything from building a ‘BBQ Business’ or adding ‘Real’ BBQ to your existing menu to building and optimizing a successful website!  We have helped folks take a look at their operations and streamline to increase margins, customer satisfaction and employee productivity and satisfaction!  No matter your needs, we can help!

SO…there’s PLENTY of time left before Christmas to get on down and see us, we are open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 5:30pm to 9:00pm – Saturday from 10am to 2pm and Sundays from Noon to 4pm – OR by Appointment at your convenience!  We’re located at 105 Texaco Road in Mechanicsburg, PA 171050 and online at www.GreatQ4U.com – not to mention our Twitter and Facebook pages!  For personal attention, call Jim at 717-254-1937 Ext. 1 or E-Mail: Jim@GreatQ4U.com

WOW…Did Anyone Get the Number of THAT TRAIN???

By, Jim Knepper

SO, this is what happens when I don’t Blog?  Consider it ‘lesson learned’!  I (of course) have MANY good reasons and explanations for my online derelictions, but you don’t read the Blog for THAT….you want to know what’s going ON!

Well, a LOT has been going on after the slowest season EVER for us and many of our suppliers and customers, we did a great deal of re-evaluation and to be honest, 3 weeks ago it looked as if we would go back to being a Competition Team that occasionally did catering…and that was OK with me!  THEN…..***BAM…BAM….BAM*** I can’t recall what hit me, but all of the sudden, everything is different!

Within the last 3 weeks, we have welcomed ‘Big Mack’, our ‘BBQ Battlewagon’ (aka: 1971 CF Mack Fire Truck) which in addition to its personal significance to me as the first type of Engine that I ever rode on over 30 years ago as a young GQ4U BBQ BattlewagonFirefighter/Paramedic…she’s a LOOKER!  Her ‘Debut’ was QUICK and quite well received by our fellow BBQ Teams at the Keystone Classic in Harrisburg, where after we returned from a 3 year Competition ‘hiatus’…we managed Two Calls with a team that had never cooked together before…not bad for us! 😀

THEN…we have begun to get inundated with requests to have the Fire Truck provide OBR Harrisburg 1013our latest offering; the ‘5 Alarm Tailgate’ party!  We can roll in, set up, cook, provide entertainment and draught drinks then clean up, tear down and roll out…all in style!  In addition to ‘Big Mack’, we plan on welcoming ‘Squirt’ in the next few weeks…a 1985 Pierce 50′ Telesquirt that adds a HUGE visual impact, provides overhead lighting and is the PERFECT place to fly your flag! (Literally!)

With all of THIS going on, we needed a place to put it all together and next week, we will provide specific details about ‘Station-Q’ – Our new HQ in Mechanicsburg, PA and conveniently located!  We will house the Fire Fleet, have a tasting area and be able to hold classes and demonstrations at the new facility and we are all REALLY excited!  We are making a BIG INVESTMENT in Central PA because we believe in YOU!  We’ll do our part for SURE!

SO…buckle up and enjoy the ride…it’s going to be a CRAZY ‘off season’! – O’h and consider yourself invited to the Christmas Party at Station Q! 🙂 – jak

What IS the “Competition BBQ Experience”?

By, Jim Knepper

OK, so I thought that a last minute decision to compete in a BBQ Competition combined with the in-availability of some of the ‘usual crew’ gave us a GREAT chance to give some of our fans and followers a chance to be a part of the ‘Team’ and see just what it’s like to compete for a win in a BBQ Competition!  SEEMED like an innocent enough thought at the time!

In fact, I put even MORE thought into it than that!  I considered the possible effects of having new or in-experienced BBQ Enthusiasts interrupting the ‘workflow’ of the team and concluded that, in order to make SURE that the folks who join us are ‘invested’ in the effort, there should be a ‘barrier’ of sorts and in my mind, the easiest was the cost of ‘buying in’ to the effort.

