Monthly Archives: April 2011

Social Media, BBQ, and You: Embrace the Trend

A few days ago, I asked for some opinions on social media as it relates to the BBQ industry.  My goal was to prove a point that the social media phenomenon is one that people in the BBQ industry should fully embrace.  In order to do so, I set out to determine the amount of effort that successful users of social media in terms of BBQ, the things that they are doing right, and the positive consequences of their actions.  To those of you who were kind enough to answer the questions I had, thank you very much!  Now, on to the meat of the matter (pun totally intended)…

No matter how you look at it, social media marketing goals can be broken down into three distinct categories: enhancing brand recognition, conversion growth, and brand monitoring.  Whether intentional or unintentional, those of us talking up BBQ on Facebook and Twitter are working to achieve one or more of these goals.  Now there are wrong ways to do this and there are right ways.  The one wrong way that immediately comes to mind is having all of your Facebook statuses, Twitter posts, etc., essentially say “buy my stuff”.  My goal for today, however, is not to focus on the wrong way of doing things.  My goal is to highlight what others are doing right and how you can do the same thing.

The first, and maybe most important, rule of social media marketing is to embrace the “social” aspect of it.  Interact with your followers/fans, and put a significant amount of effort into it.  This was one thing agreed upon by those who took the survey, with 100% of survey respondents stating that over 25% of their social media interactivity involves interaction with others.  This gives customers the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing that there is a person behind that brand taking interest in what we have to say.

Embracing social media is also something that does require a bit of time commitment.  It is not a “flash-in-the-pan” thing that you can do every once in a while and expect to be successful; there has to be a commitment to utilizing social media outlets.  All of the survey respondents stated that they devoted at least 9 hours a week to social media activities, with 86% stating that they devoted more than 17 hours a week.  Each of the respondents has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  The majority also have blogs and are active in various forums, message boards, and other online communities.

In addition to the above information, I asked some free response questions to get a better gauge of the respondents’ mindsets.  One of the questions I asked was for a summary of how they use social media in 100 words or less.  The answers I received all contained two common elements: building relationships and customer service.  These two common elements embrace the social aspect of social media marketing and are a significant factor of why the respondents are successful.

How successful are they?  I asked that question too, inquiring how social media has made an impact on their business.  The response was totally overwhelming in the positive direction.  For the respondents who were bloggers, the impact has been growth of the network base and obtaining more connections.  For those that sell tangible products and services, the impact has been much more tangible.  Multiple respondents cited an increase in brand exposure (from local brand recognition to regional, national, and sometimes international brand recognition), while others noted significant increases in sales.

Obviously the return on investment in social media for those in the BBQ industry can be quite high.  However, it takes a significant amount of work and effort to reap those rewards.  I asked the respondents for one piece of advice they would offer to anyone embarking on the online social media marketing path.  In the advice given, there were certain elements that were repeated over and over again.  Those elements are:

  • Embrace every platform that you can.
  • Be yourself.
  • Don’t sell all the time.
  • Don’t be overly aggressive or rude.
The one piece of advice that kept being repeated was to be yourself.  I totally agree with this.  What makes the world of BBQ so special are all the unique personalities that are within this community.  Allowing your personality to shine through in your online activities will have the same effect that it does with any in-person activities.  
The upside of using social media as a marketing tool in the BBQ industry is huge!  In reality, it’s the same things that have been employed for years and years already by those in the BBQ industry.  The only difference now is that those same principles are being applied in a digital context.
A special thank you goes out once again to those of you that responded to the survey!  I could not have done this without you.  Do you have any other advice that you’d like to add?  Feel free to leave it in the comments below!

Let’s Fulfill a Dream for Cripple Creek Barbeque

In my time that I have been on Twitter, I have come into contact with many many people who share the same love for BBQ that I do.  Many times these people are gracious enough to let me try their sauces, rubs, or gadgets, and I use this space to showcase them.  Today, however, I want to showcase a company for a completely different reason.

