How to Cook Great Barbeque (“Yes,” he won first place in the chicken category… )

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Another year has begun. Where will 2019 take us?

Actually, this is something I never really think about because our catering business is very much like the product, we turn out to our customers… “consistent.” We’ll consistently do what we have always done and go wherever the job takes us.

If you don’t already know, let me tell you a secret about barbeque. Actually, let me tell you a secret about “great” barbeque; Great barbeque is not so much about how you cook it or the rub or sauce you put on it. What makes for great barbeque is to first make “good” barbeque. What I mean by this is; so many people who start out learning to cook barbeque “overthink” it. Whether you’re roasting a whole hog or smoking ribs & chicken, everybody fakes themselves into thinking the secret to good barbeque has to be in the wood that is being used to cook or it has to be the rub or whatever. Some guys/gals will think that they need a more expensive smoker and I can tell you first hand about the more expensive smoker theory (*I’ll debunk that in a minute, but first).

First and foremost, you make good barbeque by cooking something that is done and editable. What you’ve cooked tastes good, everybody likes it and they would like to have it again next week. The big question is; can you make it exactly the same next week? Can you make it exactly the same next month or next year? And I do mean exactly the same, because you can’t fool a person’s memory when it comes to the taste of food. Once we taste something that really turns us on, we never forget it. That taste will haunt us until the next time we taste it.

Let me run you through and example that I have been faced with many times in the 22 years of cooking barbeque; I cater a customer’s party with a roasted pig and smoked barbeque chicken, along with all the side dishes. The party was for a high school graduation and everybody loved the food. One guy in particular liked the smoked chicken so much he came over and talked to me about it. He new very little about what actual barbeque is. His first question was; what did you marinate the chicken in? He said it was the best chicken he had ever eaten in his life. Wow! Really, “the best ever,” I ask. So, we talk a while and I find out he has traveled the world over as corporate accountant, so he has certainly had his fair share of cuisine from around the world.

_mg_8238Now here we are five years later and my customer calls me up and says “the kid is now graduating college” and he want us to cater the event with the same fine food we cooked five years earlier. So here we are the day of the party and there he is; the corporate accountant and as he makes his way into the party, he is talking with family members and all of the sudden he sees the pig roasting oven and he sees me and here he comes on a mission. First question out of his mouth is if we have the “same chicken” we cooked five years ago? Then he goes on to brag to everybody how this chicken he had five years ago was “the very best chicken he ever had.”

Of course, the when we serve the food he is first in line and he has the chicken on his plate. After going through the food line, he makes his way over to where I was standing and he takes his first bite of the chicken. “I have waited five years for this moment” and we all laugh. He loved it and was so happy.

Sadly, the man lived on the west coast otherwise I think he would hire us to cater a party for himself. Also, he got to eat the chicken again four years later when the customer hired me again to cater his daughter’s wedding.

And that is what I mean when I say great barbeque has to be consistent. First you make something good and then you just keep doing it the same way over and over every time and that is what will make your barbeque “great.” A race car driver does not become “great” from winning one single race. Winning one race makes him a good race car driver, winning race after race makes him a great racecar driver.

Our business is very much like our product, no matter what the weather or the location we will be there to turn out the same good food we turned out last year or ten years ago. We’ll travel to north Jersey, south Jersey, Staten Island and down the shore, we’ll be in backyards, on construction sites, in parking lots, warehouses and in some cases cooking right in the street. There will rainy days, cold days and some down right hot as hell days, but no matter what the day the barbeque will always taste the same.

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*Do you need a high dollar smoker to make great barbeque?

Answer: No.

I was cooking as a contestant at a KCBS sanctioned event at the Jersey shore. There was an older gentleman from Virginia who arrived and begin to set up a few spots don from me. He had a really nice rig. He had a custom-built trailer/smoker combo and his smoker could easily cook enough meat for 500 people in one cooking cycle. However, while he was unpacking, I seen him set up a small Brinkmann bullet style smoker. If you looked really close you could see the smoker used to be green, but it hardly had any paint left on it and it was charred and dented all over. It looked almost as old as the man himself.

