039 Saffron LIVE – w/ OBR

Operation BBQ Relief

039 Saffron -
w/ Operation

Alrighty, this episode is part two of a pair of episodes where I turned the mic over to guest host Saffron from Bush Cooking while we were at the Houston Livestock Rodeo World’s BBQ Championships. This is a very special episode that’s stayed with me ever since we recorded these interviews. Saffron sits down with the lads from Operation BBQ Relief – a fantastic group of gentlemen who’ve taken the idea of doing good with their BBQs and ramped things up to eleven. I really can’t tell you any more than this without giving too much away.


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With Stan Hayes, Founder of Operation BBQ Relief

  • Operation BBQ Relief is a Disaster Relief Non-Profit Organisation that serves hot BBQ meals to people affected by disasters and the first responders
  • Last August, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas
    • They cooked for 11 days and served over 370,000 meals from a parking lot
    • They put meals onto Black Hawk helicopters which were delivered to areas cut off to cars
  • Volunteers and Sponsors are equally important
    • They need to people to cook, but they also need food to cook and pits to cook on
  • They have it down to a science as to how many pits they’ll need running to cater for however many people
  • BBQ is all about friends, good times, and people coming together. Sometimes it’s for a party, sometimes is for a good cause
  • Their goal is to bring that friendship and compassion to areas affected by natural disasters
    • The food takes people’s minds off the bad things currently happening and let’s them think about what has been and what could be again, even if just for a short time
  • May 23rd, 2011 after the Joplin Tornado in Missouri was when Stan’s wife first had the idea for him and his friends to use their BBQ’s to help out
    • Stan put the idea to his friends
    • By the 24th they were serving meals
    • By the 25th, companies were bringing product to help
    • They did 120,000 meals in 11 days from a parking lot
    • They realised there’s a gap in time between when a disaster happens and when governments can respond with hot meals
  • Now they are in 24 states and have covered 44 different disasters
    • Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods, Fires,
  • 18 months ago, in Hammond, Louisiana, they had 29 inches of rain in 24 hours
  • Now looking at opening OBR overseas
    • They need to get some full time people working for OBR first
    • They are looking at getting set up in Canada and Australia as they model the United States’ philanthropic attitudes and first response methodologies
  • When someone makes a donation to OBR, the money goes straight to disaster relief
    • Fundraising money comes from selling swag or other events
    • The donation money does not go to covering any events whatsoever
  • Go to obr.org
    • Click on ‘Volunteer’ to register to help
    • There is also a donate button
    • Set a smaller donation per month – it’s more helpful than a big donation at a disaster time
    • There are also corporate sponsorships available, donating product and money
    • Companies can help out in another way by paying employees to volunteer
  • A memory from OBR
    • Wimberley, Texas
    • The Blanco River broke its banks due to historical rainfall levels
    • They received a note and a donation from families who had lost people in that event thanking them for their work and saying that they could never express what it meant to have that food delivered to them

With William from OBR (Pitmaker Pits)

  • On-the-Ground Volunteer
  • Met Stan at Memphis in May
  • When Hurricane Harvey hit, his own and his parents houses got flooded
  • To be able to give back and feed people in such a disaster was an incredible experience
  • “I could rebuild later, but people needed us out there then.”
  • OBR gives people hope in times of disaster
  • What does an average day look like?
    • Get up early, 5am and get on site
    • Prepare all the food and light the pits
    • William’s job involves logistics
    • He makes plates, puts them in Cambros and puts the cambros in vehicle
    • He’s in bed around 10pm and back up again at 5am
  • You can see how thankful people are by the look of their faces and that’s what keeps the team going
  • Hurricane Harvey was almost a year ago and people are still trying to rebuild
  • Mark Lambert from OBR (Sweet Swine ‘O’ Mine)

