Woo Hoo! We were ecstatic to learn on Friday, September 3, 2010, that we made it to the 2010 Jack Daniels Invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee, with our seven Grand Championship wins.
It’s been a three-year journey to get to this milestone beginning in 2008 when we won the California BBQ Association Best New Team and Rookie Of The Year (ROY). In 2009, we won three Grand Championships and even though we had the most GCs for our state, we didn’t make the lottery draw for the Jack. One of our 2009 GCs was history making because we were the first team in America to win four 1st places at a state championship contest at the California State Championship in Stockton on July 4, 2010.
For 2010, I decided that the only sure way to get to the Jack was to win seven GCs. It’s an honor which only a handful of teams are able to accomplish every year. For 2010, we were among four teams out of 4,500 who accomplished this Herculean feat. We also had six instead of 12 months to do so during the qualifying period from September 1 to August 30 because I was on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters Season One from September until December 2009.
As expected, our auto has not been without myriad challenges, including being flamed on the Internet forums. I was reminded by numerous BBQ greats past and present that that’s par for course once you start winning. Boy, were they right! Thank you to all of the teams, officials, and judges who stood up for our side of the story. Nevertheless, it amazes me that people who were not there, who live in glass houses, have not read the 2010 Jack rules, seen the forms, investigated the official results, etc., have decided that their personal vetting and gossiping of who gets to the Jack is correct, instead of relying on the Jack Daniels officials who made the call after thoroughly researching and investigating all applications received. Too much Monday morning quarterbacking IMHO.
To my close friends and BBQ brothers, I’ve told the story of how I found a brand-new Jack Daniels baseball cap while I was biking in Huntington Beach one weekend in July 2009. I was loading my bike into my van and noticed what looked like a navy-blue jacket in the middle of busy Brookhurst Avenue. I thought I would run over to pick it up and leave it on the sidewalk so the owner could get it later. When I got closer, it wasn’t a jacket but a baseball cap. I picked it up and turned it over. I felt goose bumps when I realized it was a brand-new baseball cap and it had Jack Daniels on it. Yes, and I swear I did not make this up. I have witnesses.
It took it home and threw it on top of one of my trophies and forgot about it. When I did not get the draw in September 2009, I remembered the hat and told myself I just found a lost hat and it was nothing related to me going to the Jack and not to get my hopes up.
In October 2009, I was treated to a birthday lunch by my co-workers at the Mayflower Chinese restaurant in downtown Los Angeles Chinatown. There were seven of us (again the Jack #7 shows up) and we each picked up a fortune cookie at the end of the meal. Mine said the following: “Use your abilities at this time and stay focused on your goal. You will succeed.” I interpreted staying focused on my goal was related to the Pitmasters show I was on at that time and when I won the season finale and took $500 each from Johnny, Myron, Tuffy, et. al. I thought that was what it meant. I now wonder if the baseball cap and fortune cookie was trying to tell me something else.
On June 4, 2010, another Ripley’s Believe It or Not fortune cookie said: “Remember three months from this date. Your lucky star is shining.” Wow, the news for our Jack Automatic was on September 3, almost exactly three months later. I’m not a person who believes in mumbo jumbo. I believe I chart my own course in life. However, it’s hard for me to ignore these incidents especially the brand-new Jack cap. So, whomever you are out there who left it on the street for me to pick up and who’s been sticking messages into my fortune cookies, please call me to tell me I’ve been punked!
In summary, I’d like to recap the life philosophy which got us to the Jack. We never cook with expectation to win. We cook from our heart with intention to do our best. That way, we are never disappointed when we don’t win which is often. This also applies whether we get to the Jack or not. It’s the camaraderie and the friendships we’ve fostered that brings us back every weekend. BBQ is not just about getting on stage and winning awards but cheering your friends when they win.
We share our competition BBQ samples with our neighbors at every contest and leave our booth open to all who want to see our prep. BBQ is the only true American cuisine, and we are proud to cook it and pass on our knowledge. That’s why we conduct free clinics whenever we compete to teach Ribology 101 and Slap Yo Daddy Lazyman presentation boxes (which have been used by dozens of teams including BBQ legends like Johnny Triggs and Jaime Geer). We’ve mentored dozens of new teams and shared BBQ secrets and answered 279 posts on the Virtual Weber Bullet Forum making history as the post popular guest on the world’s largest online community of Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) BBQ-ers.
Additionally, I’ve trained 200 Paduan students who have gone on to win GCs and RCs (including Dave Malone from All Sauced Up, Gary Notley from Notley Que, Jennifer Duncan from Smoked To The Bone, and many others). I consider myself a lifelong learner of BBQ and am happy to share what I know because it’s not mine to keep anyway. We’ve even caused a run-on chicken hats after I wore one on the show. You can’t be serious when you wear one and that’s struck a chord with many.
During our journey, all the funds we’ve received, we’ve used partly to help worthy charities including Operation Homefront for the troops, veterans, and families; and Save The Children. This month, we’ve started to teach $40 BBQ classes once a month at the Rowland Adult Community Education in Hacienda Heights, California. We want to pass on our love and passion for American BBQ to as many people who want to learn this true American cuisine. We were fortunate to end up on TLC BBQ Pitmasters Season One which continues to inspire and touch people including 6-year-old fans to 70-year-old grandfathers which I’ve blogged about in the past.
While it’s good to have BQ (BBQ intelligence) and IQ, it’s far more important to have EQ (emotional intelligence) which is the ability to relate and cultivate rapport with your fellow humanity. Our grand adventure continues, and my head is brimming with all the possible ways to make a positive difference in our world through BBQ. I speak from my heart when I say that BBQ equals happiness. Thanks to you, my 80+ blogs the past 3 years have become a popular BBQ blog destination as ranked by Alltop.com. Thank you for joining us on our journey.