 

He cooked all his meat in his big fancy smoker, but he cooked his chicken in the dirty ole bullet smoker. “Yes,” he won first place in the chicken category while all of his other entries placed in the lower part of the top ten.

And that is the day I learned that “you do not need a fancy high dollar smoker to turn out winning barbeque.” His little bullet smoker was no different that any other bullet smoker anybody could buy at Home Depot or Walmart.

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The Old Truck (in a small world)

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My brown & tan F250 and old trailer at Sky Manor Airport.

Happy New Year

everybody and of course we know 2019 is going to be an awesome year. Well of course we don’t know for sure it will be awesome, but we have hope and hope is a good thing or so I was told (lol).

Have Pig Will travel is of course a BBQ business however I rarely ever write blog posts about cooking or recipes or any of that kind of food stuff. That is because for me cooking is so second nature that it is like putting my shoes on in the morning. Think about that for a minute and then realize how boring a post would be if you wrote about putting your shoes on in the morning. I would rather write about the things I have experienced while traveling around cooking and meeting people with this crazy little business.

This story is about the pickup truck I owned when I started Have Pig Will Travel. In 1996 I had purchased a 1986 Ford F250 2-wheel drive pickup truck. At this time, I had no idea I would be starting up a catering business the following spring. The truck needed a little work in the way of brakes & tires and a few other odds & ends, otherwise it ran great. I come to love that truck and it carried me many a mile down the road, with or without the pig roast trailer. I owned a motorcycle at the time and between the two, I loved the truck the most. I had owned many trucks in my life, but this F250 was just the greatest.

The truck had a seat cover that I really loved, it was some strange kind of tweed like material, brown & tan and it matched the tan interior of the truck. The seat was a bench style and the cover had pockets all along the front. I would put all kinds of stuff in these pockets to the point they were busting at the seams. Hey that’s what pockets are for right?

I had a crescent wrench, screw drivers and vise grips in one pocket, cassette tapes (remember those) rolls of film, extra keys and just all kinds of stuff in those pockets. One time I was cleaning out the pockets in the spring time and found a check from a customer, a job I did the previous year. I put the check in the pocket and never deposited it. I felt like an idiot calling the customer and asking if it was ok to still deposit the check. I remember she was acting as if I was bothering her when I called, in fact I had to remind her who I was and that she had a 350-person party back in July. “Oh yeah… the party” like it was just a little thing in her life. I guess when your husband writes Disney movies for a living a 350-person party is a little thing.

Anyway, I loved that seat cover and so did a friend of mine. Tim asked me one day where I bought the cover. I said it came with the truck. So, we looked for a tag and could not find one. We also noticed that the cover was very thick and very well made. Tim pointed out that the seat cover was unlike any other cover he had ever seen. I never really gave it much though, after all it is a seat cover, who the hell looks at old seat covers that closely? But, yes now that you mention it, the cover is actually kind of odd. Damn it Tim, now your giving me a complex about my seat cover. What kind of friend are you?

So, time moves on and the truck serves me very well. At 250,000 miles blew the timing chain and I replaced it myself. That year I did a lot of work on the truck in hopes it would serve me for a few more years.

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My F250 at a job in Alexandra Township. Customer Joe and cook Sue

Sometimes it is a small world, I think we have all had at least one of those situations. I roll up to a catering job on a hot Saturday, it was a birthday party. Actually, I was just dropping trailer #1, Sue & Lou were going to cook the pig and work the party, I was going to deliver food, do grill work for another caterer at a wedding and return to pick the trailer & roaster up at the end of the party. Yeah it was a busy day for me.

Upon returning to the party to pickup the trailer & roaster, the man who had hired me came to write the check. He leaned on the hood of my check and said “I used to have a truck that looked just like this one.” Then he looked really close just behind the driver’s door and there was discoloration in the paint. It had been there since I bought the truck. It was where there had been vinyl lettering and I could never seem to buff it away. You could make out his last name and when he seen it, he just stopped dead and asked “where did you buy this truck.” I said I had purchased it from a mechanic in Milford, NJ named Gene. Then the customer was really dumbstruck and he froze for a moment, walked to the driver’s door and opened it. He looked at the seat cover, left the door open and walked away really fast.

