LAKE PLACID - Cooking corn on the cob in a Weber charcoal grill Saturday evening, July 5 at the Olympic Speedskating Oval, Andy King shared memories of his cooking experience for the past nine years at the I Love BBQ & Music Festival.
King lives in Templeton, Massachusetts, a small town about 20 minutes from his workplace at Vytek in the city of Fitchburg. He is the fearless leader of the Bastey Boys Barbecue Brigade, a perennial contender at the Lake Placid barbecue festival.
Barbecue is just a hobby for King. He plans on cooking at five competitions this year, including Memphis in May, the Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue in late July at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont, and festivals in Harvard and Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Andy King, left, and Mic Stanfield of the Bastey Boys Barbecue Brigade cook Sunday, July 6 at the Olympic Speedskating Oval during the I Love BBQ & Music Festival.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)
"But I'm involved in others as an organizer and things like that," he said. "So I'm involved in about 10 over the course of the year but only cooking in five."
King has been cooking barbecue since the fall of 1998.
"I was just cooking in the back yard," King said, "and a buddy of mine said, 'Your ribs are getting pretty good. You ought to enter a barbecue contest.' And I said, 'What the heck is a barbecue contest?' I had no idea."
So they both entered the Pig N Pepper barbecue contest in Westford, Massachusetts.
"He doesn't do it anymore, but I got hooked because everybody was so friendly," King said. "And then the worst thing that could happen happened. I won a trophy that weekend, so that was an adrenaline rush. That's kind of what I've been chasing ever since."
Asked what he likes the most about the I Love BBQ & Music Festival, he said, "the people."
"Right off the bat, the first year we came, everybody, right from the organizers to the volunteers to the people you meet on the street, they're all just so friendly," King said. "The first year, we were just walking down the street with our T-shirts on, and people would stop and say, 'Oh, you're here for the barbecue contest. Welcome to Lake Placid.'"
How different is that from Fitchburg?
"Night and day," King said. "No one stops you and says 'hi' in Fitchburg. That's a fact. ... You walk down the street in Fitchburg and no one will even look you in the eye. ... It's very rare that someone is friendly to you. When we're friendly to people, they're wary."
King also likes the fact that the public gets to sample the teams' food at the barbecue festival.
"There are a lot of events where that can't happen due to board of health regulations," King said. "The People's Choice contest is great for the public. The Top Chef demonstration contest is great for the public. A lot of places we go, people have to pay to get in, but they can't eat the food."
King's team arrived Thursday night to set up at the Oval.
On Friday, they fine-tuned the site and started vending pulled pork for the People's Choice contest at 1 p.m. The pulled pork was already cooked, so all they had to do was heat it up for the public to sample. Then the team cooked for the New England Barbecue Society Grilling & BBQ Bash cooking contest: New York strip steak, chicken, sausage fatty and pizza.
"That makes for a long day," King said. "The last turn-in was 8:30 at night."
Afterward, the team watched the Fourth of July fireworks display.
On Saturday, King arrived at the Oval at 6 a.m. to fire up his cookers, then put the ribs in to cook, and began selling ribs for the People's Choice contest at 1 p.m. At 3 p.m., he was the guest cook for the Top Chef demonstration, a contest he won. In the evening, the team prepped the meat for the following day. Late Saturday night, the pork shoulder and brisket went in the smoker for the Kansas City Barbecue Society competition.
Early in the morning on Sunday, the chicken and ribs went in the smokers for the KCBS contest. Turn-ins for the contest were held between noon and 1:30 p.m. The awards ceremony was held at 4:45 p.m., and the event ended at 6 p.m.
Members of the Bastey Boys Barbecue Brigade who competed in Lake Placid were: King; Jon Leiby of North Chelmsford, Massachusetts; Martin Pulliam of Murraysville, West Virginia; Cheryl "Breezy" Fauteux of Amherst, New Hampshire; and Mic and Kim Stanfield of Middleboro, Massachusetts.