With that in mind, I got to thinking about what the best ‘investment’ might be to attract the willing and able?  I came up with $250 per person for up to 4 folks and realized that it was a LOT of money for the average BBQ Enthusiast, so I put together a ‘Package’ that included; T-Shirts, Swag, Hats, two separate Dinners and a Party…all for the $250…in ADDITION to getting a chance to learn by doing!

Well…boy did the floodgates unleash on ME!  ‘Making other people PAY for YOUR Competition’, ‘BBQ Team for Sale’, ‘WOW, that’s too much for me!’ and many more from Twitter, FaceBook and just about every direction!  Then it came from the other side….and wow….that was NOT what I intended!

Reality is that the value of the meals and ‘stuff’ is right around $250!  I can’t really estimate the value of being an integral part of a Competition BBQ Team that has the equipment, product, recipes and workflow to be a SERIOUS challenger in this event!  In fact, if (like me) you are the ‘learn by doing’ type…this WILL be a great experience!  You will NOT simply be ‘token’ team members…you’ll participate!  You will have ample opportunity to ask questions, see techniques and products and network with some of the best BBQ folks in Central PA too!

SO…that’s MY take on it!  We are NOT ‘Selling Out’!  By NO means will the $1K from our ‘Guest Team Members’ come CLOSE to even beginning to cover the cost of the Competition for us AND I still think it’s a GREAT Opportunity!  If you are interested in learning how to do BBQ at Home, we offer a full array of BBQ Classes for Novice, Intermediate and Advanced BBQ folks too! (http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html)  We have yet to schedule them, but dates will be up soon!

If you have any questions or you would like to join us, we’d LOVE to have you!  It’s in Harrisburg, PA on October 4th and 5th at the Farm Show Complex!  The Keystone BBQ Classic is a PA State Championship event and we are looking forward to competing!  My e-mail is: Jim@GreatQ4U.com feel free to ask any questions! 🙂

GQ4U! at Pork In The Park

Evolution, Re-Invention, Continue to Blog…

By, Jim Knepper

OK…so maybe these are not daily Blog posts, but they are ‘regular’!  As my past few posts may imply, there’s been a LOT on my mind and LOTS to do as we try to figure out a ‘way forward’ as the educated ‘city types’ say! (no offense!)  Alas, that’s a BIG task in an economy that confounds even seasoned vets and large companies with years of experience!  There is indeed a perfect storm of things occurring right now that make one wonder if there’s any way out intact!

Q PhotosWell, as with ANY storm…there is always an end and as the Finals of the America’s Cup races continue in San Francisco bay, I should say as any good sailor would…we will make it through!  We are going to look a bit different on the other side, but will continue to focus on local, sustainable and responsible product done right!  Cutting corners to make a buck simply is not in the cards for us!

SO…what better way to move forward than to COMPETE??? We haven’t been out there on the Competition Circuit for a few years and it always helps one focus to be around fellow ‘BBQ People’…therefore we’re planning on competing at the Keystone BBQ Classic at the PA Farmshow Complex on 10/4-5!  It will be a triumphant return to competition and a great time for all involved!

Since the inspiration to compete hit us a bit late and folks have their Fall schedules Sam's Tour Richmond 1pretty well set, we are light on team members so we couldn’t think of a better time to give some of our fans and fellow foodies a chance to see what it’s like to be on a competition BBQ Team!  That said, we are offering four spots on the team for the event as a ‘Competition BBQ Experience’ for $250 per person!

DSC_0092WOW Jim, that’s some $$$! What do you get for $250???  Excellent question my friends…there are of course the ‘tangible perks’, most notably a chance to participate in a Planning Session Dinner, REAL involvement as part of the Team, a GreatQ4U! T-Shirt and Embroidered Baseball Cap, a Bag-O-GQ4U!-Swag, Team Dinner on Friday Night and an Invite to the After Party!  THEN…there are the ‘in-tangible’ benefits of being a part of a team that is seriously focused on showing Central PA that we KNOW how to DO SOME ‘QUE!!!

