Competition BBQ Pitmaster Sean Young of Risky Brisket Interview with Cave Tools

Phil My name's Phil Ianuzzi, I'm an intern with the barbecue company CAVE TOOLS, primarily focusing with a the search engine optimization side of things with the business and a one of the things I'm going to do for this is just getting an interview with a few guys that are involved with the competitive barbecue scene
Sean Okay
Phil So, the first question I want to ask is, how did you get involved with the whole competition bbq scene
Sean Ah, well I've been, I've been cooking generally on my own for many, many years but I went to a contest, but I have lot of friends that are chefs, so I've always been hanging around restaurants and cooking but I went to a barbecue contest but I've been a backyard barbecue cook for probably 15-18years and I went to a professional contest in Northern Illinois and it, it's just a...when I saw the competitors, it was really cool to see how they competed but i was really frustrated because none of them would let you try their barbecue. And they, so then I decided at that point I want to get involved
Phil What made you love barbecue? Out of any other type of cooking that you could've pursued.
Sean Uhh, you know what I love about barbecue, it forces you to relax so being a, you know, an executive by day and we're running a pretty fast, you know, lifestyle…You're forced to relax, it takes all night, all day to cook it. And a, you don't have a choice so you can' can't rush it. It takes 12-14 hours, so it forces you
Phil Definitely
Sean Slow down and take a breath, so it's my…it's relaxing for me. It pulls me away from the hectic corporate world and allows me to just…forces me…let me rephrase…forces me to take a breath
Phil So what's one of your favorite things to barbecue
Sean Uhm, my favorite thing to barbecue is brisket. I love cooking brisket because it's very hard to get right. That's incredibly challenging
Phil Brisket?
Sean Brisket, it's incredibly challenging. The margin of error on brisket is very small and a it's the most challenging to do, most…so because of that it's such a high level of challenge, I'm, I'm just drawn into it..To make..To get it right. Ahh, the barbecue team, we've always have three members
Phil Okay
Sean And this year, we're adding a fourth.
Phil Okay, ahh what would you say one of your most difficult moments in terms of starting this team was?
Sean Most difficult in terms of starting the competition bbq team? You know the financial aspect of any barbecue team is always difficult so…you know…We're... this year…we're going to compete in 12 contests, which is the most ever…you know…at first year, we competed in three. So, contests aren't cheap, it costs us anywhere from 700-1000 dollars per contest. So, you know, you do the math. You do 12 contest, it's 12 grand in a year, that's a lot of money, so getting the funding and being able to finance, finance these contests is always difficult to do. That's why a lot of guys on in problem but thankfully, adding a fourth team member would allow us to compete more this year
Phil Alright, I lost you when you were talking about your most memorable experiences in competitive barbecue
Sean One of the most memorable experiences, oh…there's there's..two that immediately come to mind. Well obviously, one of the most you know, memorable was our, the first and only….to this day, our first place in ribs at Grill games at Kenosha, Wisconsin. Any time you're, any time you manage to pull a first place in any category, with the amount of energy, work, effort and money that goes into competing, whenever you get to go up to the first place is fantastic, that's...that's definitely a memorable moment...pretty good adrenaline   ....but ah, the other one, is much more colorful. And that is, we had a former team member, that is no longer on the team, that fell asleep on fire watch at a contest. So, he was pulling the third shift and he fell asleep watching the..the cooker. At about, at about 3'o clock in the morning, I woke up, and I went to check the smoker, and the smoker was almost gone, it was almost out. There was no fire left and he was sleeping in the chair, he was drunk, and asleep on the chair right next to the smoker, arms down, snoring. So, it was...hammer drunk. So we picked him up and put him in the camper and then, I'll see if I can find the picture, we went and found like...'cause you know everybody's up still at night you know...watching the smokers, we went and tracked down a bunch of other team members that were sleeping and we asked,  and we pull him out of bed, woke him up, picked him up by the legs and the hands and then hogtied him with a duck tape and then we took a picture with everybody posed behind him, like he was a deer that has just been caught, face down on the asphalt. So the moral of the story is, don't fall asleep on fire watch and needless to say, he's no longer on the team but, that was a...nobody's even fallen asleep on fire watch ever since....that was a lot of fun
Phil I would love to see that picture
Sean I'll see if I could find it, it's going to be hard to track down, that was seven years ago, I'll see if I can track it
