Many people know of Rodney though his participation on the board of KCBS, and others have seen him tearing up the competition circuit. He’s one of those rare cooks that seems to win on whatever he cooks on– pellets, sticks, it doesn’t seem to matter. He’s got alot of cookers to choose from. And he wins alot. He is also a gentleman, and a true ambassador of the sport.
Name? Rod Gray
Where From and/or where do you currently live? Kansas City, USA
Married, kids, etc…? Married for 14 years to my wife Sheri.
Profession (even if not bbq 24/7– if you cater, vend, etc please mention)? Small business owner for about another month. After that, it’s going to be an adventure. I think it finally time I decide what I want to be when I grow up.
# of pits and what are they? Five. Pits By Jambo/Jamie Geer trailer mounted traditional offset, three FE-100′s, two of which are mounted on the back of our S&S Weekender trailer, and a stainless steel Hasty Bake Legacy. Also, people don’t know this about me, but my first big pit was a JR Enterprises 28 x 72 mounted on a trailer made to replicate those trailers he builds.
Have you ever made your own pit, if so, how many and what styles? Nope, never made my own pit. I’m not very handy and there are too many really great choices out there. When I’m rich and famous I want to add a FEC-750, Spicewine, and Backwoods Piglet to my collection. Oh, and a Big Green Egg, specifically for cooking pizza.
Earliest memory of bbqing– is/was your family involved? My roommate my senior year in college and just after, bought an inexpensive bullet type smoker at a deep discount. This was in 1988. I think he might have paid a whopping $20 for it then. He slaved over that thing one windy, frigid January Saturday out on our apartment deck, starting at about 5:00 a.m. His fire went out numerous times that day, and he had to constantly do something to it most of that day. As I was headed out for the evening, he and his girlfriend were just sitting down for dinner. He excitedly offered me a piece of his brisket. He was so proud of his accomplishment. That brisket was absolutely horrible. I remember thinking I will NEVER invest that kind of time and trouble to cook something like that’s I should really get in touch with him. I haven’t talked to him in probably 20 years and I think he’d be surprised where I’ve ended up regarding barbecue.
Favorite thing about bbqing? My favorite thing about bbq is the passion people feel for it. I know no other topic that such a diverse group of folks can feel so passionate about. Also, I love the joy it brings people. Friday night at a well attended cook-off can be the best place in the world to be. Folks forget about their problems and worries and just enjoy each other. If we could bottle and sell that, we’d be rich beyond our wildest dreams. Oh wait, I think somebody has, it’s called the Clone-cicle!
How you found the forum and when (if you can remember)? Oh, I remember I had watched a couple of FoodTV shows earlier that week. My office manager, Jennifer, invited me to come out to the first Kansas Speedway event where her team was competing. So, Friday evening a good friend of mine and I headed out. There were over 200 teams on the infield of the track. It was blazing hot out, yet all these people were having so much fun. As we walked around, everybody was hosting parties and their sites were decorated. Then, as I turned the corner of a row of cookers, I spotted Dave Klose and Paul Kirk. Having heard of Paul, and having just watched Dave Klose on the Food Network that week, I headed straight for them. Paul was busy, but Dave welcomed me into his camp and treated my like a friend. It was right then and there that I decided I had to be a part of competition barbecue. When I got home I immediately went to the internet and searched for anything barbecue. Only a few clicks into my quest for knowledge about all things bbq, I found the forum. That was in the summer of 2001.
What was your first pit? Hasty-Bake Legacy, stainless steel. Of course, I’m not counting a couple Weber kettles I owned before that.
First thing you remember cooking (doesn’t have to be bbq)? When I was eight or nine, I remember cooking breakfast for my sister on one of those little fold over hot plate things that would make/fry square hamburger patties. The first barbecue I remember cooking was ribs on a gas grill. The recipe included putting them in a paper bag to rest. The first thing I tried to tackle on my first pit (that Hasty-Bake) was whole briskets. For me, that was a horrible experience. Hasty-Bake makes an absolutely awesome grill. However, that particular cooker in stainless steel is not a great choice on which to cook 15 lb. whole briskets. I had to tend that thing about every forty-five minutes. It reminded me a lot of my roommate and his bullet smoker, and the product was about the same. It was an expensive lesson, but it taught me a lesson about my roommate’s first attempt at briskets After about two months of tending that cooker, I was driven to find a more relaxing automated system.
Favorite bbq woods, charcoal, rub, sauce, etc? Everybody that knows me knows I use Smokin’ Guns Hot rub and Blues Hog bbq sauce. Phil and Linda Hopkins, and Bill Arnold are really great people and make great products. My favorite pellets are Fast Eddy’s hickory/oak blend. So far, my favorite wood for cooking on the Geer pit is pecan. I’m a big fan of lump charcoal and really like the Big Green brand.