Cripple Creek Barbeque is a small family-run company with a big vision.  Located in the Denver, CO metropolitan area, John and Stacy Lynch aspire to bring high quality barbecue (using sustainable foods and practices) along with their sauces (all-natural, no high fructose corn syrup) and rubs to the masses.  Their firm philosophy in using locally sourced meats and produce will be an invaluable asset to the local economy.  However, John and Stacy need our help to make this vision a reality.

To bring their high quality barbeque to the good people of the Denver area, Cripple Creek Barbeque has set out on a quest to raise the funds needed for a food truck.  To make this happen, Cripple Creek Barbeque has partnered with Kickstarter, a company allowing entrepreneurs to use an “all-or-nothing” approach to raising start-up funds.  The target goal for Cripple Creek Barbeque is $12,000.  As of the time this blog was published, they have raised $9,360 of the $12,000 needed.  With less than 3 days remaining, Cripple Creek Barbeque needs your help to make their vision a reality.

You can go here to get to Cripple Creek’s Kickstarter page where you can pledge any amount, starting at $5.  I’ve pledged $20, and I challenge you to match or beat my pledge.  Let’s get Cripple Creek Barbeque over their goal!  They also accept donations via PayPal.

BBQ and Social Media — Your Opinions Needed

Social Media.  It’s the latest craze.  It has completely revolutionized product discovery, customer service, and news delivery.  Social media has allowed like-minded people all over the world to easily connect to one another to various reasons.  But how has it impacted those in the BBQ industry?  That’s what I aim to find out.

I would like to hear from any one who is involved in the BBQ industry in any form or fashion — whether you are a restaurant owner, competition team head cook, rub or sauce maker, or simply a fellow blogger like myself.  I want to know how the social media movement has affected you.  You can contact me one of three ways:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post below.
  2. Use the contact form found here.
  3. Send me an email at brownkw@gmail.com.
I look forward to hearing from you!

Best Of: April 18-24

For your entertainment pleasure, here are the “Best Of” articles for this week!

  • Think sending flowers is just so cliche?  Take it one step further and check out how to give that special someone you love a bouquet of bacon roses!  (Article courtesy of Instructables)
  • Ever wonder what BBQ joints make the “must-visit’ list of some of the world’s top pitmasters?  Kevin Kelly of Kevin’s BBQ Joints gets the scoop on the must-visit BBQ joints according to Danielle Dimovsky (of DivaQ fame).
  • And continuing along with Kevin’s BBQ Joints…  Kevin is running another contest.  This one has lots of goodies being given away courtesy of Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse in Elgin, TX.  Check it out!
  • And in not-BBQ-related news, internet superstar Antoine Dodson was jailed on marijuana possession charges.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Best Of: April 11-17

So yeah… I promise I’ll make a better attempt at doing my weekly “Best Of” posts.  I’ve been battling a health issue that has been a nuisance.  So without further delay, here are the posts I proudly deem the “Best Of” for this past week:

  • Danielle Dimovsky of DivaQ unleashes her inner bartender with her twist on the Bloody Caesar (very very similar to a Bloody Mary for us Americans).
  • Wilfred Reinke (aka the Oshawa Ogre) decides to let someone else write a blog entry for him, and it’s a great one!  Check out the post on spreading the love through BBQ by Doug Francis of Hogs Gone Wild BBQ.
  • Check out this video on Kevin’s BBQ Joints of Kevin Pang (from the Chicago Tribune) getting a tour of 17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL, guided by the Legend himself.
  • One of the most entertaining episodes of The BBQ Central Show was this past week.  Dr. BBQ (Ray Lampe) was the guest for the first hour.  The second hour featured Darren Warth (of Iowa Smokey D’s BBQ, the first winner in the Sam’s Club Series) as well as some deep… beef…

Confessions of a First-Time KCBS Judge

As a lot of you probably already know, I like barbecue a little bit.  If you didn’t know that… well now you know.  In October of last year, I finally broke down and joined the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).  Soon after joining, I learn that there would be a judging class in November of that same year not too far from where I live.  I took the class and joined that elite society known as KCBS judges.

