The First Step
by Harry Stewart
My first steps to entering the BBQ contest trail began with the Alameda County fair annual rib cookoff. I did the event for 3 years doing well in my qualifiers but never reaching the finals. This little event helped prep me for future events. It had a 5 hour time limit and you had to present to the judges as they ate your entry in front of you as you described your ribs and presentation. Mistakes made were lessons learned, my first contest I did a standard KCBS style box, then I saw other competitors presenations were quite elaborate and well done, the first year I did poorly in presentations, the last 2 I had top honors for presentation. Lesson learned! I have been around BBQ and cooking whole hogs since my youth in Iowa, from a farming family on both sides many events involved bbq and wholehogs. I was stationed in Hawaii for 7 years while in US Navy and I became familiar with local Imu cooking and luau's I lived right in the beach in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Our house shared access with 3 other homes and not a month went by without a gathering or party at that location. After many Aunts and Uncles visited me there our bi annual event was now a luau , even though Southern Illinois hicks were roasting a pig in an old fuel oil tanks which is a common pit there. I was now allowed to stay up all night with the pig surrounded by my uncles and cousins, the equivilent of going to the adult table at Thanksgiving. Swapping stories gallon jugs of Falstaff and a few wee nips of a clear potent family blended liquor. Yeah, moonshine. My family had a colorful involvment with Prohibition in the 20's and had more tales than a large litter of pigs attached to it. I began to BBQ in San Francisco some 20 years ago in a section of the city named Dogpatch, a colorful section of town where our next door neighbors were the San Francisco Chapter of the Hells Angels. After seeing an episode of the Frugal Gourmet where he introduced me to low and slow using varietal woods and indirect heat. An old beat up weber a brisket and some oakwood got me started on my personal journey. Ribs chicken and pork butt followed I was hooked on this type of BBQ and would cook it anytime any where. Pig roasts for friends and co workers followed, I even did BBQ for my engagement party.