Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mr. Laval, what would you do for a Klondike bar?


Another event in the books. Well, actually two. We cooked the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle and catered for a private function for 200 last night. Won't do that again. Just stretched too thin. It seemed like a good idea at the time though.

Thank you to my sister-in-law, Kim, who helped us on site at the catering event and even followed us home to help unload, to Mark Darrah for helping cook for the catering on Saturday, and to Dan Hathaway of Kansas City BBQ Store fame, for helping me at Lenexa on Saturday, including running boxes and helping tear down and pack up at the event. If not for Dan, I might still be in So-Ko-Par Trails park.

If you've never personally experienced the Lenexa event, you probably won't appreciate this post. Heck, you probably won't appreciate it anyway. Of all the events we cook, this one is totally unique. On one side of the coin, the event is organized to the Nth degree. We received our information packet, including credentials, parking pass, and wrist bands sometime about March 1st, seriously! Every year they custom make a wooden sign carved with team names that the ambassadors present when they greet us, crews work feverishly all night as we cook to clean-up the mess teams and guests make on Friday night to ready the park for Saturday and they are quick to hand you the sponsor's barbeque sauce and charcoal as you check in for the event. On the other side, the spots are small (ours was 18' x 18'), there was no power to our site, some of the staff and/or volunteers aren't excited to see us, and the Lenexa police, god love them, have a reputation for being rude. This year, I watched a man j-walk and then get berated by a police officer who got right up in his grill and screamed like Sergeant Carter does Gomer Pyle, for a solid two or three minutes, making the man go back and cross the street at the intersection, the way you teach your third grader good traffic safety. It was totally uncalled for and I applaud the man for taking that officer's abuse without physical or verbal retaliation. Some days I wish I knew how to capture video with my phone.

There are a couple of things I just don't get about the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle. One, they won't hand out turn-in trays until about 9:00 am on Saturday morning. Regardless of how much you beg and plead, "that's just the way it is." I know this sounds like a petty gripe, but when cooking solo on a stick burner, organization and efficiency is key. Normally, the trays get done on Friday night. When asked, my ambassadors told me the policy was created, and I quote, "because too many teams get drunk and destroy their trays on Friday night." That quote might actually be a great way to sum up this entire event. You know what, if as an adult, you get so drunk you crush your styrofoam trays, maybe competition barbecue ain't your cup of tea. Seriously, everybody on your team gets so drunk that nobody can find a safe place to stash four or five helpless man made 9" x 9" clam shells? The other thing about Lenexa is the reporting of results. If you didn't get your name called at the awards ceremony, which by the way has no scheduled time, you don't know how you finished that day, well at least not until the details are available. And as of the writing of this blog, I can't even tell you when that information will be available. C'mon people, this is the 21st century and you're Lenexa, obviously one of the most financially well off cities in the metro. If wanted, a person can get up to the minute details about sporting events, the stock market and weather sent to his/her phone. Surely the contest results can be posted to a website somewhere inside of twenty-four hours for all to see, right? It just can't be that hard, can it? After all, teams spend a bunch of money to cook this event, endured huge crowds of really drunk party goer's, and suffer through typical Kansas weather, including heat, humidity, rain, wind, and even some fog. Heck, I even had to carry my entire cook site to my truck and push/pull my pit out of the contest site because of a load out policy that prevents cook teams from bringing vehicles back onto the grounds until they announce the "all clear" over the P.A. system and I needed to get to the catering event. And this is the event where, if you're not lucky enough to get an early invite to participate, you go wait in line at 5:00 AM to try to get one of the remaining spots. Oh, roll you're eyes readers, but there are a plethora of stories about folks who wait in this line AND DO NOT GET IN THE EVENT.

But let's get this blog back on it's traditional positive track. Despite their team names, we had good neighbors this year. Unlike our last experience at this event, where Maximum Loin was one of our neighbors (it only took three years for that memory to fade enough to again enter this contest), Burnt Reynolds and Too Drunk to Cook, or something like that, were respectable contest border buddies. The Burnt Reynolds guys were actually decent. I love the team name. They all wore odd, misfitted cowboy hats. I believe the team goal must have been that no member actually pay for his hat. They had Burt Reynolds head shot stickers made with a graphic bar that covered his eyes, similar to those pictures you see where unhappy boyfriends/girlfriends post nude pictures of their ex's on the internet and the sites add those black outs over their eyes to disguise there person so they won't sue, only the team had emblazoned that feature with their team name. On Saturday morning, Dan and I decided that if they all had cheesy black moustaches, parked a '77 Trans Am in their spot and got Sally Fields to come hang with them, they'd win the best booth award hands down just about anywhere they cooked. We did enjoy their music that morning also.