The party was winding down and I could see him talking with his wife and daughter. They were too far away to hear, but there was a lot of talking and finger pointing towards the truck. Well, it wasn’t long before they all came walking my way very slowly with this old lady. She was very old and used a walker and even still had to be helped. They all walked to the open driver’s door and the old lady looked at the seat cover, she slowly reached out and touched it and slowly rubbed her hand all around. She looked at me a smiled with tears in her eyes and started to speak in what I believe was Hungarian. I couldn’t understand what she was saying and soon all the women were crying, but it was happy tears.

My customer took me aside and explained that this was in fact his old truck and he had sold it to his mechanic Gene. He then went on to tell me the birthday party was for his mother and she was 92 years old. She had made the seat cover for him when he bought the truck. She had been a seamstress and worked with fabrics her whole life and that seeing the seat cover brought her a lot of joy. As she aged the arthritis in her hand got so bad, she gave up sewing several years before.

This whole turn of events shocked me but made me happy for them at the same time. After a few minutes they all headed to the house and I packed up my cooking equipment and trailer and off I went. As I was driving back home and I kept thinking about the scene and how happy they all were. I thought to myself; sure, I could have run into the man who previously owned my truck anywhere. He could have come up to me and said “hey I used to own this truck” and we would have talked a bit and he might have said “yeah my mother made that seat cover” and that would have been about it. But to meet him and for the mother to be there to see the seat cover was just over the top. And that is the kind of stuff I like to talk about when I think of my crazy little pig roast & barbeque catering business. The cooking is secondary to me, but not to everybody else. Most people want to talk about cooking and to me it is like… you guessed it. It is like talking about putting your shoes on.

So, what about the old truck? I drove the truck just past 350,000 miles and then sold it to my father who tipped it just past 400,000. It was a “ruster” and the body just rusted away. But the motor and drive train were still going strong till the very end.

Thanks for stopping by.

2K18 Begins

And so begins another cooking season. 21 years, tons of meat smoked and over 1000 pigs roasted.

Actually we started last week with a catering job in Philadelphia for 200+ construction workers who are in Phase II of a huge project at the Museum of Art. However this job was just catered food and not a pig roast. Now don’t get me wrong… the food is all the same goodness and taste, but we like to think of the first pig roast of the season as the beginning of the season.

Saturday June 2nd will be Mike a first time customer who is hosting a car show. 200 people, roasted pig, brisket, burgers & dogs and all the yummy sides.

Munn had been working hard smoking and slicing all that brisket. It is so hard to believe she is starting her 8th year with me.

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Munn’s smoke brisket.

About Our Pricing and Fresh Food

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Talking about pricing and how I feel our pricing is on point.

When you look at our prices you notice that for an “on-site” pig roast the per person price hovers around the $20 mark, give or take depending on what your ordering. Since I started this business I have always tried to stay at a level the average working person could afford. I always said that “this business will make money, but no matter what it won’t make me rich.” So why raise the prices so high that you eliminate the average working people and the only customer base will be the “hi-so” crowd. See my goal is to go out and work each week, not sit and wait for a job every now & then.

So with all that said, I do get upset when someone says “your prices are too high.” Now rather than going into the whole synopsis about my cost to operate in New Jersey, I like to look at it in a more down to earth realistic way.

If you think $20-$22 per-person is too high to have fresh food cooked on location and to have additional items like the paper plates forks ect included, let’s take a different route.

Let’s just go cheap… we’ll go down to the deli, or Wawa, Quick Chek or let’s say the local diner. These are all place to get a meal at a fair price, right? After all people visit these places every for breakfast lunch & dinner. So let’s go into (we’ll say a Wawa store) and order up a sandwich and four side dishes. Or go in your local diner and do the same. You do the math… given the fact a decent size sandwich anywhere you go is going to be no less $7-$8 dollars if not more… oh and let me guess you never went to a party where you only ate one pork/beef sandwich right? About now it is starting to make a little sense.

