The Thrill of Competition

If you have read any of my blogs thus far, you should know that I cook simply because I love to cook. I am typically not one to seek attention or anything else for my cook. I simply want to cook and I have a damn good time doing it. In this blog, however, I step out of that mold and BBQ purely for competition. 

I know, all you real BBQ people are all rolling your eyes at the thought of a hack like me joining a BBQ competition. So to that, I didn't. While I respect all who enter BBQ competitions, I admit that is a world in which I cannot even begin to comprehend yet. This competition though was more in my wheelhouse. 

My office at work has off and on hosted cooking competitions. Far less competition as it is an excuse to sit around, eat well and have some fun at work. I have actually never entered in any of them in the past. On one hand, I'm lazy, on the other hand, there has not been a competition which really spoke to something I wanted to cook. So I barely paid attention to the email announcing this office slider competition. Once I did read it, I said to myself "Sliders? I'm pretty sure I can BBQ for this one!"

At first, I was not looking to win. I was simply trying to get my BBQ to more people to receive an unbiased reaction. I mean seriously, with the exception of maybe my mother-in-law and Mikey, no one I have cooked for is going to look me in the face and tell me it sucked. So I decided I was in. Now came the decision of what to cook.

At first, I was going to cook a smaller slider variant of the pub burgers I cooked with Mikey. Unfortunately, I realized there was no way building management was going to let me set up a cooker in the parking lot. So whatever I cooked, I had to cook at home and reheat at the office, without the luxury of a real kitchen. My next thought was pork shoulder. But then I realized a co-worker had signed up with her legendary crock-pot pulled pork. While I would love to take out a legend with the same dish done right, I figured needed to be nice about it, so pork was out. Then it dawned on me. Rather than do something everyone knows and has some comparison already in mind, I would go bold and go off the usual path. I decided to bring them a taste of the tri-tip!

Really it was the perfect cook. I could cook it on a weeknight without staying up all night. It could easily be adapted to sliders. And it was one cook I had great confidence with. The trick of this cook was going to be in the re-heat. The office kitchen is little more than a coffee maker, microwave, and a refrigerator. Also, I didn't want to spend all day at work preparing it. With these added hurdles it was time to call Mikey. 

With a short phone call, the plan was set. I needed to reheat, without a kitchen, and I needed to take it slow. The last thing I wanted was to perfectly cook the roast but end up with dry well-done meat because I cooked it more in the re-heat. So for this, I was to cook normally. Then I would let rest until the roast completely cooled. Only at this point would I slice it, and put it all in a Ziploc bag. Letting it cool before cutting should preserve most of the juices. For re-heating, I would bring in a crock pot. I would fill the crock pot with water and submerge the Ziploc bag in the water. This would allow me to heat while still controlling the heat and not cook the meat.

As the day drew closer, the competition started to stack up. There was some vegetarian option which was always just stealing the votes of the office vegetarians. Then there was a real smoked pulled chicken. As the competition grew so did my desire to just annihilate all of them. What started casually had turned into my quest for the infamous 'Golden Spatula' and no one was going to stand in my way.

The night of the cook came and I was prepared. I set out my beautiful tri-tip and seasoned it with Lane's Brisket Rub. I set up the Weber for a two-zone indirect cook and got some cherry wood burning for the smoke. The cook went perfectly. I held temp. My smoke was clean. I even pulled off the reverse sear. 

After that I let it rest until it was completely cool. While it was cooling I went to work making one other needed element. As it was a slider competition I needed to adapt it beyond simply throwing it on a bun. So I made a homemade horseradish cream sauce. When I finished that, the roast was cool and ready to slice. 

The next day I came in ready to win. I slowly brought the roast to temp in the crock-pot of water and laid it out for the competition. The room lit up with the smell of the tri-tip. On the smell alone it was immediately clear this was not much of a competition at all. I casually filled my plate with all the other items and just sat back to watch. 

The first thing I noticed was small things like the mumbling of "Oh my God" when they first took a bite. For a slight moment, I felt kinda bad. I mean it was clear how this was going to turn out, yet the other food I was eating was damn good. That past pretty quick as I saw more people enjoying the tri-tip. Soon the plate was empty. Sure, lunch was not over nor were votes cast, but the tri-tip was completely devoured. Compliments came at me from every direction. The voting was closing when one co-worker stepped up to vote. It was at this point I knew it was over as they were told that unless they are voting on second place there was no point as first was clearly decided with or without their vote.

Soon the golden spatula was in my hand. I had won. Even more pleasing then the spatula was watching the lunch hour the day after. There leftovers from the competition were served. This was the first time I was excited to not have anything left.

At the end of it all, I loved victory. But winning was not what made this competition so enjoyable. I had gotten to a place with my BBQ skills where I was confident. I knew my food tasted great. But that moment was also the point in time where I realized I put so much of myself into my cooks that I will find something great about them. I didn't need the win to get my unbiased reaction. The win was simply the cherry on top. I have a long way to go in BBQ, but for right now, I am doing great and I am damn proud of it.

Take that crock pot pulled pork!

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!