If you’ve got any interest, the first four folks who are available will get the slots…so e-mail Jim@GreatQ4U.com for more info!  We do accept Credit Cards.

OK, how’s THAT for a Blog Post!  See you again soon! – jak

Jim, WHY are you ALWAYS LATE???

By, Jim Knepper

…well, if you were to ask me that question I have a whole mental notebook FULL of answers!  ALL of which seem entirely plausible to me, but have NOTHING to do with BBQ!  A’h…BBQ, that’s what this post is about which is ONE place where I am NEVER late!  Not to the turn in or the table…if it’s BBQ I am ON it!  Well, except for the Blog.  I have issues keeping the Blog up to date during ‘BBQ Season’ as I like to properly call it!  So for that, I am kinda’ sorry…but I’ll keep up the posts on a regular basis from now on…wink….wink!

My REAL reason for writing this morning’s post is to chronicle in a personal way, my experience at the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour this past weekend in Richmond, Sam's Tour Richmond 1Virginia.  I had signed up to Judge a Sam’s Club event last year and was unfortunately unable to keep the commitment and had to bail a month before…it was a Bummer!  SO…I was elated to get chosen for this event!  Due to our Catering schedule and ‘other’ jobs that this time of year necessitates for me, I don’t get a chance to do nearly as many competitions as I’d like to, both as a cook and a Judge…so this was special to me!

I spent the better part of last week allowing my OCD to get everything ready….well at least all that would fit in my briefcase.  I researched routes, booked a hotel and my main worry was that I couldn’t get out until after 5:30pm on Friday so I had to deal with 495 and 95 traffic!  I had all the household chores done so my wife could simply keep an eye on the 14 dogs (THAT’s another Blog…but the MAIN reason I don’t get out much!) and at the first chance…I bolted.  Drive down was WAY better than expected and mostly dry until I got to the hotel which was about a mile from the cook site.  It was pouring down rain and cold…I thought about the challenges for the cooks, briefly.

Saturday morning, up early as always and AMAZINGLY beautiful weather was right Sam's Tour Richmond 2outside the window to greet me!  I got some coffee and took a drive around the area to see the sights then off to Sam’s Club.  I got there as everyone was setting up around 7:30am and had a chance to walk slowly through the Pit area and snap some photos and watch the preparations and ‘tuning’ that was going on.  Watched competitors greeting other competitors and wishing each other good luck.  Saw ribs getting treated and chicken going on and LOTS of Sponsor space to make sure that those who put up the cash to make it all possible got their due and thought just how cool it was that they would do this!

It’s not my nature to talk to much about my Judging experiences because…well it’s just not…BUT, I can say that I was at a table of really nice folks and enjoyed some great conversations with the others under the ‘tent’.  What I really wanted to say in this post was just how incredible it felt to be around ‘BBQ people’ again.  They are fierce competitors and quite serious about their ‘Que’, but they are more than willing to lend a hand or greet a spectator and overall it’s just a GREAT bunch of people!

On an ‘average’ year I cook tens of thousands of pounds of food…this year hasn’t been ‘average’, in fact far from it due to a number of factors.  Our drop in business gave me a Tuffy and Jimchance to take ONE Saturday off and spend it with this group of folks and I am incredibly thankful for that!  I was TOO busy last year to get out and do ANY BBQ events and it wasn’t the best of years partially because of that!

OK…there’s the clincher: If you haven’t ever been to a BBQ Competition, you should go to one…they are typically free to attend and you have direct access to some talented and welcoming folks not to mention, typically LOTS of stuff for the family to do as well.  If you haven’t been to a Competition in a while…GO…even if it’s only for a few hours!  It will take that smoldering ember in your ‘BBQ Gene’ and ignite it like a Coal Chimney!

Enjoy your week and BBQ on!