Let’s look at quality; our food is straight up fresh food. And what I mean by fresh is, it is not enhanced in any way. I will admit there are few places that still cook “fresh” food. But most often I see every place taking short cuts. Examples would be; most chain or franchise places that advertise “pulled pork” it was processed off site in a factory and arrived in a plastic bag and all they do is heat it up. Same goes for many side dishes like macaroni & cheese, even BBQ sauces come in plastic bags. Simply put all most all food is pre-made to some extent for two reasons. The first is employee’s need very little training and the second is; in the food business it is all about executing a dish as quickly as possible at the lowest cost possible.

We do not work this way. All food for each party is made for your party about 24 to 48 hours before your party, just the same as anybody would do if they were making the food themselves for their own party. If you had to make potato salad for your party this Saturday you’d most likely make it the day before.

Then of course there are some dishes we prepare right on location, such as baked beans, stir fry, fried rice, corn on the cob, rice and beans, fresh fruit, or Caesar salad.

And let me tell you freshness goes a long way when it comes down to entertaining guests. I equate fresh food to live music. Often myself I have enjoyed a party or event that had live music rather than no music or a DJ. Even if the live music was not my style, most times it has an entertainment factor. I find fresh food to be the same. It hit me one day when a guest at a party came up to me as he was leaving and he wanted to tell me how much he loved the food. He was genuinely impressed and while sure he loved the roasted pork and smoked chicken, he also told me “I even ate the potato salad and I usually do not eat potato salad, but yours was so fresh and… not from a bucket, I had two servings.” He was the first, but not the last person to say something like this to me. So I soon realized how much impact fresh food has at a party. Another example I think we have all seen is at a holiday party. There are all those home baked goodie and someone always brings a box of store brand donuts or coffee cake that sits untouched as everybody is going home.

Point made!

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Happy New Year 2K18

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So as we start the new year of 2018 Have Pig Will Travel is starting its 21st year in the BBQ industry. It has been a long road of travels and tons of meat have been roasted or smoke. As the new season approaches we so will new customers and new places to cook and we’ll be ready as always.

I’m looking forward to the refreshed economy and expecting bigger parties than we have seen in the past few years. I remember the early 2000’s were a time when we saw larger head counts and larger company parties. Of recent the company parties & picnics were down.

Nothing new about our cooking, it will remain the same as always, why fix what’s not broke. One of the biggest compliments is when we cook for a customer who hasn’t had our BBQ in several years and when they do taste it, they say “wow just like I remembered.” I think everybody has remembered a taste of their favorite food whatever it might be, and there is nothing worse than finding that food again only to find the taste changed.

So we still roast our pigs over hardwood charcoal in the same style roasting oven as I did when I started 21 years ago. Our signature BBQ sauces are still the same. Our mild sauce has that just middle of the road flavor of ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, onions and more. While our spicy sauce has a ketchup & mustard base it often tastes a little on the sweet side at first and the more you eat the more the heat comes on, sort of a slow motion reaction. As opposed to spicy sauces that just melt your gums down and take away from the actual taste of the meat. A lot of work went into developing my sauces and making them what they are today.

So please pass the word on to anyone you know who might be celebrating a special occasion or who just wants to have great food at their event.

Festival Vending or Fingernail Extraction. (Don’t worry the “et tu brute” will come later.)

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I’m asked all the time; “Why don’t you sell your food at festivals?” “I know this festival that would be perfect for what you do. I go there every year and I have never seen anybody selling food as good as yours.” First off not to sound like I am a “know-it-all” but this isn’t my first rodeo scooter, I’ve been thrown off that bull enough times to know when to quit. At the same time I’ve rode that bull past the 8 second mark and walked away with the bounty, but it still comes with a price to be paid.

So to be historically correct I officially gave up festival vending on Friday night of September 9, 2011 when a promoter called me and said the event for the very next day was being cancelled because of rain… even though there was a rain date and total cancellation was never talked about.

Ok so let’s break this down and see if we can find the exact moment where this train left the tracks.

