Wayne M. Schafer
Pitmaster of Big Fat Daddy’s
How and when did you get started in barbecue?
I started experimenting with barbecue while I was in high school. I wanted to come up with dry rubs for my meats, and grill them on wood fired grills, which at the time not many were in agreement with. They thought you would not be able to keep the meat from drying out, but I thought otherwise.
Where are you from?
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD I grew up in Towson and Rosedale.
What inspired you to get into barbecue, or what gives you inspiration now?
My inspiration was to create something different to eat at fairs and festivals. Back in the late 70′s sausage and cheesesteak and pizza was the norm. I wanted a juicy barbecue sandwich at a fair or festival or real beef sandwich, and it was not there–not like it is today. My inspiration? Just the fact you can experiment with different rubs, injections, spritzes, and it will come out different each time. I truly love cooking it, eating it, and of course I sell it as a profession. I want to say in Maryland, beef (as in pit beef) is more popular than pork. We have a real shortage of good Mom and Pop style BBQ joints to eat at because of this. It’s all commercial chains or nothing. It’s sort of like you must go to Virginia if you want to eat good pork.
What certifications, training, or special qualifications do you have?
I am a self taught chef who left high school to work in restaurants. I took Myron’s cooking class but not until 2012, after 30 years in business and I have to say, even an old dog like me learned some new tricks. I dream of the day I can compete, but for now, selling on weekends and at week long fairs is what I do.What kind of flavor profiles do you prefer, and what is prevalent in your area?
I hate to say it, but in Maryland it’s a sweet pork barbecue. My signature on the road is a sweet maple hickory with apple wood flavor with cajun slaw on top and it does very well. I myself prefer little to no sauce with a vinegar base North Carolina style at home or when I look for a place to eat. Since I travel to several states I am forced to change up my profiles sometimes if I am selling down in Southern Virginia versus New Jersey. I have to say no matter where I go I eat everyone’s bbq. I truly think you can have fifty people selling barbecue and they are all delicious and all different. That’s what makes it so great.
What is most appealing to you when it comes to presentation?
I’m a fanatic about it looking good and tasting good. I can’t stand barbecue stands that have unidentifiable shredded crap in a pan that looks dried up. What is that?
How spicy is too spicy?
For me, I love eating and trying different things. For the public, the consensus is not too spicy. I know a professional cook team that puts a zing into their pork. After it goes down it’s like a flavor burst in your mouth that you will never in a million years duplicate. I have never tasted anything so dynamite and I wish I could go somewhere and eat pork like that. However, for competition it seems to be a more muted desired taste and even they were forced to change up their flavor profile. (Make some for me, Hog It Up BBQ Team)
Dry or sauced(what is your preference)?
If you pork is moist enough and has been injected and cooked on flavored woods, sometimes you can get away with no sauce. I prefer lightly sauced.
Is there anything unique that is barbecued in your area?
In my hometown it’s not pork, it’s Maryland’s pit beef. That is Baltimore’s bbq. To heck with pork they will take a sliced beef sandwich anyday. Now in the part of Pennsylvania where I moved my business, it’s pork heaven. They call it pig picking. Everyone is grilling whole hogs or pigs on their grills each weekend. Friends up there religiously do this and like cannibals just pull the meat off the pig and shove it in their mouth. You really don’t get much yield but they love it. It’s like a religion up there.
What types of woods do you use? Are you a stick burner or pellet?
I am a stick burner! Hickory is my main wood, I also use apple, cherry and peach woods mixed with a good slow burning wood charcoal.
What kind of smoker do you use?
I use oil drums, barrels or open square pits. You could argue these may be called ‘grills’ and not smokers, but the way I designed them they get backflow of air and smoke. I make my own.
Would you like to share the types of rubs or injections you use?
My base rub has been published in the NY Times and you can use this as a base for rubbing just about anything. I sometimes add maple powder to it for ribs, or brown sugar to it for pork, etc. Add smoked paprika for a totally different flavor.
Here is the basic recipe :
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Do you have a favorite event?
I must plug Hogging Up BBQ & Music Festival in Winchester, Virginia (end of June.)
What do you consider your biggest accomplishments, and why?
The day in the late 90′s my now-wife served Steven Raichlen a beef sandwich from the tiny “roadside beef shack” my brother ran and the rest was history. Steven published Big Fat Daddy’s in his BBQ Books and in the New York Times. We landed in Saveur Magazine (taking us from roadside to gourmet category overnight.) This led to our constant success. The Baltimore Sun interviewed me for their “Iconic Foods” article and I seem to be some sort of authority on the dry rub and way to grill the perfect pit beef. In 2010 I was the pick for Maryland in the Rachael Ray Grilling Issue . I enjoyed catering two events for Ray Lewis, former Ravens linebacker. Because of this I have been very successful and it’s as of today, my company has been in 60 publications from radio stations to news, to magazines and papers. I have people that follow me from fair to fair just to eat my food and I can’t say enough about hometown spirit! That’s why I give back more now than ever. I believe in kharma!
