073 Saffron Hodgson – BBQ Conferences

BBQ Conferences

073 Saffron Hodgson -


This is Episode Seven of Season Six, my U.S. Road Trip Part II. In this episode, Saffron Hodgson, the woman behind Bush Cooking steps into The Confessional. Saffron is an Aussie expat, living in Seattle, Washington who is taking the US by storm. It was actually Saffron who kicked off this year’s trip to America when she invited Smoking Hot Confessions to be part of the official media team covering the National BBQ and Grilling Association’s annual conference. Here, we get an insight into what it takes to get a profitable website off the ground and then we go even deeper into what it takes to run successful, professional BBQ Conferences.



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  • Last thing she cooked was a bourbon glazed ham that her kids loved
  • She uses a Grilla Grills pellet grill. It’s round, about the same size as a Weber Kettle
    • It can do low or high temperatures
  • She’s always been into camping and when she moved to the USA she fell in love with BBQ and liked the honest, brutal feedback she got from judges at competitions
    • Every single cook she did, she got full comment cards re taste, texture and appearance
  • In the Seattle region
    • Pacific Northwest BBQ Association
    • The second oldest BBQ sanctioning body
    • Turn-ins are always an hour apart
    • In a different order than regular
    • Whereas the ABA is just a sanctioning body, the NBBQA puts on the whole competition 
  • She also cooks in Chuck Wagon competitions
    • It’s based on how cowboys used to cook their food in the 1890’s
    • Half the points come from the chuck wagon itself
    • They have to cook with only what was available then
    • It’s all done in camp ovens and she has to burn down timber toncoals herself
    • Meat, bread, beans, potato, dessert
    • All have to be turned in at the same time
    • She cooks for 50 to 100 cowboys in Dutch ovens
    • It takes 21 Dutch ovens
    • There is a giant one called a Macca which requires a pulley to lift the lid 
  • There’s a squirrel competition in Bentonville Arkansas that she got to judge
    • Squirrel takes on the flavour of what it’s cooked in
    • If you catch the squirrels at the wrong time of year, the flavour can vary wildly
  • Bush Cooking
    • She started it in Australia, doing catering
    • In 2000 she started collecting content for a cookbook
    • She decided to build a website to house the content
  • How to make money from a website
    • International food bloggers conference
    • They survey and share the results of successful food blogs
    • Only 3 – 4% of food blogs are successful enough for the owners to do it full time
    • The website becomes like a business card and leads to other opportunities – classes, consulting etc
  • Google has a whole separate algorithm for recipe websites
  • There are seven niche algorithm streams in Google
    • You can optimise each page for different algorithms
  • Traffic can come from SEO, Direct, or from Social Media
  • Bush Cooking and Dippers Backyard BBQ Wars
    • She was a sponsor
    • Took the photos and put the recipes up on Bush Cooking
  • Her biggest challenge
    • She’s a perfectionist
    • When she works for other people she finds it easier to sign off on things 
  • Her biggest success
    • Smashing her business plan into pieces 
  • In the future
    • She has a few projects such as a print function
    • Photo projects – optimising photos to improve speed etc
  • Executive Director of the NBBQA
    • National BBQ and Grilling Association
    • Professional association – focussed on businesses rather than competitions
    • It was the job she moved into after getting her website set up
    • As Executive Director, she essentially works for the Board
    • 12 member board including people such as Barrett Black, Kevin Coleman and Mark Lambert
    • The Board are all volunteers
  • Why are professional BBQ Conferences important?
    • It’s easy to feel alone and get stuck by yourself, working on the business
    • It’s important to get out and network within your industry
    • Most people get the most benefit from the networking – they learn from people who’ve already been where they are
  • If someone wanted to put on a conference
    • There are two models
      • A business conference – someone owns it, makes decisions and makes a profit
      • A non-profit conference – everything is run by volunteers and committees
  • Tips for putting on a BBQ Conference
    • Make sure you’ve got good volunteers
    • A shared vision
    • Accountability for the actionable items
  • Sourcing Sponsors
    • They contact members first to call for sponsors
      • B2B Marketing
      • Some businesses are interested in the immediate ROI – how many people will their brand be in front of
      • Other businesses want to be seen as being at the forefront of the industry
      • Others still sponsor a conference just to give back
    • The conference is NBBQA’s only fundraising event per year and relies so much on sponsors
  • Choosing a venue
    • A venue has to be booked a year, if not two years in advance
    • You have to be able to forecast what the association is going to look like a couple of years out
    • Locations need to be in line with members’ expectations
  • When looking for presenters
    • They put out a call to the members
      • They could nominate themselves and a topic
      • They could nominate somebody else and a topic
      • Essentially make a wish for a topic
    • You need feedback from attendees to make sure the info presented is the info wanted
  • Biggest challenge and how to overcome it
    • Members with unrealistic expectations, or make complaints without offering solutions
    • She loves volunteers who will recognise a need and fill it
  • The best thing about putting on a professional conference
    • Seeing people who have improved their business because of what they’ve learnt or the network they’ve created
  • Top 3 pieces of advice for people going to BBQ Conferences to get the best out of them
    • Have a clear idea of what you want to get out of the BBQ Conferences – networking, education, or just have fun
    • Plan how you’re going to spend your time – if you want 1:1 time, organise it beforehand
      • The board can make introductions
    • Follow up afterwards – if you’ve met someone that you liked, or if you have more questions for them, reach out to them afterwards. Check out Linkedin, Facebook, or email
  • Brisket – fat side down
  • Chicken – breasts
  • Pork Ribs – Baby Backs. She didn’t know there were other types until she moved to the U.S.
  • Sauce – a thin glaze, or on the side
  • Money Muscle – overrated, mainly coz she doesn’t know how to cook it properly
  • Nemesis Cut – Bread
  • One tip or trick – know how to read the meat
  • The next trend – traditional BBQ and gourmet BBQ will become more independently recognised
    • A lot of traditional BBQ joints are not scoring well in BBQ reviews with the industry leaning towards more gourmet BBQ joints
  • Pellet grills in competitions – Yes, because she needs to sleep, but she still prefers charcoal / live fire
  • Fantasy BBQ League – She prefers to work with teams rather than individuals


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