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Competition BBQ *On Topic Only* Discussion regarding all aspects of Competition BBQ. Experiences competing or visiting, questions, getting started, Equipment, announcements of events, Results, Reviews, Planning, etc. Questions here will be responded to with competition BBQ in mind.

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Old 11-05-2009, 02:43 PM   #1
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Default New Jersey BBQ team gets some ink

Fat Angel BBQ in Red Bank earns heat cred; ribs win World Series of Barbecue

By Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger

November 03, 2009, 4:48PM

TONY KURDAK/FOR THE STAR-LEDGERSteve Raab, left, and Eric Keating, competitive barbecuers and co-owners of the catering company Local Smoke BBQ, prepare pulled pork in their catering kitchen in Red Bank.Almost immediately after Fat Angel BBQ claimed first place for its Texas-style brisket at the National BBQ Festival in Douglas, Ga., earlier this year, the muttering started.
"Did y’all hear that Jersey won for brisket?" one Lone Star pitmaster said
to another, the "Jersey" spit out in that contemptuous tone typically reserved
for, well, how people usually talk about New Jersey.
Its Garden State provenance isn’t the only curiosity about Fat Angel, the Red Bank-based competition barbecue team run by pitmasters Steve Raab and high school pal Eric Keating and ably assisted by Raab’s wife, Loren.
The partnership, only two years old, has been uncommonly successful for newbies, racking up the Georgia title, placing first in the New Jersey State BBQ Championship in July and just last month taking the top prize for ribs at the American Royal Barbecue in Kansas City, Mo., in which nearly 500 teams compete in what is known as the World Series of Barbecue.
Fat Angel credits Steve Raab’s long apprenticeship under Loren’s uncle,
a devoted Vermont pitmaster known to fire up the smoker with four feet of snow on the ground.
The couple and Keating have now turned their passion for competition ’cue into a catering business, Local Smoke BBQ, offering their award-winning St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, North Carolina-style pulled pork, smoked turkey for Thanksgiving and other down-home treats perfect for holiday get-togethers.
PHOTO BY TONY KURDZAK/THE STAR-LEDGER Loren Raab, a partner in Fat Angel BBQ, demonstrates how properly prepared beef brisket cut against the grain of the meat should naturally separate at their kitchen in Red Bank. These include outrageously tasty jalapeño poppers — tender smoked pork mixed with cream cheese and their signature barbecue sauce stuffed inside a jalapeño, which is then wrapped in bacon and slow-smoked to the heavens. Which is where you might end up if you eat too many of them.
It took the team close to a year to develop the dry rub, a mixture of several kinds of sugar, salt and spices, and more than a year to come up with the secret sauces — a tangy, not overly sweet blend for the ribs and brisket, and a peppery, vinegar-based one for the pulled pork. (We do spot grape jelly in the glass-fronted fridge in their Red Bank commercial catering kitchen; Raab concedes it’s used in the pulled pork sauce.)
The Star-Ledger’s own barbecue guru, Pete Genovese, tested the ribs and was a big fan; he loved the dry rub and the subtle, peppery barbecue sauce; another editor who lucked into the tasting praised "the perfect balance of sauciness, smokiness, meatiness and fattiness."
The public may consider falling-off-the-bone the highest praise, but that’s considered overcooked among barbecue judges. "You want a good bite," Raab says. "Not tough, not falling apart." Local Smoke uses juicier baby back ribs for its clients; for competition, they cook spare ribs, which are straighter, meatier and much more common in competition.
Oh, and those jalapeño poppers so popular at office parties and weddings? They’ve got a different, not so palatable name on the circuit: ABTs, or atomic buffalo . . . well, we do have standards.
Long dominated by southerners and midwesterners, this high-stakes circuit has its own lingo and legends (who hasn’t heard of Mr. Bobo’s Traveling BBQ Allstars?), attracts corporate sponsors (Fat Angel gets its pork from Iowa’s well-regarded Eden Farms, and Uncle Robby’s BBQ Woods in Elizabeth supplies their favored cherry and sugar maple logs) and will soon boast its own, inevitable reality show. TLC’s "BBQ Pitmasters," premiering Dec. 3, follows the nation’s top competitors, men and women who are "part chef, part athlete and part five-star general," to quote the press release.
The two-day contests typically start on Friday mornings, when the teams set up their equipment — here Raab leaves the catering kitchen to show off his 1,600-pound monster, which has 14 square feet of cooking area, and that’s his small one — and prep their meat. The meat goes in the smokers around 10 p.m., and then the pitmaster spends most of the night tending to it, and often to a few bottles of beer as well. The next day, the meat is sauced, smoked a little more and presented to the judges.
Most contests offer trophies in several categories, but the overall winner is based on the standings in each category, so a team that placed well but didn’t win any individual awards can still be crowned the champion, which is what happened to Fat Angel at the North Carolina championships in July.
Steve Raab credits his father, a major-league carnivore, for setting him on this path. He says he’s the guy who always ended up in the front of the grill at parties, and when he met Loren’s uncle, Rich Decker, he was immediately hooked. Raab and his wife spent about six years following Decker on the circuit, then started competing themselves in 2007. He and his wife even got a call from a contest organizer the day they returned from their honeymoon; the next day, they were hitching up the smoker to the back of Raab’s pickup.
Keating joined them in 2008, and they started to pick up some informal catering jobs from family and friends, and then friends of friends. Flush with success, the three considered opening their own restaurant but couldn’t find financing during last fall’s economic plunge.
They opened the catering business in March, buying the contents of a commercial kitchen and warehouse space (anyone in the market for a forklift?) from another caterer. They did install their own electric smoker that can cook 200 pounds of pork or 60 racks of ribs at the time, plus two well-worn recliners for those long nights.
Steve still works days as an insurance broker, but Loren quit her job in web design for a New York investment firm to work in the catering business full time along with Keating, who has worked both in kitchens and in the front of the house.
And what do they cook at home? Loren pipes up: "Not much."
Vicki Hyman can be reached at vhyman@starledger
Rich Decker
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Old 11-05-2009, 03:06 PM   #2
somebody shut me the fark up.
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Very nice article about some very nice folks.
Well done, Rich, thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-05-2009, 03:33 PM   #3
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Good job Rich. Missed seeing you out there this year... Hoping to get LP back on our schedule and spend a week out in the Adirondacks next summer.

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Old 11-05-2009, 04:08 PM   #4
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Nice piece Steve, Eric and Loren!
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:00 PM   #5
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Great article Fat Angel
I had no idea Loren and Rich were related??
Cool stuff!
Missed you guys at Douglass this year...
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Old 11-05-2009, 07:45 PM   #6
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THATS a first. I have never seen Eric without a beer. Whats up with that?

Nice article!
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Old 11-06-2009, 06:45 AM   #7
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Very nice article guys, you deserve all the kudos!!!!
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Old 11-06-2009, 07:25 AM   #8
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They are such a terrific group of people. Great press!!!
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Old 11-06-2009, 07:28 AM   #9
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Well deserved! GReat job at the royal!
You just got to get good enough to get lucky...
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Old 11-06-2009, 06:21 PM   #10
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WTG. Nice press for some nice people. Good seeing you guys at Dover.

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