074 NBBQA Conference – Day 1

NBBQA Conference

074 Conference - Day 1


This is Episode Eight of Season Six, my U.S. Road Trip Part II. This episode sees us hit up Kansas City for the NBBQA Conference. The full event was four days long. There was a pre-event on the Wednesday where we hard core BBQ junkies jumped on a bus and headed to Plowboys, Slaps and Joe’s. That was an incredible experience and I was super excited to find the person sitting behind me on the bus was none other than Meathead from amazingribs.com! Thursday and Friday were the Conference days with sessions delivered by numerous experts within the BBQ industry. The annual Excellence Awards Gala was on the Friday night, and Saturday was the Steak Cookoff Association’s NBBQA BBQ Classic competition where they actually ran two rounds in one day! 

In this episode, you’ll find a collection of interviews I recorded on the Thursday – the first day of the conference sessions. The beauty of these industry conferences is that attendees are the most hardcore BBQ professionals who as also keen to network and share their knowledge and skills with others and I definitely found that to be the case here. I’m excited to be able to share these stories and lessons with you. 



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With Hayward Harris Jr – The Rib Doctor

  • He enjoys meeting old friends and making new friends at the NBBQA Conference
  • The BBQ Tour the day before the conference started was a highlight for him
    • Slap’s, then Joe’s, then Ploughboy’s
  • The Rib Doctor
    • A competition BBQ team since 1994
    • Been judging since 1991
    • Have won several excellence awards at the NBBQA
    • They are getting calls at this year’s NBBQA Excellence Awards
    • As a result, their sauces are now in Whole Foods in California
  • He started the Rib Doctor sauce line when he retired from being a bureaucrat
    • Now he’s more busy than when he was working full time
    • He loves meeting people and seeing the expression on their faces when they realise that he’s the face on the bottle
    • It’s all about sharing the knowledge and the passion
  • He’s been cooking since he was ‘knee-high to a 5 cent stamp’ and got a lot of help from the pros
  • The sauce
    • No high fructose corn syrup
    • Gluten free
    • Low sodium
    • Low sugar
    • Use only premium products
    • No MSG
    • This makes it a ‘healthy’ BBQ sauce
  • Finding a co packer
    • He asked people already in the business
    • The NBBQA is also a great resource to help people find a co packer
    • You can also hit up Google
    • Do. Your. Homework. Not all co packers are created equal. They need to be:
      • Honest
      • Capable
      • Use high quality products
    • You have to be able to get comfortable with them
    • Use lawyers to draw up a binding confidentiality agreement, especially if the co packer gives YOU their confidentiality agreement
    • There are many pitfalls to beware of so be very careful and do everything to protect yourself

With Kent and Barret Black from Black’s BBQ

    •  Kent is the 3rd generation and Barret is the 4th generation
    • They love the NBBQA Conference
      • This is their 13th year
      • Kent learns a lot from the sessions, but learns more from the conversations in the bar afterwards
    • The Black family has an 87 year history in BBQ
      • Started in 1932 in Lockhart, Texas
      • His grandfather had 100 head of cattle, but it was The Great Depression
      • Every little town had a meat market
      • His grandfather’s friend had a meat market
      • They formed a partnership
      • They did a cattle drive into Lockhart, moving the 100 head of cattle
      • They would process the cattle as needed for the meat market / grocery store / restaurant combination
      • The grocery store and restaurant split off to become their own businesses
    • Barret Black
      • Every day is different for him
      • They have 4 very successful locations now
      • Barret spends most of his time at the Austin store
      • He spends a lot of time doing demonstrations at Festivals etc
      • The family has a history of innovating flavour profiles while honouring their traditions
      • Like the Maple Jalapeno Donut Sandwich
        • Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage bruleed in Maple Syrup and served in a sliced donut
      • Like Lamb Masa Cakes
        • Coke Mole Sauce
        • At an event called the ‘Lamb Jam’
        • Every chef gets a different category – he got Latin
    • Keep an eye on the Food Network to catch The Blacks again

With Medel from The Meat Stick

  • The Meat Stick
    • A true wireless meat thermometer
    • The probe goes into the meat and stays there
    • Uses Bluetooth to talk to your phone
    • To combat Bluetooth signal loss, they have the Meat Stick Extender to amplify the signal
    • They also have The WiFi Bridge which allows your Meat Stick to send data to the cloud so you can check on your fire and meat from anywhere. The WiFi Bridge will double as an Extender as well if there is no WiFi around
  • The development process
    • Has taken 2 – 3 years
    • Mendel was working in a company that focussed on IOT – the Internet Of Things
    • He found he used to have problems of getting distracted while cooking and messing up meals. This inspired him to create The Meat Stick
  • Right now they’re only selling in the US but are looking to explore other markets
  • They’re looking at getting the product into stores
  • There’s a 30 Day Risk Free Trial – you can return it if you don’t like it
  • Contact them directly for international shipping
  • Price: From $85USD at time of recording
  • Contact: themeatstick.com Insta: themeatstickig 

