Published: April 7, 2011
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Hi Grilling with Rich Fans,
So for this week’s for Meet the Pros Series we had the chance to meet Tom Bera from Blind Pig BBQ the award winning barbecue team from Phi
I hope that you enjoy this week’s Meet the Pros! Next we week we are going to have Hogs Gone Wild BBQ Competition Team! So tune in next week for that!
Grilling with Rich: My first and standard question is what got you into bbq? and also BBQ competitions? and tell us a little about yourself (what is your story)
Tom Bera, Blind Pig BBQ: Well I always loved to cook and grill, I’m a carnivore at heart. In the summer of 2005 a good friend invited me to compete in BBQ competition in Philadelphia, held by ex-Phillies great, Garry Maddox. I went out and bought a $30 Brinkman smoker for the event. The Garry Maddox BBQ Challenge was the first time I smoked anything and we finished in the top 5 out of about 40 teams. This drove the BBQ hooks in deep and in 2006 I upgraded to a couple Big Green Eggs and a WSM and entered a couple KCBS competitions. I found out quickly how difficult this sport could be, but became addicted all the same!
[pullquote]Blind Pig BBQ: Rich is working hard to share his love of grilling and BBQ with everyone he can. Each time I go on his site there something different and interesting about outdoor cooking.[/pullquote]
GWR: If you had to pick one thing about bbq competitions that you enjoy the greatest what would it be and why?
Blind Pig BBQ: This a is a difficult question to answer, Rich, because there are so many great things about BBQ competitions, the food, the people, the friendships made. If I had to pick one thing it would be the competitiveness of the whole thing, striving to be the best – to win! I’ve always been very competitive. I make my own rubs and sauces and take a lot of pride in getting a call to the stage.
GWR: What is the biggest challenge that you think is when a) putting together your menu for a bbq competition b) putting together a successful team and how does YOUR team overcome these challenges ?
Blind Pig BBQ: A big challenge for me when getting ready for a competition is not messing around with the ingredients such as sauce or rubs. A competition is not the place to be trying out new recipes! When it comes to putting a team together I think you (the pit master) should have folks around you with the same goal… winning. You don’t need people there who just want to party or sit around. I believe, when it comes to BBQ, you should not have too many head cooks. There needs to be one person finalizing decisions.
GWR: Why do you think that this “sport” has evolved into something that people really care about? and has been gaining popularity over the years?
Blind Pig BBQ: I believe the sport of BBQ has been helped along by all the food competition shows on TV in the past few years as well as the exposure given through shows like throw down with Bobby Flay and BBQ Pit Masters. It gets people poking around to find out what these competitions are all about, some inevitably become hooked, as I have. I believe we will see this sport grow, in the next 5 years, to something even bigger.
GWR: What is the “must have” tool for any barbecue Pit Master?
Blind Pig BBQ: A good meat thermometer… safety first. I do love my thermapen.
GWR: What was the first competition that you entered in? And what was it like for you?
Blind Pig BBQ: The first KCBS competition was BBQ on the River in Bristol, PA, 2006. It was a huge eye-opening experience! I found out I had so much more to learn about competition BBQ. Luckily we had some great teams around us willing to give lots of info and suggestions, it was more a training session than a competition for me! We did come out with a top 10 finish – 8th in ribs.
[pullquote]Tom Bera, Blind Pig BBQ: Well I always loved to cook and grill, I’m a carnivore at heart.[/pullquote]
GWR: When was the first time/where was the first time that you won a bbq competition?
Blind Pig BBQ: Well the first competition I ever won was the 2009 Steven Starr / Garry Maddox BBQ Challenge, a charity rib cook-off held every August at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. I was first in the pit master division and first in the Garry Maddox Challenge which included restaurants from the Philly area. The prize was a trophy plate and 2 tickets to a World Series game! I have yet to win a Grand Championship in the KCBS circuit but came close at the 2007 NJ State BBQ Championship in Wildwood, NJ. We were Reserve Grand with a first place in ribs!
GWR: What do you like the best about bbq competitions? What do you like the least?
Blind Pig BBQ: BEST – Everything! Did I mention that was addicted to this to this BBQ thing.
LEAST – The amount of money it takes to feed this addiction. It can become expensive, especially when you are not winning.
GWR: If you had to pick your signature dish what would it be and why?
Blind Pig BBQ: Ribs. They are my favorite thing to smoke and I am always striving to perfect them.
GWR: What was your proudest moment? What was your least favorite moment?
Blind Pig BBQ: Every time someone comes to me and says how much they like the BBQ and each time I hear our team name being called to the stage, that’s a proud moment. My least favorite moment in BBQ is packing up to go home!
GWR: Tell us something that the public does not know about you that you would want to share with Grilling with Rich fans?
Blind Pig BBQ: I hate cooking BBQ chicken for competitions. I know it’s one of the categories that will help get you a Grand Championship so I do try to produce the best I can, but it takes a lot out of me to do so! One thing I take a lot of pride in is our BBQ logo, it was designed and sketched from scratch by my brother Jeff. I think it is unique and original and we didn’t have to go to one of those BBQ logo guys to get it done. Recently another team even tried to make it their logo they liked it so much – I guess I should be flattered.
GWR: What do you think of GrillingwithRich.com
Blind Pig BBQ: Rich is working hard to share his love of grilling and BBQ with everyone he can. Each time I go on his site there something different and interesting about outdoor cooking. Anyone who spends their precious time bring the excitement of BBQ to others is OK in my book! Keep up the good work Rich.
Websites of interest:
www.facebook.com/phillyblindpigbbq – my team page.
Www.blindpigbbq.net – website.
www.mabbqa.com – The Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association.
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