FMWR team cooks up win at barbecue contest
May 16, 2012
A sweet heat in the smoker was all FMWR needed for success at the 2012 WhistleStop Festival.
Redstone MWR's Bar-b-crew placed fourth overall out of 64 teams at Huntsville's annual barbecue competition May 5, with two second-place wins going to the team for ribs and pulled pork, and a ninth place in chicken.
"It was a good showing and lots of people came out to support us," said The Summit executive chef Ben Howard, whose skills at the smoker brought home the win for the crew. "Lots of MWR employees helped make it happen. It was very enjoyable."
The competition was Howard's ninth year at WhistleStop and his best showing yet, a far cry from finishing almost dead last in nearly every category his first year competing.
"I've been kind of working my way up and getting better and better each year," he said. "I finally settled on a recipe and here we are."
Preparations for that winning recipe began a few days prior to the competition, when Howard began making his dry rubs and sauces. The actual cooking started at 1 a.m. Saturday as Howard fired up the old fashioned wood burning smoker and prepared the ribs, chickens, brisket and pork shoulder, which take about 10, 5 and 2 hours respectively to reach the level of perfection.
While it can be a slow and at times frustrating process, it's the blood, sweat and tears that go into barbecue that Howard loves.
"I just enjoy being outdoors and I love to grill and smoke meats," he said. "Some of the stuff when you do barbecue is hard to do and challenging. I enjoy challenge when I cook and being able to calculate the right window of when to pull the meat off and when it's done."
With four people on the Pit Crew helping Howard, and plenty others from FMWR pitching in to help set up, tear down, prepare and serve the food to the community, Howard was able to do what he does best -- cook.
"We had so much help this year that I could completely focus on cooking," he said.
All that time and energy paid off when the winners were announced that afternoon. The recipe he had spent years perfecting through trial and error -- which Howard describes as a "sweet heat" -- had brought success to the Bar-b-crew.
"People here know really good barbecue, and when they taste it, they just know," Howard said of the judging.
With the wins at WhistleStop, Howard and the gang not only got to show the community that Redstone knows how to barbecue, but also raised awareness for the great things FMWR does day in and day out.
"Not only does WhistleStop give us a chance to really showcase the talent we have within our team and foster esprit de corps, but it offers us the wonderful opportunity to be involved with the Huntsville community," said Francine Stone, FMWR team lead for the event. "We realize that active community participation is key to building an empowered community. Not only do we encourage participation in this event, we realize that getting out into the community and shaking hands, meeting people and creating awareness is critical to Family and MWR programs."
"Participation in the WhistleStop Festival each year is something that Redstone Family and MWR really looks forward to," Derrick Gould, director of FMWR, said. "We are a participating community and this venue allows us the opportunity to be involved with a great community activity.
Participation encourages community involvement off post, fosters teamwork, and gives us a chance to reach out to a part of the community that we don't always reach from Redstone Arsenal. After all, our mission is focused on supporting our community, promoting morale and giving back to those that serve. So in that sense, this is a perfect venue for us to be a part of.
Additionally, participating in WhistleStop signifies the work of team MWR because responsibilities are divided up so that the special talents and interest of our team are engaged. I think that plays a huge role in success."
If you missed out on the barbecue bonanza, you can always indulge in Howard's barbecue at The Summit. While it's not an exact replica of the award winning recipe, Howard said it's very close to it. Thursday lunch specials include barbecue brisket, but Howard's other culinary specialties, including German cuisine, are always on hand. Lunch hour is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. The Monte Sano Dining Room is open for dinner Friday and Saturday, from 5 to 8 p.m.