Do you have a blog, YouTube channel, or webpage?
My youtube channel and twitter account are both BigFatDaddys
Have you ever been featured on any television shows?
Not yet. Unless you count the news….truth be told a producer did call me to do show filming in Easton, MD but I didn’t do it. They wanted to watch exactly what I do for grilling my foods from start to finish. Your secrets aren’t worth the three minutes of TV glory.
Do you have a business, catering service, product line, or publication that you would like to tell our readers about?
I cater on weekends and do fairs and festivals primarily in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.
When did you start competing, and how did you first get involved in it?
I want to say I am a lifetime member of the KCBS but do not compete. Only as part of a condition of me selling pork at Bel Air BBQ Bash where I turn in something edible while trying to get my lunch menu ready. I have to say I dream of the day I can retire and spend weekends competing, but that day is not here yet. This year, 2013, we cooked on a tiny weber kettle for fun. We didn’t take it seriously and it showed. I have to commend those teams who are out there every weekend kicking it into overdrive and winning. It’s a lot harder than it looks!
When did you first start organizing contests, and how did you first get involved?
I organized the 2013 Hogging Up BBQ & Music Festival www.HoggingUp.com<http://www.hoggingup.com/> as a means to bring revenue to the tiny town of Winchester Virginia which is near and dear to my heart, and to have a celebration of my mother in law’s life. The first contest donated to Cancer Care in her memory but also supported three local Winchester non profits.
What goes in to organizing a contest?
More work than you can ever imagine. Nine months of planning for three days. The contest itself was the easy part, it’s every other part of the festival that you must organize in conjunction that’s hard. From the dumpsters to the grey water tanks, to the bands and marketing, it’s all on your plate.
How many volunteers does it take to run your contest?
The first year my family, friends, the church and the fire department helped out. We had about 20 on shifts over three days and certainly we could have used more!
What is the biggest challenge facing an organizer?
Making sure everything goes smoothly for your competitors and the patrons with no major issues. The weather as well can be so unkind.
Tell us about your venue?
We chose a small vintage style fairground off Route 11 in Clear Book, Virginia, called the Frederick County Fairgrounds (not to be confused with the one in Maryland…). It was old buildings and country style out of the way venue made it appealing for most. Most events are held at the bigger, newer fairgrounds down the road but I got my start at those fairground and wanted to bring something new to town. My hopes it to also bring people to that fairground each year. Right now they mainly have the county fair there, but it usually sits unused with the exception of a few smaller events.
How much does it cost to put on your contest?
Last year I put out well over $20grand out of my own pocket to line up bands, sound, fairgrounds, goodie bags, plaques, electrician and electrical modifications, advertising, marketing, etc. We had no major monetary sponsors but did recoup some investment off selling food and vendors. However, it makes it hard when our goal it to raise money for charity and the event costs you so much money to have.
Does your event support a cause?
We supported three local non profits and one national non profit. In all over $4000 was raised to benefit all of them.
What are some tips you could give to a new organizer?
Go to contests that are run smoothly and learn. We trained in Shelby, North Carolina and Jerry and Joyce Gardner are our mentors. You can’t learn enough. You must have community support and a good staff. Our contest is three hours from our home and work, and in a different state as our work or home and we did it successfully. That is only because we learned so much and asked the competitors, the organizers, the public for feedback on what they wanted in a contest.
Additionally, be in constant contact with the county you are dealing with. For us, we planned two years in advance and some county codes were defunct and we ended up spending three months in county hearings to get them changed just so we could have our contest. (An old code would have charged our vendors $500 per permit license, but after three months in county hearings it was reduced to $30). These are the unexpected stupid things you will encounter. You really need to do your homework or you will be spending valuable time fighting over a rule or code that can cost you time you should be spending on your contest. At the last minute we were told we had to get a camping permit to the state because the competitors left their trailers overnight. It was ridiculous. As well, we are private people putting on a contest. The non profits like the Chambers of Commerce who do it fare better with the county in our opinion.
What are some mistakes you see new organizers making?
We made the mistake of dropping thousands into popular bands that no one listened to. They were there for the barbecue. A little entertainment is nice but next year we will limit this to one band per night. As well the public wants a people’s choice. They made that loud and clear. You have to now find the happy medium between the health department, the competitors and the public which is not so easy until you find a system that works.
What would you like cook teams and/or judges to understand about organizing an event?
Some cook teams do wait until the deadline to apply which makes it hard for an organizer reworking their electrical plans. A master judge reamed out my wife because he wasn’t selected and here she was working 18 hour days to do something for the greater good. We received over 300 in the mail applications and goodness knows how many on email because the mail kept crashing (when our form said to send it in by the way.) It’s up the organizer how to pick and select their judges. In our case, we picked mostly out of towners to get revenue into the town to prove to the county we were doing this for them! We kept the locals for backup. I just wish judges wouldn’t take it so personal because you don’t know what tribulations the organizer is facing.