About 10 years prior (possibly longer) I was called upon to cook a pig at this local event that was hosted by a local volunteer fire department to celebrate the Harvest season. I had bigger fish to fry (so to speak) so I sent my then girlfriend Sue and her helper Lou to go cook a pig and sell sandwiches while I went to do this (so called) huge fireworks event for a township police department about 30 miles away. Police department/promoter said “guaranteed over 100,000 people at this event. Yeah… One hundred thousand people, and I checked the event directory and it confirmed for that event 100,000+ people for one day event. Oh man… I will sell more food than I can cook, I’ll be rich. Why would I even go cook for these farmers and their Harvest fest?

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September 9, 2008 )from left) John, Sue, Jen & Brett

But something inside me said; you grew up as a kid on a farm and I love farmers, I love the country way of life and it is my community after all, I didn’t live there at the time, however I had worked around that area for many years and knew a lot of the people in the area. (Don’t worry the “et tu brute” will come later.)

So here I sit trying to sell BBQ at an event that has 19 other vendors selling some form of BBQ… and where the hell is the 100k people? All I see is a bunch of deadbeat ne’er–do–wells staggering around mixed with a working class crowd and ain’t nobody spending money on food. Meanwhile Sue calls me and says she sold all her food in two hours and her festival still has several hours to go. She can’t leave she is blocked in. I can’t leave and I’m stuck with all this food. And where the fuck is the 100k people? Ok it is a fireworks festival, maybe as the day progresses the crowd will build.

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John pulling pork 9/9/08

About one hour before the fireworks are due to go off a tsunami of people wash over the festival area making their way to the waterfront of a lake to get a spot to view the fireworks. I did sell some food, but not what you’d think. And I guess if you took in to account the size of the lake and all the people attending in the outlying area, it most likely added up to 100K people. Boy did I get duped on that one. Yes my friend that is called “living and learning” and eating French fries for breakfast lunch and dinner for the next year. Of course the $300 I paid for the vending spot sat real well with the police department. And the money I paid out in help, the truck I rented and… I don’t even want to think about it anymore than that.

So when the police department called the next year I didn’t even argue I said nix nix and take me off your list and lose my number we’re done.

As for the little Harvest festival; well for the next several years I did that festival every year. Now this part is important. I was told the event would always be the first Saturday after Labor Day and that the rain date would always be the next day, on Sunday. I was never told that a total cancellation was an option. I was to give 20% of my till to the fire department at the end of the night and I faithfully & honestly did exactly that every year. It was a verbal gentlemen’s agreement and we left it at that. So as time passed by there were good years and some slow years. Why I can even remember utilizing the rain date option, although the crowd was smaller I could still at least break even. The slow years, like most owners of a business I would make very little or nothing. My helpers made money I paid them by the hour, the department got their 20% and so goes the story.

Now I will admit there were good years where I made a decent little cha-ching… But I (as in me) worked like hell all week preparing. Smoking and shredding pork, slicing smoked brisket and some years we sold smoked ribs. Running to & fro buying all the stuff I needed, I had good tents & signage, I wanted everything to look as good as I could make it look on the budget I had to work with, and that meant lowering the profit. I would not do all this extra work  for other events, but I did it for this event because why? It was for the good of it all, the community, the people and just because that is how I work.

In 2009 we were washed out. We had a week of hard rain leading up to the festival. My basement flooded, I lost a lot of equipment in my recording studio, I lost a lot of high dollar stuff in my workshop and my relationship with my longtime girlfriend was ending all at the same time. But I was still prepared to be at the festival with my BBQ and roast a pig. I had to roast the pig because it just wouldn’t be a festival if there wasn’t a pig cookin’. The festival utilized the rain date option and we went with Sunday that year. The crowd was a little light but still a lot of people came out to eat, drink and be merry as they say.

