Interview with John Martin

John Martin has competed in Barbq competitions across Canada and the United States, John and his team Big Ass BBQ will be competing at The first annual Cloverdale Cowboy Cook Off in conjunction with the Cloverdale Rodeo on May 20, 2012.

What got you into cooking?

My mother was probably the worst cook I’ve ever known and I always knew I was never going to eat like that again.  She’d make a hundred Velveeta on Oven Joy bread sandwiches at the beginning of the school year and wrap them in wax paper for freezing.  By lunch time most of the freezer burn was still intact. None of the kids at school ever asked to swap sandwiches with me.

When did you enter your first Barbq competition and how did you do?

My first cookout was last year’s BBQ On The Bypass in Langley.  Everything that could go wrong did.  I only had one helper, my timing and sequencing of tasks was a disaster and it poured torrential rain all night; making temperature control a near impossibility.  Somehow, I pulled off a fourth in ribs.

How did you become a leader in Barbq competitions?

I’m very much a newbie in the world of BBQ competition.  I like to think I have helped spread the word about low and slow cooking through several published articles that examine the cultural and social contributions of BBQ.

Which Barbq competitions will you be part of this year?

There are half a dozen or so competitions in B.C. and we’ll be at all of them.  I’ll judge in another 3 or 4 out of province.  There’s no better way to stay on top of what the competition is doing than by judging a few contests each year.

What have you learned in the world of Barbq competitions?

These contests are impossible to predict.  Last year’s grand championship can come back the next year, do damn near the very same thing and finish somewhere near the bottom. The judging process can be quite erratic so it’s best not to invest too much emotion in the scores.  For all but a few dead serious competitors, we’re weekend warriors out to have a good time.  By its very nature, BBQ is meant to be shared.  And you won’t find a more generous group of people than competitors on the BBQ circuit.

What are some of your favorite foods to grill?

“I’ll make you tap out chicken wings” is probably my favorite.  I only do these when I can get fresh Habaneros from Keremeos.  My wife doesn’t eat meat so I grill a lot of salmon and seafood at home.  Favorite late night snack on the grill is a jumbo Qualicum scallop, wrapped in a thin strip of pork tenderloin, wrapped in bacon and coated in crushed pecans with Carolina mustard sauce.

What 5 Ingredients would we find in your Home pantry?

Sea salt.  Coarse black pepper.  Apple cider vinegar.  Red pepper.  Dark brown sugar.

When eating out in restaurants what type of food do you like to eat?

I know it’s a near sacrilegious thing to admit in BBQ circles, but I love sushi.  When I can find it, I won’t pass up authentic southern fried chicken.

Have you ever owned your own restaurant?

Never.

What’s Next on your Culinary Journey?

I have a small BBQ catering outfit up and running that I would like to grow.  Most everyone I talk to has had one too many roast baron of beef buffets and there’s an appetite for something a little more fun.  BBQ is just the ticket – especially when its accompanied by a live blues band. Coincidentally, I have one of those too.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I visit Texas a couple times a year to remind myself how much I still have to learn about smoking.  There is nothing quite like checking out the famed BBQ joints along secondary highways and tucked into small towns in rural Lone Star country.  I have never found anyone can make brisket as tender and moist as the pitmasters at Louie Mueller, Smitty’s and Snow’s.

What is your favourite food that you cook at home?

Bacon.  Crispy fried bacon.  Cider cured bacon candy with chipotle and brown sugar. Bacon wrapped corn on the cob. BTO (Bacon, tomato, onion sandwiches). Caramelized bacon.  Yeah, I’d have to say, “bacon”.

Which 3 wines or beers do you enjoy personally?

I’m a big hophead so I like my IPA’s.  Old Yale Brewing, Central City and Phillips make as good ale as you’ll find anywhere.

If there was one thing you could do as a chef or Bbq champion that you have not already done, what would it be?

The pinnacle would be to be called to the awards podium at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship.  Realistically, qualifying to compete at this event would be a milestone for me.


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