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Whistler smokes out B.C. champion



Newcomers often equate barbecues to the outdoor grills beer-holding men flock around in the summer months where steaks are flipped every few minutes before being plated.

But seasoned rub-veterans know different. In their world, the slow-cooking vaults are locked down for hours at a time, turning low-grade meats into fillet-mignon equivalents thanks to the pairing of charcoal and wood smoking practices and seasoning rubs.

The tradition is primarily considered an American pastime.

However, Intrawest Chef Bob Haselbach is putting Canadian barbecuers on the map once again with his team’s win at the B.C. Barbecue Championships in Vancouver last weekend.

"I am the second or third Canadian to win over the past 20 years," Haselbach said of the event.

"I always use the example: American hockey players come to Canada to get good at the sport. Canadian barbecuers need to go to the States."

Haselbach along with other Intrawest barbecuers are sent to Paul Kirk’s Pit Master School in the U.S. to learn the time-staking art. Haselbach studied with the best: Kirk, dubbed the Kansas City Baron of Barbecue, won the World Championship of BBQ title seven times along with 475 cooking awards.

"Everything I thought was barbecue was in fact grilling," Haselbach said of his first introduction to barbecue three years ago. "Now I know it is about slow cooking of specialty meats on low heat for long time with charcoal and wood for flavour. From start to finish, it can be 30 hours of work."

Haselbach, along with team member Mark Smith, a fellow Intrawest white jacket who works at Glacier Creek on Blackcomb, competed in four main categories for the win: beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken and ribs. While they placed first, second and third overall in the categories, the team’s points tallied together for the title along with bragging rights from the bonus categories, including King of the Grill.

Grilling kangaroo meat for the category was a definite first for Haselbach. He knew nothing about the meat, but knew pork fat was everything to judges. Haselbach created kabobs with chunks of kangaroo marinated in his signature Caribbean seasoning rolled in smoked bacon grease then wrapped in bacon and skewered with marinated smoked vegetables.

Barbecue fans or curious newcomers to the sport can check out Haselbach’s slow-cooking feats at various Intrawest facilities.

In late June when the mountains re-open, pulled pork will be available at The Grilling Garage at the Roundhouse. The Steeps summer is not yet finalized, but the chicken club wields Haselbach’s homemade Caribbean seasoning. Brisket and pulled pork platters will be served at the Mountain Market.

Chicken and brisket will also be showcased at the Mountain Top Barbecue on Whistler Mountain held every Saturday night starting June 24 with mountaintop views and live music. Prices run $17-$22 with a lift ticket and $34-$40 without.

"A lot of people like ribs, but talk to any cook and brisket by far is the way to go," said Haselbach. "You can take the most inexpensive cut of meat and through slow cooking and spicing, it’s unreal. You don’t need teeth to eat this stuff it’s so (tender)."

As a B.C. champion, Haselbach was invited to compete at the American Royal BBQ Championships in Kansas City and is entered in the draw to compete in the coveted Jack Daniels World Championships in Tennessee.

Haselbach has spent more than a dozen years in kitchens around Ontario and B.C. The Toronto native moved to Vancouver to learn about the art of West Coast cuisine more than a decade ago. He worked in numerous restaurants, gleaning as much as he could from as many chefs as possible. Working at the Starlight Dinner Train, run by the former Delta Whistler Resort in West Vancouver, Haselbach was transferred to the Whistler branch. He then moved onto Intrawest kitchens.

"I think barbecue is something I will continue learning about," he said. "My favourite thing about being a chef is that I can do it for 40 years and still not know everything there is to know about it. You will always be learning."

For up-to-date details on barbecue hot spots, visit

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