Great American BBQ Tour Stop #2 – Smokin' Blues and BBQ ChallengeMarch 30, 2009 Chris and I got back from vacation, with just enough time to swap suitcases, before heading out to Jonesboro, AR on our way to the Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge in Hammond, LA.
We passed a familiar trailer on Thursday as we were pulling into Hammond – it was Mike and Beth of Quau. If I had been thinking, we would have followed them in since they have competed at Hammond in the past. The BBQ event is held in downtown Hammond and takes place on both sides of the railroad tracks. Shortly after we pulled into our spot, the train came through… fast and loud! Something else rolled through on Thursday night, bad weather and tornadoes. A tornado hit Southern Mississippi on Wednesday evening and this was the second night of bad weather in Hammond. Growing up in Kansas, we were always used to storm shelters and basements so I was a bit concerned on Thursday night when the hotel put us on the second floor. The kid at the front desk looked at me funny when I asked him about their bad weather plan.
Before the weather got too bad, Chris and I made a quick run into Kenner, LA to the Sam’s Club to pick up supplies. A couple of miles out of Hammond, I noticed that I was on a bridge. If you know me, you know that I am NOT a fan of bridges or driving over water. This bridge happened to be about 30 miles long with houses built right on the water. Chris chuckled when I told her that she would be driving back to Hammond. She informed me that she had left her driver’s license back in the room. It really was a nice drive and one that we would never have experienced had it not been for the Great American BBQ Tour.
On Friday morning, I trekked down to the event to check on our trailer. Everything looked great and the weather forecast stated no rain until the evening hours. I was asked to do a couple of radio spots promoting the Tour and the Smokin' Blues and BBQ Challenge so I found Deek Deblieux, one of the contest organizers, who took me down to the radio station. I met the guys from the band that was performing that evening – Stephen Cochran. Since we were right across the street from the stage, we were able to hear their set and they were really good!
I was told that 49 teams entered the Charter Media KCBS professional division, which competed in the chicken, pork, pork ribs and brisket categories. There were also 60 teams in the Wal-Mart Backyard Boogie division competing in chicken, pork ribs and sauce. Walking through the backyard area was quite a sight with the party rolling from booth to booth. There were some interesting smokers being used, with quite a few homemade models.
Chris and I got everything organized and felt really good as the rain was staying away. We had a great crowd for our evening demonstration. Everything was going great until the familiar drop, drop, drop of rain started coming down. This caused no problems though because everyone just opened up their umbrellas and watched the show (they came prepared with their rain gear and shrimp boots). When the skies finally opened up, we retreated under our KCBS tent and got to know each other a bit better. The rain finally ended and people started to move around again.
The one thing that we had heard and I can strongly endorse was the wonderful hospitality that Hammond provides the cooking teams and judges. We were always asked, “what can we do to help and what do you need?” One other thing we had heard about was the wonderful dinner on Friday night. I fell off the “diet” wagon and tried everything (my mother will not believe it but it is true). First on the plate, was a bowl of gumbo over rice that included shrimp, crab meat and looked great. Next was some fried catfish, red beans and rice, shrimp, and a great looking eggplant casserole. For dessert, I also tried the bread pudding. The gumbo was fantastic and the fish was just right.
Saturday morning was bright and clear. We had another wonderful crowd for our demo and tried something new this year in the afternoon. We pulled a couple of guys from the crowd, Jim Kirn & Daniel Simpson, to come on stage for our 1st ever “Grill Master” competition. They cooked chicken breast and could use any seasoning that we had on the trailer, which included the Weber Grill Creations Kick’N Chicken, Chicago Steak, Twisted Citrus Garlic seasonings and the TABASCO brand Chipotle Pepper sauce. We recruited judges who used the KCBS standards of appearance, taste and tenderness to choose the winner. Chris and I helped our teams and gave a step by step a commentary on the competition. I think everyone had a great time and Jim (with help from Chris) took home the prize for winning. Everyone is a winner with the Tour so Daniel got a prize package also that included things from our Tour partners.
After the awards ceremony where Pellet Envy was crowned Grand Champion, we had Deek and a couple of the committee members over to the trailer to put the checkmark on the back of the trailer signifying that another stop on the Great American BBQ Tour was complete.
Tomorrow we will be heading over to Avery Island and getting a special tour of the TABASCO plant before we head towards Memphis for the evening. I have a special stop to make in Memphis. For those of you who were at the Jack Daniels Invitational last year, Silky O’Sullivan won an award and invited everyone to his bar on Beale Street for a shot of “Jack”. I’m going to take him up on that offer and hope to see his goats.
Look for us on the BBQ trail in Clarksville, TN next weekend.
Mike (& Chris) Peters