Bob Haselbach is in touch with his inner caveman. If there is a way to grill, roast or smoke a piece of meat over a bed of coals he's into it - and if that means earning a little extra cash and prestige along the way then all the better.
Sure, it's not an unusual hankering that Bob has - lots of people like to roast things over fire. But Haselback - head chef at Roland's Pub and the eponymous BBQ Bob's in Creekside - recently drove alone to Saskatchewan to compete in 19 hours of rain without a proper tent (the one he borrowed broke) at an outdoor barbeque competition, just to see what the judges would think of his newest creations.
Bet you don't like to grill mammals that much.
"The gods were kind of against me but I still managed to get first in pork, third in brisket, fourth in ribs, fifth in chicken and third overall," said the laid-back Haselbach. "I'm actually changing up the way I cook things quite a bit. I'm shortening the cooking time by about five hours on the Big Daddy's pork and brisket and I think I've increased the flavour."
Long a steady in the Whistler culinary scene, BBQ Bob was formerly known simply by his given name while cooking for the conference centre and Dusty's earlier this decade. The smoke-heeled, tong-wielding legend was born in 2004 after Whistler Blackcomb sent a number of Dusty's Bar & BBQ employees to barbeque school in the U.S.
"We actually did really well - we had a little competition at the end and I got hooked with another fellow and started going to a couple of competitions per year after that," said Haselbach. "There are so many different variables that you have control over that you have to remember and be sure that you nail them to get the perfect food and win, and then there are so many variables that you have no control over, i.e. the elements. You just have to be prepared for everything and be ready."
Ready is exactly what BBQ Bob is for the upcoming Canadian National BBQ Championships. The weekend kicks off Friday, July 29 with a free barbeque demonstration on how to cook an entire hog (sorry kids, the how-to-become-a-certified-BBQ-judge class is full up), followed by the chance to win over $2,000 in cash and prizes during Saturday's locals' barbeque day. BBQ Bob took the gold medal at last year's Backyard Burger and King of the Grill championship and plans on dominating again this year.
"I'm going to do something different for the burger to try and get another win," he said, refusing to reveal even part of his strategy. "I could go ahead and do the same stuff I did last year and probably do quite well but that seems boring. I want to do new stuff."
Burgers are judged blind with a focus on appearance, taste and texture. The winner secures his or her masterpiece a spot on Dusty's menu, though Haselbach understandably put his winner from last year on his own menu instead.
After limbering up during Saturday's competitions, Haselbach will face his stiffest challenge at the Canadian BBQ Championships on Sunday. Unlike the lighthearted rivalry between locals at Saturday's events, this day brings cooks from all over North America to compete for the title of Canadian Champion, $5,000 in cash and prizes, and entry to the world championships in Lynchburg (that's in Tennessee, where they know a thing or two about grits, hicks and grillin'). As is typical of BBQ challenges, competitors will be judged on their pork butt, beef brisket, chicken and ribs.
"There is a kinmanship amongst the teams but at the same time we all want to kick each other's butts for bragging rights and the prize money," said Haselbach of the final competition.
For Bob's sake we hope those butts include pork.