Four years ago today, I cooked BBQ for the very first time. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the adventure that was about to unfold, all thanks to some chicken wings.
Before that, I didn’t even really like smoked meat. But it was starting to become a regular fixture at the Neale household and I was learning to appreciate it. That led to us entering a backyard BBQ competition right down the street from our house. It was a brutal day, but we stuck to our plan and Smoke Freaks were called as Rib Champions. That first taste of success was intoxicating.
Pretty soon, we started to do pro competitions, and I was getting a lot more involved in the operation. It was my “freaky attention to detail” that got our logistics in order, got us organized, and got us on the road. And, I produced most of our sauce, rub and glaze program.
Back then, I was involved with most aspects of the cook, but it wasn’t my cook. So I set out to learn as much as I could.
Chicken was our toughest category when we first hit the pro scene -- we actually had to bring in “ringers” to cook it our first few competitions.
I got 9th place the first time I took over the chicken cook, and it was a moment the town of Green Bay will never forget. I worked hard at my process and got to be last man standing with 1st place chicken several times over the rest of the summer. I was getting deeper and deeper into the entire Smoke Freaks operation, eventually picking up the Pork cook, too. (That’s a whole other story.)
As our 2018 season was winding down, I started to realize I was doing everything that a Head Cook does, except maybe driving the Wolf Wagon. (It’s better this way. Trust me.)
It hasn’t been all fun and games. Competition BBQ can be brutal on your body and especially on your mind. There are extreme highs and devastating lows. And with all of that is a competitive spirit that pushes me to achieve more.
Today, on International Women’s Day, it’s an awesome coincidence that as of 9:56 a.m., I am officially the Head Cook of Smoke Freaks.
Oh, and we have so much more big news to come ...
Ann is Co-Founder and Pitmaster for Smoke Freaks. She loves being the Head Cook and and has fallen head over heels in love with Pork.