031 Ricki – Bully BBQ

031 Ricki -

Ricki from Bully BBQ is my special guest in Ep 12 of Season 2 ‘Living the Dream’. Ricki embodies the very concept of living the dream. Unhappy in his job, he designed the lifestyle he wanted and then built a BBQ business to fit that lifestyle. The result was Bully BBQ – a BBQ school touring around Australia. If you’re thinking of starting up some classes of your own, this Ep is for you!

Much thanks and appreciation go to this episodes sponsors:

Harvey’s Kitchen

Clean Heat BBQ

JAGRD Woodfired Smoker Ovens


  • Last thing Ricki smoked was lamb ribs. He usually trims the fat off. If he doesn’t, he sears them at the end. Basic salt and pepper rub and then smoked for 3 hours. Smokes them in whole slabs
  • He has 11 different BBQs but cooks most on The Good One Marshall for smoking and charcoal cooking. He has a Weber Genesis that he uses during the week for quick cooks
  • The Ziggy was recently sold
  • He first got into BBQ when he was an exchange student while at university. Some American friends introduced him to it
  • His first real BBQ was a Weber Kettle and cooking roasts and what not
  • He has since spent a lot of time in the States
  • His first experiences predate the ABA, but he first got interested in competitions after he went to the first Port Macquarie comp
  • He has trained under Chris Marks, a former world champion. He imported a ‘Good One’ and during that process he met Chris and took some of his classes. They got to chatting and Ricki lined Chris up to come do a tour in Australia of classes which were co-delivered with Ricki
  • He competed at the American Royal
    • They got invited to cook in the celebrity cook-off where they partnered up with a celebrity Jamie Bulmer
    • They got 2nd in pork loin and first in steak, so first overall
    • They got half a dozen news crosses including Fox News
  • He chose The Good One because he loves offset smokers and needed something reliable for using week in, week one
    • The firebox is behind and below the cooking chamber so the heat distribution is even and extremely efficient
    • 5kg of charcoal and it will run all night
    • No hot spots
    • Baffle plates to control the heat and create hot spots if you want to
    • Importing the first one was difficult, but now he knows how the systems work and has all the right contacts
  • Bully BBQ
    • Ricki used to be an engineer on the roads and realised that he hated his job. All he wanted to do was run his own business and do something that he loved
    • He went to a bunch of different business seminars
    • He only enjoined training new people in his job, so decided that teaching BBQ was what he was going to do
    • He did some catering, but preferred teaching because he didn’t get the personal contact from catering
    • He has a couple of rubs and sauces that he’ll be taking commercial soon
    • Bully BBQ has done up to 41 classes in a year, including corporate gigs
    • He wants to do more corporate gigs as the client organises the students rather than Ricki
    • He’s also going to be doing a few more comps than normal this year
  • The Bully BBQ business name
    • The name started as a competition team name, named after their dog
  • What characteristics make a good BBQ teacher
    • Initially he had a phobia of public speaking so he took a couple of speaking and presenting courses from people who travel around delivering courses
    • He did a lot of practice to make sure he got the food right
    • He spent a lot of time working out how to present the food
    • You need to do things like varied activities, getting them up and moving, give them breaks etc
  • The first class he delivered as Bully BBQ
    • He was terrified – he’d never really spoken in front of people before
    • He snuck a few beers to calm the nerves
    • He had a few of his mates in the crowd to put himself at ease, but it actually made it worse because they were people he knew and would see again
    • He tried to pack too much information in
    • He didn’t have his overall class structure down as well as he does now
    • It was at a winery which was good as people had already been plied with wine
  • How does he put a class together
    • When – on weekends
    • Where – he finds a venue that has a good vibe, similar to his own, and can have a smoker
    • What to cook on – he uses the Marshall for every class as he can leave it overnight and get some sleep
    • What to cook – he started out doing what he thought they wanted, and then modified the classes based on what his students told him he wanted
    • He establishes relationships with businesses local to the venue of his classes to support the local business and also to be able to point his students to a place where they can buy what they’ve just seen in class
    • He has to have a separate food licence for each region he works in
  • Some things that people who are looking to open a school should know that they haven’t already thought of:
    • It’s more work than people assume – Ricki actually does heaps during the week
    • You’ve got to treat it was a business – Ricki got himself a business coach and a mindset coach
    • The first couple of classes will go alright from your own personal network, but you’ll exhaust that pool pretty quickly – you need a solid marketing set up to back it up. This includes a website, marketing, online sales etc
  • The hardest thing about running a BBQ school
    • Consistency and continuity
    • It can be very draining – prepping through the week, marketing takes a lot of time, you’re working all weekend.
    • Make sure you take care of yourself to be in your best form for classes
    • Scheduling of not just the classes, but also the process leading up to it
  • The best thing about running a BBQ school
    • Hanging out with people that are on their BBQ journey
    • You get to talk about something you’re super passionate about
    • The BBQ classes appeal to his inner hunter/gatherer
    • The reactions from people
  • Ricki’s ranking of proteins from easiest to most difficult?
    • Lamb and pork are the easiest, then beef and then chicken
    • Brisket is probably the hardest individual cut
    • Chicken is definitely the most tedious
  • Most user friendly smoker for a beginner and why?
    • On a budget, a Weber Smokey Mountain or a ProQ are easy to use
    • If you have a bigger budget, you’ll get a better design and build quality
    • The Good One is super easy for first time users
    • If you want a horizontal tube-style offset, the bigger the budget, the better the end product
  • Was he scared to give his day job, and what made him decide to take the leap?
    • He decided first that he wanted to leave his job and start his own business
    • So he went to a few seminars on business building
    • He got a business coach and a mindset coach
    • Got everything in order and then made the jump
  • How to distinguish your Master Classes from everybody else’s, and is it important to have a following on social media?
    • Think about what you want to offer and what makes you different. What will be different about your classes?
    • Find something that’s not being offered and target that with your marketing
    • It’s not overly important to have a following, but it’s a big bonus if you do
    • The more you get out there and do it, the bigger the following you’ll develop
    • Best case scenario, he gets to start a business he loves, following his passion. Worst case scenario, he goes back to being an engineer. What was he doing now? Being an engineer. He was living his worst case scenario.
  • What’s the most popular cut of meat at his classes and why does he think that is?
    • Lamb ribs, pork tenderloin, brisket
  • What is the most common misconception that either competitors or people getting in low’n’slow have?
    • Most people in the backyard try to overcomplicate things based on what they’ve seen at competitions
    • Ricki treats each cook like a science experiment, changing just one thing at a time
    • Competitors need to remember they’re cooking for judges, not for themselves. You’re not trying to cook the best thing you can, you’re trying to cook something that doesn’t offend anyone
  • Ricki’s top three tips for people thinking of putting together some classes of their own
    • Get very clear on what you’re going to provide and what your points of difference are
    • Think about the BBQ aspects AND the business aspects – marketing, promotions etc
    • Have fun with it


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