Steph Wilson & Kyle Laval of The Slabs.com were across the aisle. They are always great neighbors. When the M.A.S.H. type public address guy announced impending doom at about 9:30 pm on Friday, requiring all the spectators to immediately leave and the teams to batten down the hatches for severe storms, Kyle, Steph, Brent, Austin and Steph's neighbor Pam's husband, who's name I didn't get, came over to help ready the site for threatening weather. If you would have seen it, it resembled a pit stop at a NASCAR event. We dropped the Greased Lightning banners and mesh canopy side walls, quickly and efficiently hanging the solid sides and securing my 10' x 10' home away from home to prevent it from being a potential wind driven missile. They knew that I only cook with the Geer in good weather and I was an inexperienced bad weather pop up shelter kind of guy. Steph had organized a huge fish fry in her spot for that evening, complete with chicken fingers and creamed corn laden hush puppies, to which I was invited. Unfortunately, the catering schedule required that I catch a ride home with Sheri to prep and cook the brisket and butts for the next day. Yet another disappointment of over extending and I was so looking forward to those dogs! On top of hosting a dinner in her spot, Steph made time to find and mentor a first time team who had picked Lenexa as their inaugural cook-off. All I can say is that Steph is a giver and is now the big toe, the Sergeant Hulka of the Kansas City Chefs!

One last Lenexa story, then I'll wrap up this novel. To show my gratitude for helping me get my canopy ready for bad weather, and because I know Kyle's biggest weakness, I j-walked at the very scene of the crime from the previous evening to patronize the Daylight Donuts shop for the purpose of bringing some fresh breakfast pastries back to the contest site. Carrying my box of hot, fresh fried dough directly to spot 214 and anticipating his reaction, I was slightly disappointed not to find Kyle stirring about at 6:00 am. So, carrying my head a little lower, I walked back to my site, spirits slightly dampened because of my failed attempt to surprise the only person I know who loves sweets more than me. I kid you not though, I no more than turned the corner into my cocoon type canopy and Kyle was right on my heels. I still believe that had I stopped abruptly walking back, he would knocked me down from behind. Barely getting the Scotch tape seal broken on the box before Kyle's hand was in it, he snatched a warm maple long john and began to dance around the cook site. Before I knew it, Kyle let out a strange animal like squeal and climbed right into the wood storage box on my Geer pit. Luckily, I was clutching my iphone, or I might not have believed it myself. If you look closely, you can see the half eaten donut in his right hand. Honestly, this was the highlight of this contest and it gave me back some energy and focus after only sleeping for a couple hours that night. I don't write well enough to describe the whole incident. You all are just going to have to take my word for how funny it was . . . . If he acts like that for a donut, I wonder what the man would do for an artificially flavored vanilla ice cream bar with a rich milk chocolate flavored coating?

So, we finished 5th in Pork Ribs and 6th in Pork this weekend. It was good enough to finish fourth overall out of 185 teams, but one place out of the money. If I had to guess, I'd say that brisket is the category that let us down. It was a little over cooked for the second weekend in a row. However, when you cook at events this large, you just never know. I was pleased with our finish. Congrats to Three Men with Wood. When it comes to Lenexa, they somehow have it dialed in. They should pay me to attend this event though, as they've won it both years we've cooked. Congrats to TheSlabs.com on winning the rib category and finishing as the Reserve Grand Champion. That made the whole event worthwhile for me. Also, congrats to Bum Steers on finishing third overall. Honestly, that is a huge accomplishment considering that Jim Powers and the gang only cook a handful of events each year. Congrats to all who heard their names called at Lenexa and everywhere else this past weekend as well.

We have an open holiday weekend coming up, then it's off to Shannon, Illinois to participate in the Butt to Butt X Invitational and the Illinois State Championship. We've always heard what a great event this is. Knowing Mike and Theresa Lake, I'm sure we won't be disappointed. When I learned of this event in 2001, I made it a goal to qualify for the Butt to Butt and not to attend this contest until I did. That was before we knew Mike and Theresa though. We feel very lucky to get to go to Shannon this year.

A quick shout out to my mother-in-law Susan, who says she reads this blog because it's the only way she finds out what we're doing. Happy Independence Day. See you all somewhere on the bbq trail! Special thanks to Park Avenue Pork for the picture of the crowd at Lenexa on Friday night. They had a big time turn out this year!

3 comments:

Edward G. said...

Rod,

Hoot from Heavy Smoke sent me your page and I have to say that the part you talk about jaywalking and the way the cop acted, was he a shorter black cop?? If so he did the same exact thing to my Dad and I Saturday about 45 mintues after the last turn in. The only thing different is he didn't make us walk across the street a couple of times. When he handed my id back to me and went to put my wallet away, I missed my cargo pocket because I was looking at him he threatened a public intox ticket. I was not impressed with the Lenexa PD, after we were on our way the 2 cops walked back across the street, the same path we just got $65 plus $30 court cost. Where you jaywalked at for the donuts had to have been the entrance at the fire station?? That is where we got caught. But we were not headed for donuts, we needed more beer.

Pellet Envy said...

Thnx for reading. Same place, different officer. I did it at 6:00 am when nobody was around.

Edward G. said...

Well I also did it Friday to meet a friend of mine over there at about 4pm. Then I carried a cooler of beer back with me and the cops watched but nothing said, oh well. Congrats on the calls too.
Bull