The BBQ family who cooks with you

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By Donna Fong

In my household, a clean uncapped dredge shaker is a great place to store your lollipop while you’re resting after the 320th lick. And it isn’t weird to serve competition quality pork ribs and brisket to your daughter’s classmates for her 8th birthday party, at her request. After all, we are a BBQ family and we understand the important link between food and happiness.

As such, it makes sense to share the art of barbecue with the people whom we love so much. Most people will grill a few steaks once in a while in the backyard. But for those of us on the circuit, we find ourselves spending hundreds of dollars to enter a contest, buying expensive smokers and meats, and bringing along our kids, spouses, siblings, parents, grandchildren, whoever is even vaguely interested in what we are doing, and dragging them across long distances to remote locations so that we can have some family fun time. Competing in a BBQ contest isn’t a normal way to spend time with the family but it does bring us together.

Probably half of the teams in California are family based teams. The other half are made up of friends who like to cook together or solo cooks. Being a parent myself, I understand the pride in raising a child who enjoys your hobbies. My daughter Miranda trims meat, defats skin, pulls membranes off ribs, injects butts, loads charcoal, washes dishes, checks boxes and is main taste tester for all that goes into the judges tent. A judge may try to be nice when you’ve missed the mark, but a child will always tell you when you’ve made a horrible mistake in no uncertain terms. My grand championship status didn’t dissuade my daughter from telling me this week that my latest BBQ sauce experiment tasted like vomit. Family members who cook with you will remember when you turned your pork butt into a mushy mound of meat or when you brought home your first trophy. They are there living each moment with you, helping you pack, trim, wash, and cook your way to the top or bottom as it may be.

There are many types of family based teams. Some are brother/sister based teams like Steve Madule and Ardith Richardson of All Hogs Go to Heaven. Ardith cooks a mean Saturday morning breakfast for All Hogs and friends and if there’s a dessert category, watch out! As head pitmaster, Steve has cooked his way to the Jack and even after all of these years, Ardith finds her brother’s stories as funny today as when they first happened. This is an enviable relationship. There is of course the famous brother/brother team of John Bracamonte and Brad Thomas of Brazen BBQ who have won numerous awards across the state and opened up their own BBQ restaurant in San Diego. The Brazen brothers courageously catered the most recent KCBS banquet in San Diego to the toughest crowd possible and came out with flying colors!

There are numerous husband/wife teams like the pink duo of Dale/Tammy Ginos of When Pigs Fly, the PC and chicken champs, Steve/Pam Wilson of The Pitcrew BBQ, the rib crushing team of Ryan/Kim Moore of Knock UR Socks Off, long time veterans on the rise, Hayward/Eva Harris of The Rib Doctor, the 180 point kings of California Alan/Mary Odor of Big O’s who have scored a perfect 180 five separate times, seafood specialists, Chuck/Cindy Colllondrez of Bowling Over Pigs, margarita tooting Kevin/Debbie O’Grady from Royal Smokin Hot, the producers of the best pork shoulder you’ve ever had, Scott/Pam Hares of Too Ashamed to Name, and of course John/Tracy Anderson of Woodhouse. Though truth be told, Woodhouse is more like a barbecue gang than it a husband/wife team. Everyone in the gang has a job, from The Chris who sternly watches over Brutus’ temperature, to daughters Caroline (CBJ) and Christina (throwdown cook), to Laura who faithfully shares Woodhouse Chocolates with teams and judges alike at every contest. And speaking of barbecue gangs, there probably isn’t a bigger barbecue gang than El Fuego Fiasco which is made up of multiple families and what seems like dozens of kids. And last but not least are the parent/child teams out there. There are those of us with children who are old enough to cook on their own. Derrick Galiste of Too Broke to Smoke who is famous for his 1st place ribs at several contests, has passed on his talent to his 14 year old son Zach, who recently won first place in the Rib Cook Off at Van Ruiten Winery, beating out 30 teams. Competing since 2008, are the family team combination of Richard and Michelle Holguin and their son Richard Jr. of Cecil’s Smok’n BBQ who is the spitting image of his grand champion father. If you don’t have a son, Craig Andrich of Hog Wild BBQ, thinks his son-in-law Shuan Tukua is just about the best son-teammate a father can have. Luckily for Matt Dalton of Left Coast Q, his son Matthew has been an integral member of this dominating four man team which has been climbing in the national ranks at a rapid pace.

But of all of the teams out there, few have more kids than Bryan Moiles and Chris Hanson of Dads Doing What They Love. Bryan has two kids, his daughter Taylor (18), and his son Curtis (15). Chris had four, son Cole (14), and daughters Noelle (10), Grace (6), & Claire (3). Though this team is well-known for their hand drawn team signs by Chris’ artistic daughters, they also exemplify family teamwork by sharing duties on preparing boxes, and setup/cleanup. And of course, let’s not forget the always consistent and well dressed team of Adam/Sherry Hollman and their daughters Angelica and Jocelyn of Huminie’s Hogalicous, Dangerous Dave and his son, Ryan (Little Danger) Malone of All Sauced Up and Bill/Yvonne Souza and their son Eddie Souza of Big B’s Down -N- Dirty. Most teams know both Ryan and Eddie as their parents are forces to be reckoned with on the circuit. Their smiles are always wide and grateful, because even these kids know how hard it is to earn a grand championship, though they’ve done it more than most. A very nice addition is father/mother/daughter team, Chris, Bekah and Megan Juencke of Smokin Yankees. Megan is a mom, a daughter, granddaughter, and first assistant to her father during competitions. Her steel-like determination combined with her pedigree in barbeque has made her a formidable pitmaster and a strong asset to the Yankee’s continued success.

As members of the family, our loved ones see how much we go through even before the contest has begun, how we juggle schedules to make things happen, and they are there to the bitter end when the last coal has cooled and the last dish has been put away. For them we are grateful for their support and their faith and patience in us. They heighten our joys and buffer our failures. In the absence of a trophy, they still love us and greet us with warmth and joy. And what better reward can we have than to share these moments with our families? For these reasons, it is no surprise that so there are so many barbecue families out there in California.

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