For our next adventure we visited Alaska and Utah. We flew into Salt Lake City, Utah via Las Vegas on the 13th July 2014 and had a couple of days rest and also met up with some of the people who had kindly offered to help us with equipment and meats for our competition there 2 weeks later. First port of call was to visit with James Parr and Roger Livingston of the best BBQ joint in Salt Lake, R&R BBQ. If you’re ever in Salt Lake make sure you call in because these guys are one of the few that actually make BBQ for their customers like they do for competition and it shows.
We left Utah in 106 Degrees F and sunny and touched down in Fairbanks Alaska at 2 a.m. to be greated by 53 degrees F and rain, but what really threw us was that it was still daylight! At this time of year Alaska has just a few hours of dusk, so luckily the RV we were staying at had tin foil at the windows and we could get some sleep. The RV park was at Chena marina where small planes would take off and land on the pond right next to us every day, which was a great experience to watch.
We were very kindly helped with equipment in Alaska by Clint Hansen of BurlesQ, another guy who treats his customers to competition quality meats from his BBQ shack. We got to try the pork and brisket and they were superb.
Clint made us very welcome and even invited us to dinner with his family. We were given run of his house to prep meats and even got to see his talented daughter Rachel playing Football (although they call it ‘soccer’ haha).
The weekend came around too soon and it was time for preparations for our first competition, The Alaska BBQ association State Championship. First job was to burn out a couple of Clint’s Ugly Drum smokers that he had kindly offered for us to use.
The competition was held at one of the best locations we have ever been to to compete. Pioneer park (formerly ‘Alaskaland’ is a tourist attraction showing historical Alaskan exhibits such as the Riverboat Nenana, Tenana valley railroad museum, and many original relocated homes, some converted for trading.
The teams were set up around the awesome Riverboat Nenana. We had great neighbours for the weekend. To one side Dan and his family and to the other Clint and his team BurlesQ. Dan happens to make the most beautiful looking pits that are very similar to Jambo’s and not surprisingly, nearly everyone was using one. So our Ugly drum set up was between tens of thousands of pounds worth of elegant pits, but we loved them all the same and were very grateful to Clint for the loan of them along with everything else we needed to compete.
First order of the day was Miss Piggy’s birthday. What better way to spend your birthday than in a beautiful location with great new friends doing what you love doing – bbq! We had taken a few birthday cards with us and Gina and Anthony Minderman had gone out of their way to buy her flowers. We even had a hand made birthday cake made for her by Myiah Meade of BurlesQ, which was a lovely gesture.
Saturday was to be the side catagories, seafood, steak and dessert, with Sunday being the main 4 catagories, chicken,ribs,pork and brisket plus sauce. We decided to enter everything even though we had a limit on what we could do with our minimal set up. First catagory on Saturday was Seafood, which is judged by 6 judges on site. There were some very exquisite meals cooked for the judges and being limited we decided to go with something we knew well, English beer battered fish n chips! The judges seemed to enjoy the food and the experience of eating with their fingers from newspaper whilst listening to ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ and drinking beer from a bottle. We even had salt and english malt vinegar. The fish was very special though. It was line-caught Alaskan Halibut, caught a few days prior by Anthony Minderman and even filleted especially for us, so cooking it was the easy part. Steak was next and although we bought good thick marbled rib-eye’s, we felt we had cooked them well but under-seasoned them. For dessert we mixed things up a little. We turned in a key lime pie with fresh local blueberries and meringue topping.
Turn in times for the main meats on Sunday were much earlier than what we were used to with KCBS. Chicken was 9.00 a.m. Ribs 9.30 a.m. Pork 10.a.m. and Brisket 10.30 a.m. so hence, we needed to make some changes to our timeline, and Brisket went on at 4 p.m. Saturday. We broke the golden no drinking rule once again and had a few too many on Saturday night, finally got into the car, where we were sleeping the night, at midnight and set the alarm for two hours later 2 a.m. to start ribs! Seemed like fun on Saturday night….. Sunday a.m. also saw very low temperatures of 48 degrees F so that wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Somehow we managed to turn in all 4 meats on time and waited patiently for the awards. A fantastic surprise at the start of the award ceremony was everyone singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Miss Piggy, which was an award in itself to us. We were lucky enough to go on and win a few awards too. We were 1st in Seafood, 2nd in Dessert, 1st in Sauce, 2nd in Chicken, 4th in Pork, 1st in Brisket and 4th Overall. We were genuinly stunned to have done so well in such a strong field of competitors.We were also thrilled to receive traditional Ulu knives as trophies, which are beautiful. Full results here http://alaskabbq.org/2014-akbbqa-state-championship-results
It was time to say goodbye to our new Alaska BBQ family, as that evening we were flying back to Utah to compete the following weekend in Midvale at the Days of 47 contest. During the flight back, 458 miles into the journey and somewhere over the Yukon, we passed a milestone in our travels. 100,000 miles for bbq competitions! so we toasted the acheivement as the captain told us when we had exactly reached that point.
After a couple of days rest Scott attended a 2 day class by Rob ‘Rub’ Bagby of Swamp Boys BBQ from Florida, one of the best teams in the country and many ‘golden nuggets’ were picked up and need to be practiced before putting them into competition. Then it was time to prep and shop for the competition itself, which this time, was a KCBS santioned competition starting on the Friday night and finishing Saturday.
The organisers were kind enough to place us in a shady spot as we weren’t used to the high temps and for neighbours we had old friends and new. Timm and Crystal Martin of Trailhound smokers from Las Vegas Nevada were to our immediate left, which made it easier as they had kindly hauled a full competition set up all the way from their home for us to use. Again we can never say enough ‘Thankyou’s’. To their left was an old friend we had met years before on the California bbq circuit Andy Soto of Master of Disaster bbq from California. To our right we had a couple with probably the most stunningly beautiful pit we had ever seen. A beautiful old car which had been in the family for years, now converted to accomodate 4 different pits, 2 in the back seat, one under the boot and one under the bonnet!
Before long we were set up and starting to cook for our second competition. Our cooker this time was a brand new Humphrey’s ‘Pint’ smoker. We have just purchased the smaller ‘Battlebox’ model and as a gesture of fantastic customer service Chad and Nicole Humphrey shipped this smoker all the way to Utah especially for us to use.
Saturday morning came around and we were greeted by the National anthem, to which everyone shows their respect by standing silent, follwed by 9.11 shots. Then it was onto turn-in’s. As always, we did our best and we felt that all of our efforts were ok with the exception of ribs which, for a change, we had undercooked slightly. The judges disagreed, giving our ribs our highest placing at 12th, and we finished just below middle of the pack at 17th, again in a tough field of competitors. Full results here http://www.kcbs.us/events.php?year=2014&month=7&id=4518
A massive thankyou to everyone that helped us make this trip of a lifetime possible and to our sponsors for providing quality products that we rely on.