    • He’s been competing for 22 years
      • He worked for a company that had a hospitality booth at Memphis in May
      • When the company decided to stop going, he and his friends got together and started entering
      • He’s had a lot of success in all of the major competitions in the States
    • He got involved with OBR after the Joplin Hurricane after hearing about it through the BBQ family
    • He worked out that OBR was the perfect way for him to use his gifts to give back
    • Mark’s position is ‘State Lead’
      • He represents OBR at state meetings and conferences for volunteer organisations
    • What it’s like on the ground:
      • It’s almost like going into battle
      • The State Lead is in charge on site – they have to find sites for example. They often start with churches & convention centres adjacent to the affected areas
      • Often people hit the road and start converging even before the final location is pinned down
      • They need to start getting meal counts etc to start planning. Might go from 2k to 12k to 20k to 40k
      • They stay as long as there is a viable need
      • They feed the victims and the responders
      • They get in as quickly as possible before handing over to the Salvation Army for longer term care
      • They cover a wide range of meals. They need to offer a wide variety. It includes: pulled pork, teriyaki chicken, hamburgers, roasted pork loin, beef shoulder clawed, beef chuck, brisket
      • The key is to be able to set and forget, then feed a large number of people
      • Anything that can be done on a large rotisserie smoker
      • They split into teams for proteins and sides
      • They usually begin packing individual meals and then pack mass serves E.g. 400 serves of protein and 800 vegetables
    • Personal story:
      • He was at Sam’s Club, General Springs, Louisiana
      • They had 8ft of water on the road
      • Everybody was wiped out – they had nothing left except for what they could pack into their car and take to the car park
      • FEMA got involved to help people out
      • Mark was handing them meals in their cars
      • They were so overwhelmed and so thankful for the help

With Jerry from OBR

  • He didn’t come from a BBQ background
  • He came to OBR after he and his family lost their homes in a disaster in April 2011
  • They had such a great experience from all the people helping them that he was always asking himself where it all came from
  • The experience touched him
  • When there was a disaster at Moore, Oklahoma, he rang a friend who was involved and asked if he could help out
    • He spent ten days there helping out
    • He was able to relate to people as he had been through the same thing
  • He’s now done 7 deployments
  • He is the Alabama State Lead
    • He’s in contact with FEMA and other organisations
    • VOAD – Voluntary Organisations Active in Deployment
    • He liaises with these organisation to supply information back to OBR
  • Events like Houston are great for publicity
  • Immediately after an emergency they start reaching out to FEMA and other VOADs to start working out how big the need is
    • This includes not only the victims but also the responders
    • They find a church or sporting goods parking lot big enough to set up their camp
    • They set up and get started
  • There is a core of people starting with Stan and Will (the Founders) and then they have local volunteers come in on top of that
  • The miracle is in the coming together of the community. All politics is out and it’s the America that everyone knows, loves and remembers again

With Duke from OBR

  • Duke is the man on the ground for side dishes
  • He works in Construction when he’s not working with OBR
    • This has given him lots of experience having to do lots of work in short periods of time in adverse conditions
  • Sides often include: green beans, corn, collard greens, red beans, rice, carrots,
  • Immediate availability is often beans and corn
  • They plan their ingredients the day before
  • There is a core of 3 people that always travel together
  • A standard day with OBR
    • Finding out the meal count
    • Up at 5am, preparing for the day
    • Checking inventory and making sure they have enough
    • Letting coordinators know how many volunteers they’ll know
    • He’s served up to 57,000 people just out of his kitchen alone
  • Everybody forgets their differences and focuses on making a difference
  • He doesn’t have much opportunity to interact with the people receiving the meals
  • The Houston deployment was the first time they used Air Lift to distribute the meals
  • Personal Story:
    • At Moore, Oklahoma, he was working in an area serving school kids who told him stories about their school getting blown away and their friends getting killed then digging down into how the kids no longer had cars or homes
    • When he got home he was exhausted, felt like he could do more and felt guilty that he still had so much


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