Don’t Forget Small Budget Barbecue and Grill Lovers

By Kent “The Deck Chef” Whitaker

Are we forgetting a large chunk of consumers? I had the pleasure of hanging out with Channel 9 here in Chattanooga for their morning broadcast. I served up grilling tips, mostly focused on hot dogs in honor of the opening day for the Chattanooga Lookouts baseball team. I also grilled up a bunch of dogs first thing in the morning for the Tennessee Train ladies full contact football team who were starting their summer season. It was a neat morning.

But, back to my subject. I think, we as an industry, sometimes focus too much on large smokers, huge events, massive tailgates, and extravagant cookouts. I’m sure that readers of the National Barbecue News know the difference between slow-smoked barbecue, off-set grilling, and direct heat grilling. And, I also know how food retailers, grill manufactures, regional factors, and even media outlets outside of the world of competition barbecue blur the lines between what is grilling and what the barbecue process is.

This thought process stems from a conversation I had with a young man working at the station. He was early twenties, newly married, had a baby on the way, and was just starting out with a new job and a new town. As we talked between live shots it became clear that he was well removed from being able to afford, or have space for, many of the fun tools and such we get to play with on a regular basis. Here’s what he said.

“Most of my grilling is done on my fake Weber from Dollar General. Heck, until a few weeks ago, my grilling was helped along by George Foreman!”

I know that many of us long for a great tailgate at the game or during a NASCAR weekend. My wife Ally and I love setting up a big spread for a back yard cookout. My son Mace and buddy Wes take pride in one-upping each other in an endless rib contest. I know that the same mentality crosses over to the competition side of barbecue.
I guess what I’m saying is this: coming from the standpoint of a cookbook author and culinary writer, sometimes it’s a good thing to refocus. I’m going to try and remember that not everyone I’m talking to during an event or book signing, or even in future articles, has the access to the neat toys that I do. Showing this young man several really cool twists on hot dog and smoked sausage recipes seemed just as important to him as if I had held a private class on smoking pork ribs.

I think, again – as an industry and as a writer, we all need to keep in mind that many of our future customers are just starting out on the barbecue trail. They may be working on a tight budget, a small grill, and are probably a few years removed from a sweet tow-behind custom smoker. If you can make them a fan of great barbecue and grilling at this stage then they will probably be a bigger Que Guru down the road.

Kent Whitaker is a cookbook author and culinary writer with fourteen books. He and his wife Ally live in East Tennessee. Kent's books are available at any book store or online at Connect with Kent on twitter at @thekentwhitaker.

Photo courtesy of Kent Whitaker/The Deck CheF
Never leave a microphone lying around. Kent and team members of the TN Train ladies football team take over the Channel 9 mic during an early morning grilling session.

Photo courtesy of Kent Whitaker/The DecK Chef
Kent, pictured far right, celebrating Chattanooga Lookouts opening day with the crew of Channel 9 - Good Morning Chattanooga.

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