With my newly anointed judgedom, I set off in search of competitions to which I could apply to be a judge.  One of the first competitions I was accepted to judge for was the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff in Kings Mountain, NC.  For those who are interested in the results, you can find them here.  As the day grew closer, I started to get a little more nervous.  Even though the judging class was very thorough in covering what to expect for judging a competition, I was still not sure what to expect.

For those of you who do not know, KCBS-sanctioned competitions have four main meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.  These categories are judged according to set criteria.  Each individual contest may have additional ancillary categories, but they each have the four meats.

Once I walked in and was given my assigned table, it was like an episode of Cheers — where everyone knows your name.  The others at the same table as me were all very friendly and pleasant to talk to and made this newcomer feel welcome!  Once again, my perception of BBQ people being absolutely genuine held true!

Now to my opinions on the food… it was all excellent!  Each piece of chicken, rib, serving of pork, and brisket was all very tasty.  Obviously some were more tasty than others.  The one thing I did notice — especially with ribs and chicken — is that an overly sweet sauce was used as a glaze on the meat.  Now I don’t mind sauce on chicken or ribs… but the sauces seem to take away from the meat rather than enhance it.  The sauces seem to be just sweet and didn’t really have any depth to them.  I’m not sure if this is a trend in competitions nowadays.  Maybe one of the competitors can give me some insight into it.

All in all, the money and time invested in becoming a judge was absolutely worth it!  The Firehouse BBQ Cookoff was well organized and fun to judge.  I’m looking forward to future competitions and hopefully applying to judge the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff again!

Makin’ Some Grub with C-Dub’s BBQ Rub

It’s really amazing how the BBQ world has really embraced Twitter.  Who would’ve ever thought that we could talk so much, establish close ties, and build friendships in 140 characters or less?  That continually amazes me!

Not too long ago, I met some of my Twitter friends in real-life when Charles & Allegra Wilson of C-Dub’s BBQ Rub came to the Carolinas for a visit.  I previously wrote about this meeting.  They were kind enough to give me some of their rub, and I’ve had a chance to use it over the last few days.

A little bit about C-Dub’s… C-Dub’s is based in Washington state, which is better known for its coffee than its BBQ.  It is a family and veteran-run business.  Charles uses his North Carolina roots to produce and market a line of quality rubs at reasonable prices.

The first rub I decided to try is the original All Natural BBQ rub.  It is composed of garlic, pepper, sugar, salt and other spices.  Below are my naked observations…

Naked Observations

In order to better show the rub’s color, I decided to sprinkle some onto a paper towel.  Naturally, I took a picture:

C-Dub's BBQ Rub Close-Up

C-Dub's BBQ Rub Close-Up

At an initial glance, the rub has a very good color that is typical of most BBQ rubs.  However, a close-up shot reveals just how many spices are in play here with the rub.  I took a small taste and found that I tasted garlic more than I did salt (which is a pleasant change).  I also tasted a hint of something smoky within the rub.  It wasn’t an overpowering flavor, but very complementary in terms of the other flavor profiles present in the rub.

C-Dub’s suggests to cook your food low and slow when using their rub.  However, since I was preparing this meal after work, I would have to make use of the gas grill and cook some pork chops.  I lightly coated the chops with vegetable oil and then gave them a generous helping of the rub.  The rub gave the chops a nice beautiful red color.

Pork chops seasoned up

Pork chops seasoned up

After cooking for 20-25 minutes, the chops came off the grill.  I was able to get some pretty decent looking grill marks on the pork chops.

Finished pork chops

Finished pork chops

I could taste the flavors of the rub as I bit into the pork chop.  The flavor profiles present in the rub balanced quite nicely with the flavor of the pork.  I made a note to definitely use this again in the future.  Turns out the future was much sooner than expected…

When I purchased the pork chops, I also purchased some boneless skinless chicken breasts (because my wife won’t eat meat with bones in it…  don’t bother, I’ve already tried).  I finally got around to cooking the chicken breasts (again, on the gas grill…  I’m on a lazy streak).  Since there were four pieces of chicken to cook, I decide to do half of them using C-Dub’s Original BBQ Rub and the other half using C-Dub’s VooDoo Rub.

