Culinary creativity takes the crown

Written by Denis Maher

Thinking outside the box has seen Hervey Bay’s Denis Maher crowned as the winner in a five-month long national barbecue competition.

Hosted by Ironwood Barbecue from February 12 to July 12, the Pitmaster of Hervey Bay’s BBQ team “The Low ’n’ Slow BBQ Shack” entered eight categories, each with a hand-in window of about two weeks.

Points for each round were awarded for Presentation (4.5 points max), Difficulty (3.5 points max), and Impression (2 points max).

Competitors needed to come up with innovative dishes and special themes to ensure that their entry stood out from the field.

Other requirements included having only one protein to be the hero of each entry, a maximum number of photos per submission with one photo of the chosen protein cooking on an approved unit, and a description of competitors’ thinking and ingredients to help the judges understand their process and method.

Denis chose to barbecue a wide variety of proteins for his competition entries, including Fraser Island mud crabs, brahman hump, pork knuckles, beef shins, pork ribs, beef short ribs and lamb belly, and creating feasting platters of each to impress the judges.

While designing his hand-ins for each category, Denis drew inspiration from classic dishes from Germany, Mexico, Britain, China, the Middle East, Japan, Texas and Australia.

Some of the special dishes he created in his BBQ pits for the comp included Queensland Lollipops, Brahman Ramen, Birria Tacos, Well Hung Char Sui Pork Ribs, Crab Pots and Crab Shots, Lamb Belly Cigars, Beef Short Rib Tomahawks, Chicken Bacon, Pork Knuckle Schweinhaxen, Killer Oysters Humpatrick and Pickled Vegetable Daleks.

Denis finished with first place in the Chicken, Seafood, Mexican and Dealers’ Choice categories, third place in Beef, second place in Pork, third place in Lamb and fourth place in Pork Ribs, giving him an overall score of 83.772 out of 90 and first place in the overall competition.

Denis said he knew something special had to be pulled out of the hat to have a chance at winning.
“After the first couple of rounds it became apparent that you really needed to do something very special in this comp with some next level culinary creativity in the BBQ pit,” Denis said.

“Hanging in there and being consistent with scores eventually got me over the finishing line. What a marathon!”

Denis said the journey of the BBQ comp-that-seemingly-never-ends was amazing.

“It has been said that Low and Slow Barbecue is an endurance sport. Well, I think that a BBQ comp that goes for five months is mighty epic.

“It required considerable stamina and provided tons of distraction which helped me get through some painful surgery issues during that time.

“Coming up with crazy ideas in the wee hours of the morning and then working out how to turn them into reality in the BBQ pit was awesome therapy.

“I’ve learnt heaps along the way experimenting with different techniques and ingredients.

“It’s been great fun and a genuine tribute to the most relaxing and rewarding past time of all – the soothing art of Low ’n’ Slow Barbecue.”

Denis and his Low ’n’ Slow BBQ Shack teammates are preparing to share their BBQ goodness with the Fraser Coast community by catering for parties and events and hosting regular BBQ dinners and BBQ masterclasses with their BSG Smokers trailer-mounted offset BBQ pit “The Colonel”.

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