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2007 (from left) Shawn, Sue, Pat & Me (Pigdude)

2011: So in 2011 I was newly married to Munn and the cooking season was progressing pretty well. 2009 & 2010 were really bad years for my business. I relocated and that hurt me, plus it was a lot of hard work. Because of the poor economy I had reduced from three cooking crews down to just me and one assistant, imagine losing 2/3 of your profit & lifestyle. I actually wanted to pack it in and call it quits. But Munn was having a blast learning all about my crazy business. She was having fun so I was having fun. She loves people and she rekindled the fun I used to have when I went out to cook for the masses (as I would always say). I had been telling her about this little festival that I do every year, how much fun it would be and how much fun the people have. Munn is from Thailand and this was her first year here and she was so looking forward to seeing and cooking for a festival in the USA.

As the week came the weather was looking grim to say the least. It rained for several days leading up to the event. I was waiting to hear the “word” was it going to be Saturday or Sunday. I heard nothing. It was Friday night about 9:00pm, I had just finished shredding/pulling all the pork, I had also finished the slicing of the brisket, and I had over 200 lbs of fries in the freezer. Munn & I were done for the night, wiped of all energy I offered to buy her a coffee at the local Wawa store on the way back to the rented room we were staying in. Yeah like I said “times were tough that year.” So as I approach the Wawa store I get a call from the fire department saying (and I quote) “yeah that festival we do every year… well this year we’re not going to do it.” I’m thinking he means we will do it on Sunday and not Saturday. “No we’re just going to cancel it.” So needless to say I was devastated beyond words, the conversation was brief and I hung up the phone. I pulled into the parking lot of the store and I called the man back. Now that second conversation was… shall we say “heated” to say the least. I also told him to lose my number and never ever call me again, just forget who I am. Munn & I sat there drinking coffee and you never seen two deflated souls as we were that night. The loss of money alone was enough to make a good soul just give up.

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Ahh… Fries, who doesn’t love fries.

I mostly blame the weather and that is the real reason I stopped doing the festivals. And I have to say that while I hold no ill feelings (personally) towards the man who gave me the bad news that night, I do fault the fire department for not giving me a heads up that a “full cancellation of the event” was an option. I also have to fault myself for being gullible enough to not have a written and signed agreement. Fuck me once shame on you, fuck me twice ain’t ever gonna happen.

2017: So now their festival has been reduced to what it should have been all along. It is a Beef & Beer event and I don’t believe there are going to be fireworks. So what was once a so called Harvest Fest is now just stand, eat and drink. And truly there is nothing wrong with that, after all that is what it was all along. There are just a handful (if that) of farmers in the area… well except for the new age plowboys that ride around in there big 4×4 trucks that they tune to sound like a tractor (I think it makes their penis feel bigger). They got the cookie cutter country music playin’ and they’re about as akin to a real farmer as the new age biker is to a real Hells Angel or Pegan. So with no real farmer population, there is no harvest and why not just go with the formula that has worked for hundreds of years.

And what is that formula you may ask? Ok so if you want to make any party, event, fundraiser whatever a real success…

  1. Beer and lots of it.
  2. And if it is good food all the better.
  3. And if it is live music all the better.

That’s it that is all you need. Some may say to add sexy women, but I still would go with beer, food and live music.

So this was just a small slice of the food vending history of Have Pig Will Travel, but it was these events that led up to me saying “never again, no more food vending.” While I do believe in God, Jesus and the devil, I also believe Festival promoters are the devils offspring, some place on their body is the number 666… it has to be. In all my live I have never met a more low-down dishonest, self-serving, and greedy group of people.

Well I guess I could say it was fun while it lasted… nah I’m not going to say that.

Have a great day everybody and thanks for reading.

 

 

A Very Special Father’s Day (She wanted steamed clams… lots of steamed clams)

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Dick & Marge Yard

A Very Special Father’s Day

It truly was a sight to behold and on more than one level. To call it “a family cook-out” would be an understatement to say the least. The story that is about to unfold is one filled with many ingredients; love, humbleness, family and American dream are just a few that come to mind as I write this.