With Sterling Smith from Loot ‘n’ Booty BBQ

  • He’s coming out to Australia for the Burleigh comp
    • He’ll be working with Hark and Green Mountain Grills
    • He and Dan from Big Smoke BBQ are teaming up to be Green Mountain Grills Australia
  • He has done really with lamb in Australia
    • He first came out to the Invitational in 2017
    • He won 1st place Lamb and Grand Champion
    • In 2018 he took 1st in Lamb and Chicken and 5th overall
  • He came out for Meatstock Melbourne 2019 and finished 4th overall
  • The field is getting stronger in Australia each time he visits
  • The knowledge is freely available now making it easier and faster to learn
  • He did a presentation at the NBBQA Conference 2019
    • He did a Branding seminar
    • A brand is not just a logo – it’s a person, a story
    • They talked about social media
      • YouTube
      • Building customers: an army / ship / tribe
      • Telling your story – What IS your brand? 
      • Being authentic and genuine

With Junior Urias from Up In Smoke BBQ

    • Started as a competition team
      • Built it up to having a restaurant
      • Main business is catering: 2 – 3 caterings per day
    • Started competing in 2010
    • Based in Midland, Texas, 9 hours from Houston
      • Close to New Mexico
    • New Mexican influences
      • The spices and the seasonings are really robust
      • ‘Junior’s Rub for Grub’ is good on everything
    • He’s hitting the BBQ Industry from all angles
      • Rub line
      • Catering
      • Restaurant
    • Moving from competing to catering
      • Started by serving food out of his front yard with a home built trailer and picnic tables
      • Then bought a site and built it out
      • When you don’t have the money or budget to do something, the passion will carry you through
    • His goal at the NBBQA Conference
      • To meet new people in the industry and help them avoid some of the struggles that he’s had
    • A problem and how he overcame it:
      • Two years ago he bought a property for $175,000 USD
      • The oil industry went under and he couldn’t pay his bills
      • The value of the property plummeted
      • He’d built good connections with his customers and they continued supporting him
      • He almost went under but his customers kept coming and carried him through

With Kyle and Mark from Uncle Bub’s BBQ

  • They’ve been coming to the NBBQA Conference for 21 years
  • Kyle is the Pitmaster and Certified Chef
  • They went to Plowboys, Slaps and Joe’s
  • Logistics is Uncle Bub’s point of excellence
    • They are able to do multiple events in the day and to the outside world it looks seamless
    • ‘UPS would be jealous of our logistics.’
  • They do a lot of wedding catering
    • Mark is the point man, detailing all the services that the company offers
    • 75% of their wedding menus don’t even have BBQ on them
    • Their restaurant can appeal to many different pallets
    • They will take old family recipes from the newlyweds and make them up and serve them at the weddings
    • Two years ago they did a consultation with the bride, groom and the bride’s parents
      • They emailed them the details and came back a month later for the tasting
      • After the tasting Mark found out that the mother had passed away in that month
      • They got the recipe for the Mum’s favourite meal, they did a test cook and served the family a trial meal. The family loved it and ordered it for the wedding catering
    • The food arrives between an hour and thirty minutes before serving
    • They’ll do up to four weddings on a single Saturday
  • They’ve had a Director of Operations for over 20 years who oversees everything
  • The Sales Process
    • Marie the Catering Manager will take the initial calls
    • They only do buffet now, no individual plating
    • She schedules a ‘consultation’ where the client sits with Mark
    • Mark gets all the details, makes a timeline with them, locations etc
    • They then discuss budgets
    • Some caterers put on a cake cutting charge per person
    • Everything is line itemed including gratuity so there are no hidden charges
    • He has a worksheet so he can fill in as he goes and be very clear on pricing
    • They get a free meal on that day, then they come back for a tasting (a second meal)
  • They almost take on the role of Wedding Planners. In fact, Wedding Planners often get in their way
  • They get a lot of corporate gigs resulting from their weddings
  • An average sized wedding is 150 – 200 people
  • Bridezilla Moments
    • Happens quite often
    • Last year they were doing a wedding at a Bride’s house
    • They were grilling Angus steak on site
    • Started raining
    • The Bride and Bride’s Mom were on their case all day
  • More often, the mother of the bride is the worst
    • There was one wedding where they’d been drinking from early in the morning and the Bride’s mother fell out of the bus and face-planted at the wedding site

With Mikey from Man Meat BBQ Double Check this is from Day 1, not Day 2

    • Mikey had a great day taking classes. He got to take a brisket class with the Blacks of Black’s BBQ
    • Operation BBQ Relief did lunch and did a great job
    • Mike from Code 3 Spices did a great presentation with a lot of honest truth about their journey
    • All of the public speakers were great
    • BBQ is all about helping each other, and even BBQ podcasters can team up and work together
    • Everyone that Mikey has spoken to has been willing and excited to help him
    • I went to a great presentation with Joey Machado, Junior Urias and Peter Shater from Head Country BBQ on Marketing which was incredible
    • The NBBQA Awards
      • Mikey’s looking forward to it as it’s going to be a lot of fun
      • He didn’t know about the digital awards so he didn’t enter


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