So here's some best hits of Uncle Ho's year in BBQ and what a year it's been.
For those who know me, I've always had a full head of hair
. My hair style itself has remained more or less unchanged since college. So when 2013 began I declared that this year will not only be different, it will be RADICALLY different. Now for a budding BBQ guy there isn't much radical revolution one can do the freezing January 5th weather, so I shaved my head. Certainly not the craziest thing one can do but I wanted to start off the year completely different and so my long locks had to go. The theme of making this a dramatically different year, I actually quit my long time job to focus full time on the Swine. Despite years of attempting to get canned it seemed like my employer loved me enough to keep me around and continually promote me. So if I was gonna make a change I was going to take the plunge into the uncertain BBQ waters.
#2 The public gets to know Arrogant Swine - aPORKalypse 2013
I did my very first public appearance as the Arrogant Swine at Alewife's annual aPORKalypse event
where my pork was featured with a whole host of other chefs doing fancy things to pigs along with pours of great American craft beers. Following the Steve Jobs' philosophy to shamelessly steal great ideas, I decided then and there that to best honor the religion of Carolina whole hog BBQ, it must always be a party. Whole hog BBQ has and will always be in the context of partying with those you love. My BBQ will not be a foodie BBQ. It will not be there to serve the short attention spans of those who constantly seek out the latest culinary hit. My BBQ will not be divorced from the assembly of friends and strangers to one place. A place where the beers flow with laughter and the music is only extra sauce you need. This seed was the vision for the Hog Days of Summer.
#3 The SWINE trailer shows up at the Big Apple BBQ Festival
Like Xmas, our favorite time of year rolls back around when the Big Apple BBQ
block party comes back to town. This time however the massive Arrogant Swine trailer cooks with my teacher, the Godfather of North Carolina BBQ - Ed Mitchell.
It threatens to rain every single year at the BABBP but this year the storm definitely delivered! Cascading downpours drenched us to to core on the Friday before the big day and the storms delayed the rest of the pit crew and their pits coming in! Good thing we had my smoker there to get things started. Otherwise there wouldn't have been any hog to serve when the doors opened at Team Ed!!
#4 The Hog Days of Summer!!
Now if you're an intelligent person, you would do small pop-ups. 20/30 person ones where you test your system and see how it holds up. You avoid sticky issues like pouring alcohol and letting folks drink as much as they want. An intelligent person wouldn't try and pull off 14 sessions of beer + BBQ + music events where seatings ranged from 80 to 200 persons! Well we all know where I fell on the intelligence scale. As a full testament to the fact that God watches over children, animals and fools, we managed to pull off some pretty respectable events by taking over construction lots, getting the wonderful folks over at Founder's Brewery to supply us beer, and bring in some awesome musicians like Blind Boy Paxton and Garage Sale. Every session got their own 220-260 pound heritage breed hog from Tamarack Hollow farms. Without the support and love of Josh and Philip of John Brown Smokehouse none of this would have been possible.
#5 Keeping up my duties at John Brown Smokehouse
While Arrogant Swine is my main shop I still function as the resident Whole Hog guy for John Brown Smokehouse
. So if you place an order for hog there, you'll see me pull up with my smoker. Definitely the best catering we've done ever has been this wedding by the beach in July. JBS pitmaster Josh Bowen and I packed up the smoker and drove up to Connecticut for 2 days to cater. In between shoveling hot coals under my hog, I took naps next to the beautiful Long Island Sound. There are worst ways of making a living than getting paid to lounge around listening to calling gulls and breathing in ocean breezes.
#6 Getting some press!
Oh if that wasn't fun enough I got my own ARBY'S VIDEO!!!!!
Arby's Sandwiches started a national campaign to promote their new BBQ sandwich. As part of that promotion they decided they were going to feature several experts to talk about their regional style. I got to represent Carolina whole hog. I hope I did my faith the justice she deserves.
#7 Keeping up with the events circuit
#8 Starting my catering business
It's fun to have a hobby but it's even more fun to get paid for it! I got to do a fair bit of catering all around town this year. Included with this were corporate clients including Crossfit Queens, real estate giant Jamestown LP, national accounting firm McGladrey & Co, and the Bronx Zoo.
#9 Making new friends
Along with a whole host of fun food business friends I made over the year I got to make friends with local pitmasters Bill Durney (Hometown BBQ
), Matt Fisher (Fletcher's BBQ
), and Frank Davis (Beast of Bourbon
). That they count me as a peer is an honor indeed.
#10 The SWINE is coming!
I still haven't got a lease signed yet. That's the one really crappy part about real estate hunting, you fall in love with a space and the landlord flakes on you. A space we put in a ton of work doing environmental research for the landlord in Greenpoint just died on the vine. Turns out the landlord got cold feet on having a food business tenant and won't say yes. Also turns out the jack off isn't getting any bids for his potential superfund site so he's holding on to us just in case. We have to bids now on some very exciting spaces even more exciting than my original target so fingers crossed. Either way, the Arrogant Swine is coming and we're hoping to finally have a permanent home to fly the flag of Carolina whole Hog BBQ here in NYC.
The year started with no more detailed plan than "this year is gonna be dramatically different" and well I went for broke. I left behind all that was familiar and comfortable. I tossed slow and steady for the tumultuous chaos of entrepreneurship. A college mentor gave me the greatest life attitude which has been good to me - Constantly imagine yourself climbing up a forbidding mountain. It looks like you'll never get to the top but looking down you realize you're farther along than when you first started and you're higher up than you ever imagined you could have gone when the adventure first started.
I have much planned for 2014 I hope you'll like it. Hope to feed you some swine soon.