In 2006, I started a great journey of cooking for coaches and staffs throughout the SEC. The common thread of these cooks has been my great long-time friend John “Chief” Chavis. He has always had a passion for BBQ and I think that’s what has made our friendship endure for such a long time. Chief joined the Dead End Society BBQ Team and cooked in many events with us over the years, when his time and scheduled permitted. One time we went to Greenwood, SC to cook in a contest with Danny Ford, the Arkansas and Clemson Coach.
We did not know but Coach Ford invited some of his friends, like around 500!! We had so many people in our 20’x20’ space we could not move. When it was time for us to turn in our food for the contest people were picking it up and eating it! Coach Ford was holding court as only he could, telling stories and talking to everyone. As it all turned out, we all had a blast!
During the 2007 season, I cooked so many times for the University of Tennessee Staff and the team that Coach Fulmer presented me with a game ball from the bowl game where we beat Wisconsin! It was like every week we cooked for the defensive staff Tennessee won; that was 10 times that season! We proudly display that football in our trophy case on Sutherland Avenue. At Tennessee, we had some great coaches that we fed during the Fulmer years: Coach Brooks, Coach Caldwell, Coach Slade, Coach Chavis, Coach Fulmer, Coach Long, Coach Taylor, Coach Cutcliffe, Coach Clawson, Coach Roper, Coach Sprewell, Coach Michael, Coach Luke and Coach Atkins. All of these guys were great, especially around a smoker!
My next stop on the SEC cooking tour was LSU. When I was asked to cook for the coaches, I wasn’t sure how they would take a Tennessee guy coming down there and cooking for them. What I found out was BBQ is a universal language that every coach knows and enjoys especially in the SEC! So I am down in Baton Rouge cooking on a borrowed smoker and throwing down some Q for the coaches. I did the usual cook: Chicken, Ribs, Pork and Brisket. You could hear a pin drop in the coaches meeting room when they were eating the BBQ. After everyone ate it was time to go to practice. As I was standing on the sideline, I felt a presence around me and all of the sudden I hear “The Brisket was Tender”. I turned around and it was Coach Miles standing behind me. That was the ultimate compliment!
I cooked for Coach Miles, Coach Chavis, Coach Nader, Coach Moffitt, Coach Strudawa, Coach Kragthrope, Coach Wilson, Coach Cooper, Coach Ensminger, Coach Gonzales, Coach Haley, Coach McGaughey, Coach Raymond, Coach Henry, Coach Cameron, Coach Grimes and Coach Peveto. Great times were had around the smoker in the Bayou! I would be remiss not to mention some great guys that were always there to help out with cooking in LSU and they were equipment manager Greg Stringfellow, film guy Doug Aucoin and my man Charles Baglio!
During the Dooley era at Tennessee, I was able to cook for the coaches and their families on several occasions! Coach Dooley was always great to me and was by my side every time I was at his house cooking. I didn’t know if it was to help, learn or try to tell me how to cook? Finally one day I looked at Coach and said you have cobwebs on your Weber, when you clean those off you can talk to me about cooking. The next time we are there the Weber had been cleaned and he was free to hang around the grill with me again! Hanging around a smoker or grill relaxes people and all of the coaches during this era were great people to hang around and talk with especially about BBQ. On his staff we cooked for Coach Dooley, Coach Pendergrass, Coach Wilcox, Coach Chaney, Coach Smith, Coach Baggett, Coach Thompson, Coach Russell, Coach Joseph, CoachHiestand, Coach Hinshaw, Coach Pittman, Coach Sunseri, Coach Palermo, Coach Coiner, Coach Ansley, Coach Conkin and Coach Graham. I really enjoyed getting to know Coach Dooley and I wish all the success in the world with the Cowboys.
Just when you think things are hot in Tennessee, you need to go to College Station, TX. I mean, I went down there to cook with Chief and his staff one weekend and it was 91 in the shade and 102 in the sun! Chief bought a new smoker from my other company Champion Smokers & Grills and we sent it down to Texas A&M for him! I flew down in July to cook for his defensive staff and give him a tutorial on his new smoker which is named The Chief. For 12 hours Chief and D-Line Coach Terry Price hung around the smoker with me. Coach Price took at least 10 pages of notes on how to smoke BBQ! There was a lot of rumblings that the people around there couldn’t believe Chief would bring someone from Tennessee down there to cook BBQ when they were in Texas. I reminded them there would not have been a Texas if it weren’t for some Tennesseans! That made everything more relaxed around the pit. But when the Brisket came off the smoker all eyes were on me. I have to say that was the best brisket I had smoked in my life, you could cut it with a butter knife! To my amazement the people at the party were all saying that was the best brisket they ever ate! That means a lot coming from Texans! The people I fed that day were Coach Chavis, Coach Price, Coach Hagen, Coach Moorehead and former UT Coach Joseph who now at A&M. We were very fortunate to hang out at Dr JP Bramhall’s house to do the cooking and his son Bobby is now attending Law School at Tennessee. It’s such a small world!
We have been fortunate to feed the football teams at the University of Tennessee every year since we opened in 2009 with the exception of the Kiffin era. In fact last month, we were able to feed the entire Defensive side of the football and their coaches. Coach Jancek and his staff are outstanding leaders of men. I cannot leave out feeding Coach Lawson and the strength coaches, those guys are the unsung heroes of team! Hopefully one day soon, we will be cooking for Coach Jones and his staff!
As you can see I have been blessed to be around some great coaches in the SEC! I hope everyone can get a chance to gather around a smoker or grill on football Saturdays and enjoy great food and great friendships! You never know where it might lead!
Keep the fire burning!George