Naked Observations

The consistency of the VooDoo Rub was very similar to that of the Original BBQ Rub.  A quick taste test confirmed very similar flavor profiles, with the exception of the heat factor.  It had a very nice heat — it was not overbearing but it definitely let you know that it was there.

C-Dubs VooDoo Rub Close-up

C-Dubs VooDoo Rub Close-up

As I mentioned before, I grilled four pieces of chicken.  I used C-Dub’s Original BBQ Rub on half of them, with the rest getting rubbed with C-Dub’s VooDoo Rub.  The package of VooDoo Rub was a “One Nighter” (intended for one meal), but luckily there was enough left over for a “nooner” another day!  :P

Seasoned Chicken Breasts

Seasoned Chicken Breasts -- Original on the left, VooDoo on the right

After spending 20 minutes on the grill, I sauced the chicken breasts.  The pieces that had the Original BBQ Rub were sauced with Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce, while the ones with the VooDoo Rub got a basting with the Spicy BBQ Sauce from Uncle Kenny’s BBQ (read my previous review of Uncle Kenny’s Spicy BBQ Sauce here).

Chicken's Done!

Chicken's Done! Spicy on the left, regular on the right.

The flavor of the chicken was great!  My choice for the night was the spicy chicken.  And it was definitely spicy.  The heat from the rub and the sauce kept me wanting more….  (water, that is).

For anyone who is interested in ordering some of C-Dub’s rubs, you can do so on their website at http://www.cdubsrub.com.  They also have a presence on Facebook and Twitter if you would like to follow them there.

Review: Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q — Charlotte, NC

My search for the best barbecue places in the Charlotte area continued recently with a visit to Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q in Charlotte, NC.  Jim ‘n Nick’s has 28 locations in 7 different states and prides itself in cooking its ‘que low and slow and making everything from scratch.  I’ve heard good things regarding Jim ‘n Nick’s, so I decided to give it a shot.

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q -- Charlotte, NC

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q -- Charlotte, NC

I confess that I got excited when I parked and saw a nice sized wood pile on one side of the building and a pull-behind smoker on the other side.

Pull-behind cooker at Jim 'n Nicks

Pull-behind cooker at Jim 'n Nicks

Once inside, I place my order.  The server was a touch slow to come over and take my order, especially considering that the restaurant was not busy at all.  I decided on a combination platter with spare ribs, hot links, pulled pork, and chicken.  For my sides, I picked BBQ baked beans and onion rings.  I chose the hot links as one of the meats since they were featured by the restaurant at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

I was a little surprised when they brought out cheese biscuits instead of hush puppies to go along with the meal.  However, the biscuits were very tasty.

Cheese Biscuits

Cheese Biscuits

After a little while, my plate comes out of the kitchen.  Wow, that’s a lot of food!

The combo plate... it's huge!

The combo plate... it's huge!

The onion rings -- even bigger!

The onion rings -- even bigger!

Before digging in, I saw there were 2 different sauces available on the table.  Why yes, I do think I’ll try them out…

BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauces

On the right is the original BBQ sauce.  It has a little lighter color than ketchup.  A naked taste tells me that it’s not overly sweet and a little bit bold.  The sauce on the left is the hot habanero sauce.  There is more molasses present in this sauce.  It is a bit sweeter than the original sauce, and it has a good amount of heat.

On to the food…  all of the meats came out pre-sauced.  I usually prefer that it not be sauced, but this is just a personal preference.  The pulled pork was very moist and flavorful.  The sauce worked well with the pork.  However, I could not detect any hints of the meat being smoked.  The chicken was also very tender and moist.  The cut I was given was a bit unusual — I was given a breast and wing rather than a leg quarter.  Not quite bite-thru skin, but that’s okay.  It was still flavorful.

