I remember the first time I met Stephen Lupe, pitmaster from Porker Face BBQ. We were at the FBA (Florida Barbecue Association) end of the year party, hosted by Rob Bagby. I was still cooking in the backyard division, but Stephen was building a foundation for his team in the pro ranks. Stephen and I had a great conversation, and I knew right away that he is very intense about competition BBQ. The first competition that we competed against one another in, was the FBA event in Sebring, FL. Porker Face BBQ had a great cook, and an overall top 10 finish. Porker Face BBQ did his cooking then on WSM’s, and did very well with them. Now Porker Face BBQ has added a Stump’s Stretch to their line up of cookers, and I am sure they will do very well with it.
Stephen and the entire Porker Face BBQ team are an up and coming team in the pro ranks, and are always in the running for taking GC (Grand Champion) at any event they enter. I will be competing against them again in two weeks (June 8 & 9, 2012) in Cocoa, FL. It will be a tough competition, but I am sure Stephen and team will be coming with their best game face on….or in their case, their porker face on!!!
Now without further ado, my interview with Stephen Lupe from Porker Face BBQ:
LTH: What is you team name, where are you located and who makes up your team?
PFBBQ: We are Porker Face BBQ from Cape Coral, FL. The team consists of my wife Theresa, my Dad Mark, my Kids Abbigail and Gabriel and myself Steve.
LTH: How many competitions have you competed in to date? Any GC or RGC awards?
PFBBQ: We have competed in 21 contest total, between KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) and FBA. We have won 2 RGCs (Reserve Grand Champion). One was in Martin County last year and the other was in Punta Gorda this year, both FBA events.
LTH: How did you get started in BBQ?
PFBBQ: I have been BBQing since I moved to Missouri at 16. When I moved there I thought BBQing was getting a bunch of chicken legs and grilling them with some sauce thrown all over them, but I soon learned otherwise. I bought a smoker at 16 and have been doing it since.
LTH: What made you decide to do BBQ competitions?
PFBBQ: I am a paramedic, and I was invited to cook in some public safety rib cook-off’s. I did and we started winning. I had been to pro cook-off’s as a spectator, and I started talking to a friend of mine, and I thought well we are winning here maybe we could try to cook pro. We entered a contest, it was the great southern tailgate BBQ, in Amelia Island, and just hoped we didn’t finish last. Our first contest we finished like 15th place overall, and we have been addicted since.
LTH: What, in your opinion, has been your best call?
PFBBQ: I would have to say 2nd place brisket at this years FBA’s Ziggy Dick’s cook-off.
LTH: What is your favorite category?
LTH: What competition, above all others, would you like to compete in?
PFBBQ: I would love to go to the American Royal.
LTH: What is one piece of advice that you could give to a team just starting in competition BBQ?
PFBBQ: I would say to them, be patient, there is definitely a learning curve. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Also, have fun, nothing bums me out more then when people stop doing this for fun and take it too seriously.
LTH: What is one thing, you do to your chicken turn-in, that you would consider a must do, by all teams?
PFBBQ: Use $50 bills as a garnish. Chicken is a hard category, there is so much similarity to what is turned in.
LTH: Brisket is one category that has many teams scratching their heads, any tips (without giving up the farm) would you have for brisket?
PFBBQ: I’ll give up the farm, I have no secrets, anyone who has been next to me at a competition can tell you that. I think that helping the new teams out should be a big part of BBQ. First I use Wagyu briskets from Snake River Farms. Our scores went up tremendously since we switched to these briskets. Also, I inject my briskets with Butchers beef injection. I separate the point and the flat. I pan cook them, and sauce them with Rooftop BBQ Sauce, and au jus. In the past I didn’t sauce my brisket, but our scores went up after we stared doing it.
LTH: I know that you are also a judge, what are a few things you look for as a BBQ judge?
PFBBQ: That’s a really hard question to answer; First off I like it when a team takes some time on presentation. I can tell you that presentation is a huge part of a team’s score. If you just throw some pork into a box, then your going to get bad scores. We eat with our eyes first, so if it looks good, there is a better chance that you will get higher scores.
LTH: From a judges’ stand point, you look for the flavor of the meat, and how well that meat entry has been cooked. In your opinion, which is more important, taste or tenderness?
PFBBQ: They are completely equal, in my mind.
LTH: What is on your BBQ bucket list?
PFBBQ: To do a whole hog and to cook at the Royal.
LTH: Does your team have any sponsors, are you looking to take on a sponsor?
PFBBQ: Yes, we are sponsored, by the best BBQ sauce in the WORLD Rooftop BBQ Sauce We would gladly take on more sponsors.
LTH: What is your upcoming schedule?
PFBBQ: We are doing the FBA event in Cocoa, FL in a couple of weeks. Then for the rest of the year, we have all FBA events, starting with “The Fun Cook” the weekend of August 31, Grant, FL the weekend of September 28, Mulberry, FL the weekend of October 12, Zephyrhills, FL the weekend of October 26, Melbourne, FL on November 9-10 and we finish off the year with Sebring, FL the weekend of November 30.
I would like to thank Stephen and the entire Porker Face BBQ for participating in this interview. I would like to wish them luck for all their future competitions. We will see y’all in Cocoa, FL in a couple of weeks!!!