Phil That's, that's hilarious. Yeah if you could email that, I love to include that in the blog writing I'm going to do about this.
Sean Yeah, don't ah don't hold your breath
Phil What advice would you give people who want to get involve?
Sean So, yeah well other than, that's it's a whole lot of fun, it's it's a great community, the barbecue community in general is very small and it's kind of like you know, I can't even draw a good analogy but it's very competitive but you're competing against your friends and if I forget something, or if something breaks...anybody at a contest would loan me anything up to including you know, their competition meat, if they had that stuff then give it to me and  if I beat them, we'd shake hands with them later and you could compete with them the next weekend, it's very competitive but the camaderie is's incredibly awesome and the community. so that's a lot of fun. I have like....I have more friends that I hang out with outside of barbecue from the barbecue world than I do like my friends from life that became real good friends of mine. We go out for beers, outside of barbecue. The best thing I ever did was, I took a judges' class, to learn what the judges are looking for. It really opens your eyes, to the nuances of it, so take a judges' course and go take a couple of classes. I tried to take a class every year. Whether it's, you know, Rob, Rob's Class, swamp boys, or go to Myron's Class....there's a bunch of them out there but all really good and some of them will give you their tips and tricks and it doesn't mean that you're going to go win because you're still got to go do it. Classes are real good. To give you good hands on experience and then lastly, don't get discouraged. You're going to lose; you're going to lose more than you win. There's some real good cooks out there, and don't go out expecting a first place. Go out expecting last, and be very happy about that. It's a, it's very competitive; it's incredibly competitive, lot of good cooks. And as long as you are not, ah expecting too much, you won't get disappointed. But it's good to win, but when you start hoping for the win and you're not getting them, we've gone through our slumps. We've gone through a season that we don't win, at all.  And you're doing the same thing you did the year before and it's frustrating but you just, kind of grind through it and things will start to turn around. Everybody goes through the slump; you're going to lose a lot. And that makes that win so much sweeter.
Phil Wow, that's some great advice. Thank you. You mentioned that you took a judges' course. What are some of the things the judges look for when they are creating meat
Sean Uh, there's a whole science behind judging right. You know, the taste, tenderness, appearance, texture and all of them are weighted differently, so right taste is heaviest weighted. Each cut of meat, you know, brisket needs to pull a certain way. The tenderness, the texture of it, pork needs to look and taste a certain way. It's a Kansas City Barbecue Society Contest, so we compete with Kansas City style barbecue, not a Texas style barbecue; it's not a North Carolina barbecue. We put too much vinegar, a little to much vinegar on our pork, turn it in, we'll score horrible because we grapple on sauce. And you have to hit a certain flavor profile that the judges want and expect and that's the Kansas City sweet barbecue and if you present that sample, usually you do ok. But anytime you start doing it strange or weird, right? The judges kind of, it's the worst thing you can hear from a judge, "oh, that's weird" or "Ohh, I've never tasted that before". So you have to kind of cook the barbecue the judges want, right? and not what you like or what you cook in your backyard. When I cook at home, it's different a lot of people. It's too different style. I don't like when I throw....I don't cook competition barbecue in my backyard at all.
Phil Ok, Alright uhm. What are some future plans that you have for your team and this upcoming season?
Sean Uh, this one, this one's a big one. We picked up a new sponsor this year and uh Tappecue. I'd like to give a shout out to my sponsors. Tappecue this year, a big sponsor for us and then Tischler's Market is our other sponsor for all of our meats so we have two sponsors this year and this is the first year we are going to cook in the American Royal in Kansas City so that's a big one for us we've never cook there. We're going to register for the Open, go cook in the Open. Hopefully, we make the Invitation, not counting on it but we're at least going to cook in the Open and it's pretty exciting I don't know if I would be able to wait until October but ah...600 barbecue team is pretty..should be a lot of fun
Phil Wow, that sounds like a good time. Good luck with the invitation. That actually all the questions that I had for you today

For more information you can check out Risky Brisket on the web at

Missed an episode? Don't forget to check out our interview with competition barbecue team Ritsi Drew BBQ

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