Now on to the hot links…  I could instantly see why they were the featured item.  The sausage was extremely tasty.  Perfectly cooked and just the right amount of heat…  that made for a tasty treat!  The disappointment for me was the ribs.  I could see that they were smoked.  However, they were dry and overdone.

And now to the sides: the BBQ baked beans were adequate.  They contained bits and pieces of pork shoulder.  I would have liked for them to be a little bit more bold.  The onion rings, on the other hand…  WOW!  Those were some fine onion rings.  I could’ve made a meal on them, mainly because they were so many.  They were very crispy and very large.

Overall, I was a little bit disappointed with Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q in Charlotte.  Maybe it’s one of those places where the food is much better for dinner than for lunch, and maybe other locations are just better.  Again, some items were excellent (the hot links, for example), but I guess I just had higher expectations.

Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q is located at 13840 Steele Creek Rd., Charlotte, NC 28278.  The website is  http://www.jimnnicks.com.

Jim 'n Nick's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Book Review: Peace Love and Barbecue

My wife keeps telling me that I need to read some new books, so I decided to take her up on it.  However I needed to find a book on a subject that I enjoyed.  Naturally, BBQ was the first thing that came to mind.  With that being said, the first book that came to mind was “Peace Love and Barbecue” by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe.  This book has been on my radar for quite some time, and I was thrilled that my local library had a copy!

 

Peace Love and Barbecue Front Cover

Peace Love and Barbecue Front Cover

 

Mike Mills, simply known as “The Legend” in BBQ circles, is the owner of 17th Street Bar and Grill (four locations in Southern Illinois) and Memphis Championship Barbecue (three locations in Las Vegas), and he is a partner in Blue Smoke in New York City (as well as the barbecue guru). His Apple City Barbecue team received numerous awards and honors between 1989 and 1994, and his team was also the first team ever to receive a perfect score at Memphis in May.  He is also the only known barbecuer to receive Top Secret Clearance and board Air Force One.

Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, Mike’s daughter, is a professional speaker and writer.  A resident of Boston, she is the brains behind 17th Street’s Twitter Account (@17thstreetbbq).  She is a principal partner in OnCue Consulting, providing consulting services in all facets of the restaurant hospitality industry.

The problem with most food-related books is that they are simply a collection and a regurgitation of recipes.  Prior to reading this book, I’ve only found one barbecue book that was more than just a recipe guide (Rick Browne’s “Grilling America”).  I can proudly say that I can now add “Peace Love and Barbecue” to that list!

The book is very easy reading, and it made me feel like I was sitting next to my grandfather as he’s telling stories.  “Peace Love and Barbecue” masterfully tells Mike’s story, from his humble roots to his Apple City Barbecue adventures to his adventures crisscrossing the country on BBQ adventures.  He interviews numerous legends in the BBQ industry along the way, gathering their secrets, exaggerations, and lies in an all-too-entertaining fashion.

Interspersed throughout the book are numerous recipes.  Some of them come from Mike and Amy themselves, while others are recipes picked up from various BBQ masters throughout the book’s adventures.  There is even an entire section devoted to the how-to needed to successfully cook championship quality BBQ.  The book also holds a special place for me since I lived just miles from Murphysboro, IL (the flagship location for 17th Street Bar and Grill) for two years.

If you have any interest whatsoever in all things barbecue, “Peace Love and Barbecue” is a must-have on your bookshelf.  It masterfully intertwines recipes, storytelling, and interviews in such a way that you’ll find the book extremely hard to put down.

The book is available at most major book retailers (Barnes and Noble, Amazon).  It is also available as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle.  However, the most attractive option is to purchase the book through the 17th Street Bar and Grill website, where the book will be autographed for you.  So if my wife happens to be reading this, “Peace Love and Barbecue” would make a wonderful birthday/Christmas/Arbor Day gift!  If anyone who knows my wife is reading this, let her know this too!