The Greek Royale
Special guest blogger appearance by Mr. Freak...
I’m not going to lie. We wanted nothing more than to be at the American Royal doubleheader in Kansas City over Labor Day weekend.
But we didn’t make it into the “Invitational” part of the event, which is only open to teams that won a Grand Championship at a qualifying state championship BBQ competition in the months leading up to the event.
Although we could have competed in the American Royal “Open,” which is held in conjunction with the Invitational, Smoke Freaks made a decision at the beginning of our cooking careers that we’re not really ready for the big show in KC until we qualify for the Invitational.
So we did the next best thing with our weekend, with a starring role at the Greek Royale in Hobart, IN.
The Greek Royale takes place every 2-3 years and is attended by a lively pack of Greeks and assorted Hellenophiles who come in from as far away as New York to take part in one of the oldest forms of BBQ known to man -- lamb on a spit.
Over the past 5 Greek Royals, Mr. Freak has learned the nuances required to master this ancient form of pitmastering from one of the Freakiest Greeks in The Region, Mr. George Logothetis, father of Ms. Freak.
My first lesson commenced in 2003, when I was given the unglamorous but important task of sewing up the body cavity of my first lamb. Once the insides had a sufficient coat of salt and pepper with a few lemon halves thrown in to steam the ribs and loins with citrone goodness, it was my job to stitch up the belly.
Being a bit of a perfectionist, I took great care to make it look awesome and symmetrical, like the laces on a Chuck Taylor hi-top. No mean feat at 5 am.
Mr. Logothetis was pleased. So over the years, he gradually imparted upon me the knowledge and wisdom required to cook at the Greek Royale:
How to drill the skull and clamp the spine so the lamb can stay balanced on the spit
How to spike the shoulders and tie the legs to keep them secure as it spins round and round
How to keep a 41# carcass on a 4-foot spit cold overnight in the middle of summer
How to construct and manage 6 different heat zones to cook the lamb end-to-end
How to make and apply the olive oil baste that supplies that signature Greek taste
And most importantly, how to tell when it’s done
This year, it was my turn to put it all together and lead the cook, with massive assists from Mr. Logothetis and his eldest son, Drago. So I brought a secret weapon never before observed at the Greek Royale -- a Thermapen.
By injecting this little technology tool into the ancient tradition, we were able to get our lamb perfectly done from end-to-end after 7 hours and 60 lbs of charcoal. We got 9-9-9s from most judges, including the most important one -- Mrs. Logothetis -- who threatened to strip my pitmaster credentials if I sent anything to the table that wasn’t AT LEAST well-done.
In between basting strokes, we were able to watch some of our friends getting it done at the American Royal. It was so cool to see guys we compete against week in and week out getting some of the biggest calls of their lives.
Our next shot to qualify for the 2018 American Royal is this weekend at Silver Lake, our first foray into Michigan. All we have to do is win the whole shooting match among a field of hungry teams with the exact same idea.