I’m 52 years and I have known of the Yard’s all my life. Marge & Dick Yard are school bus drivers in my community. I am a school bus driver in my community and I came to know Marge & Dick as friends when I started driving bus 18 years ago. Both have long since retired but continue to drive as substitutes nearly every week if not every day. I kind of personally feel that they really don’t have to work so much, but it gives them something to do… And they’re dedicated to what they do. After all they are the ones who are there all the time while the full time drivers are constantly out. They’re both really cool people… they’re what I call “good people.”

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Dick approached me a few weeks ago and took me by surprise when he asked if I could cook some food for a small family get-together he was having on Father’s Day. I just never thought he would ask me something like that. He went on to say it was his 85th birthday and his twin sister was coming to visit and he needed catered food so no one would have to cook. Whoa! Hold on here just a minute… 85th birthday, twin sister… I had no idea Dick had a twin sister. I knew he had a sister, but I never knew they were twins. And how could he be turning 85 years old when… was he just 67 years old like few years ago when I started driving bus. Oh… yeah that’s right I’ve been driving for 18 years, gosh how time flies. So as he continues to talk I’m trying to get my head around how important this event is going to be. A man who is fortunate enough to have an 85th birthday on Father’s Day and have all his family, wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and twin sister all there at the same time. That right there is more than amazing and how blessed one truly could be. And in good health I might add. Wow! And he is just talking like it’s no big deal. Like I said “humble.”

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Richard (Dick) Yard Happy 85th Birthday My Friend

After giving him some basic info, like all good husbands he said “I will talk to Marge about it.” So yes it turned into a full on pig roast. But Marge wasn’t so much worried about the roasted pig as she was the clams. She wanted steamed clams… lots of steamed clams. So of course I did just that, I ordered lots and lots of steamed clams… and butter, don’t forget the butter. Of course there was all the other good side dishes that make any American style family BBQ complete like corn on the cob (with lots of butter), my red skin country potato salad, baked beans with smoked sausage and apples, hamburgers & hot dogs and more.

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Munn Smith with her infamous smile.

My wife was excited too, she has heard me talk about a lot of the people I work with over the years and she always wondered when she would get to meet the Yard’s (if ever). Munn was really looking forward to this, being a Thai lady who comes from a very close family and from a village lifestyle where older people are very much respected she loves to see families come together. And as I have stated many times “it is events like this that are the collateral fun of my crazy little catering business.” We get to see all kinds of memories being made right in front of are eye while we work. Kind of “hokie” I know, but true all the same.

So the location of the party was at the oldest son’s house. Just a very beautiful private country setting, actually almost story book like for this special Father’s Day. No not a big palatial upper crust mansion, but rather a beautiful home that was built by a self-employed hard working man who himself is living the American dream.

So the stage is set but… what does Mother Nature have to say about it? The weather was gorgeous so let’s party. Oh but wait… Munn forgot to pack the BBQ sauce. So after Tiny and I made a quick trip back, now all was good.

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Twins Dick and his sister Marge on their 85th Birthday

Of course the pig was awesome and just set the mood for the day. To me the pig is just food to eat. However at the same time the roasted pig is what denotes the day as something very special. The smell of the hardwood smoke and pork fat rendering as the day progresses just puts a smell in the air and when guests approach the whole scene it is like casting a magical spell that says “today is very special” and it was special. While Dick and his sister were celebrating twin birthdays Marge was celebrating too. She walked up to me at one point and said “out of the 50 or so people in attendance, only three were not her family. Marge had all her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and husband together in one place and all having fun. And that right there is an American dream and a blessed thing. Munn & I were so happy to be there to see it and to cook for them.

Happy birthday Dick and many more my good friend.

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We Need an Ambulance (imagine dipping your toes in lava.) Part 1

_MG_2058“Yeah it was all fun & games till the ambulance showed up.” Sounds funny and as I look back on it now most times it was funny… well yeah most times, but not all.

So in 20 years of going out and cooking on location you know it is bound to happen sooner or later that you will be at an event where someone gets sick or hurt or some way needs medical assistance. Let me list a few here.