Favorite/best competition memory (where, when, who with, team name, etc….)? I have a lot of great, great memories of competition barbecue. Our wins in Vegas, the GAB Invitational, and Probably my favorite competition memory is when our original team, Extreme Pork with Mark Darrah (Henway) and Dale Eason (Meat Hider/Whiskey Bump/Lettuce Beotch) won the first ever ABA contest. It was in Brainerd, Minnesota in 2002. I can’t remember how many teams, but I€™d say about 25. We only got two calls, one for winning pork and then immediately next for tenth place brisket. We had absolutely no idea we could be in the running for overall. They called out the RGC, who I think was Famous Dave’s. I don€™t think we were even focused on hearing who was about to be called for grand champion when they shouted our names over the P.A. system. I will never forget that feeling. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Do you eat bbq in restaurants– if so, where, when why? You know, I am so tired of my own barbecue, I tell people I hate barbecue. Anyone who cooks twenty plus contests each year knows what I mean. However, I love to go try barbecue restaurants. My current favorites here in Kansas City are Oklahoma Joe’s, Jones, and Smokin’ Guns. Honestly though, I have met very, very few barbecue meals I didn’t find something about I liked. I love the beef and a half sandwich at Arthur Bryant’s and Gates. I also love the beef sandwiches and the fries from Rosedale. Man, I’m making myself hungry.
Favorite record albums, books, TV shows, movie,etc…whatever you want to include. Wow, my answers here are not going to be very deep or interesting. My favorite artists are Phil Collins (Genisis and solo), The Eagles, John Fogerty (both with CCR and after), Queen, Styx, Boston, Electric Light Orchestra man, this list could go on forever. The strange thing is that most of those groups are from the 70 and I discovered music in the early 80′s.
My all time favorite movie is Arthur with Dudley Moore. He had lots and lots of great one-liners in that movie and he played a great drunk. Other classic movies include Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, 48 Hours, The Jerk, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Bull Durham, Major League . . .look what you’ve done. There are so many!
I don’t watch much TV. I’ve seen every season of Survivor and I’m a big fan of the Soprano’s and 24.
Favorite non-BBQ Food to eat and/or cook (or thing you eat most often when not eating bbq)? Pizza baby!!! Much like barbecue, I’ve never met a pizza I didn’t like. Never tried to make it at home, well unless you count those Chef-Boy-Ardi box pizzas we used to whip up when we were kids. There’s no real place for this, but I don’t do fish or seafood, except fried shrimp. I only eat things with noses. Probably a little too much info, but folks are always surprised by that. I’d say that’s because of my size.
Favorite beer, favorite beer to drink w/ food? My favorite beer in this order (are you paying attention?): Your beer, free beer and cold beer. I don’t drink much at contests. Folks think I don’t drink at all. Those that know me know that I love to have a social drink or two. I worked as a bartender and DJ all through college. Rolling Rock was my beer of choice for many years and that was before anyone had really heard of it in the Midwest. There have been so many micro brews that come and go and I love” Flying Monkey, Pony Express, etc. Now a Boulevard Wheat or a Leinenkugle Red is always welcome. Drinking whiskey sure looks sexy to me, but I just have not acquired a taste for it. So, if there is no beer, give me a gin and tonic.
Favorite BBQForum Thread (can include “what’s an abt?” if you want)? My good friend Tuffy Stone was the first one to point this out to me, but my favorite thread is the one where everyone listed their occupation. That was an amazing thread. As a group, I think we could change the world with all of the knowledge and positions our collective members hold.
Least Favorite BBQForum Thread (ditto)? Isn’t this one completely obvious yet? It’s the “outlaw pellet cookers!” threads. If you can’t beat us, join us! Enough said.
Do you have a web site and when did you start and why? Richard Sterling created a website for me when I decided to run for the KCBS board. I don’t know if I ever properly thanked Richard for that, so thank you Richard. It has not changed a bit in two years. My 2007 New Year’s resolution is to make www.pelletenvy.com a fun, functional site!
I want to add something that wasn’t asked. I want to thank all of the people that helped me get where I am in barbecue. It would be wrong to mention them by name. I know I would surely forget someone. There are so many to thank. From people who invited to me to my first contest as a visitor and a dishwasher, to all of the people who offered help and advice along the way. Thank you all. I’m still learning, but I have many, many people to thank for how far I’ve come and where I am now. I only hope I can do the same for somebody else. Finally, I want to thank my wife. She is such a big part of my life, including the barbecue part. I love her deeply and could not have come this far without her.