Old people falling down

Drunk people falling down

Old drunk people falling down

Young drunk people falling down

Bee stings

Dog bites

Food allergies

Old people falling down

BB gun accidents

Dehydration

Heart attack

Baby dropped on head

Girlfriend dropped on head

Old people falling down

Kid hit by car on bike

Kid hit by another kid

And the list goes on… oh and did I mention old people falling down. I was at a party years ago where there were three different incidents of old people falling down. Each time the State Trooper arrived before the EMTs. Finally the host asked him if he could just stay and join the party (no joke). The Trooper said he could not stay but he wanted all elderly to leave the party. LOL he was joking. In all of the incidents I have listed above no one was seriously injured except one and I’ll touch on that one later.

So really the one piece of advice to take away from this is “watch out for elderly guests” at your party. In my experience it was always one of two things. It was either the hot weather or uneven ground/sidewalks ect…

There for a while in the early 2K years we would take bets on the way to the job “will we see an ambulance at the party today.” It seemed to happen so often, at one point we were at three weeks running.

Another that comes to mind was the time the groom passed out at the end of the wedding reception and it is not what you think. Sure the groom passed out and on his way down strikes his head on a huge boulder in the yard. So everybody thinks he had too much to drink and we put him in the “drunk people falling down” category. But he was not a drinker, didn’t smoke, do drugs… nothing, he was just dehydrated and run down from all the work leading up to his wedding. I felt so bad for him because he truly was a really cool young man. He came to, and refused to get in the ambulance. Then passed out again and the Trooper said “get him on that stretcher and out of here ASAP.” Only problem for me was… the groom was paying the bill and now he left in an ambulance. Yeah fun times.

Did I ever need an ambulance? The answer is kind of mixed. No I never left the job in an ambulance although sometimes a “straight jacket” would have been nice. One time I did dump boiling turkey juice down my leg and into my leak proof Gore-Tex shoe, where it cooked my foot just like the turkey. If you’re wondering how bad it hurt… Something like that kind hurt. I tried to pretend it did not happen and went on with what I was doing, until my girlfriend (who was standing there in amazement) asked; “doesn’t that hurt?” At that point I went to my truck for the first aid kit and tended to it. I finished the job, but that’s all I’ll say because any further description would turn your stomach. I will say I still have both of my feet although one tastes better than the other.

So that concludes part one, in part two I’ll talk about the time I cooked food that nobody would eat and a baby and old man both get dropped on their head at the same time. (You can’t make this stuff up folks.)

The Road to Philly

Whenever any customer calls on us we’re happy, but when L. F. Driscoll calls on us I get real excited. I get excited because it mean going to Philadelphia and while I’m not really a big city kind of guy I really love Philly. Philly is easy to navigate and the overall attitude is good. NYC is a jungle, truly a jungle, whereas Philly is just city life without all the “jungle.”

So Driscoll called on me the first time back in November of 2010 while they were working on the now prestigious new art museum that house the Albert Barnes art collection. If you are not familiar with The Barnes Foundation I urge you to check it out. It is a great story of a man who had phenomenal success before and during the Great Depression. You do not have to be into art collecting to appreciate the story. So yes we did such a great job for Driscoll that two months later The Barnes Foundation called us back to the same location because they wanted to show love to the Driscoll workers and on January 20, 2011 in the middle of a horrible winter we performed an on-site pig roast at the Barnes construction site. We had a major snow storm the day before and the day after the event. But somehow by the grace of God it did not snow while I was there.

Then later in 2012 Driscoll called for me to cater a lunch for 200 people at the phase 1 project they had going at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Actually they were working under the museum and I catered the event without flaw in a huge vaulted hallway. This just drives home the fact that when I say “I have cooked just about everywhere you could imagine and then some.” Doing these kinds of catering jobs do not come without logistical challenges. The biggest challenge is getting the food there and setup on time. The workers are on a lunch break and not just hanging around. They need to eat and go back to work.

On Thursday May 25th I repeated the job at the Art Museum, Driscoll is back for phase 2 and they also had a safety meeting/lunch and they called on Have Pig Will Travel. Same location only this time we were just inside of the door at the rear of the museum. Watch the video to see the high lights of the day. It rained and the big challenge as always was the traffic.