24 Mar Under the Tent with Swinestone Cowboys
Every few weeks or so I will take you “under the tent” with a team from the Rocky Mountain Region so that you can get a chance to know them a little better and they can share anything that is on there mind. Today I am taking you under the tent with Kevin Feit of Swinestone Cowboy. If you ever get a chance to try his smoked pablano mac n cheese…DO IT! You can follow Swinestone Cowboys this year on the circuit by “likeing” his facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Swinestone-Cowboys-BBQ/289224500685
What do you like to do when you’re not BBQ’n?
Well, I love cooking and food in general. I really enjoy fine dining. Two of my favorite restaurants are JaJa Bistro in Littleton, and Parisi – Firenze a Tavola up in the Highlands neighborhood. Simone Parisi is a friend of ours, and we go there whenever we get the chance. Ultimately, I will own a restaurant sometime down the road. My love of food and cooking also led me to decide on starting a catering company. I was in various corporate sales positions for almost 20 years, and in 2009 I decided to make a switch and give the catering business a go. It’s been challenging, and we’re still getting the business off the ground. However, it’s looking positive. When I’m not cooking I love the outdoors, and sports. I like to fish, hunt, and you can usually find me on a softball field a couple times a week. I also love traveling, and learning about new cultures.
Tell us a little about your equipment what kind of smoker do you use? What is your favorite “gadget” item you like to use when BBQing?
We use an FEC-100 and a Traeger 075. They are both pellet smokers. I also plan on testing out a UDS later this year, once I get my Stoker system ordered. I think my favorite “gadget” is probably my new Extreme BBQ Trailer. It has everything I need to for a comp, including a fridge. It allows me to store my dry goods and most of my equipment inside so I don’t have to unload and load all of it before and after a comp. I also use the trailer for catering.
What BBQ accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
I guess the thing that I’m most proud of is the knowledge that I’ve gained within the past 14 months. I’ve been cooking for 20 years, and thought I had a good grasp on what BBQ was all about. However, after I started competing, it has forced me to improve my cooking techniques, and expand my knowledge. I have also gained a better understanding of flavor profiles, texture, and the importance of presentation. I’m also proud of my accomplishments in the past year on the competition side of things. I think the highlight of the year was when we finished 4th overall at Pueblo out of 54 teams. Our name was called along with some of the big names like Sweet Peppers, Rhythm ‘n’ Que, and Smoke ‘n’ the Rockies. After that weekend, we knew we were on the right track.
What BBQ contest is your favorite and why?
I guess I’d have to say the Jack Daniels Invitational hands down. I had the chance to cook with Jay Wolf (Wolfy & the Hog Heaters) at the Jack last year, and it was amazing. The competition was fun, and we finished 4th in brisket. However, what really made the weekend were the surroundings, the new friends we met, the town of Lynchburg, etc. It was an amazing experience. Beyond the Jack, I don’t think I could pick one particular competition. The organizers of RMBBQA-affiliated competitions tend to do a great job in setting up great events. Scott City was pretty cool last year. They had an aerial acrobatics show on Saturday just as we were turning in our last entry. So we had the chance to wind down, as we watched the planes do some cool tricks in the air. They also fed us a great meal on Friday night. It was a great first year event.
Do you have any BBQ goals for 2011, if so what are they?
First and foremost is to win a GC. We finished in the top 5 in three events last year, and we think with some of the modifications to our recipes and techniques, that we can finally capture a GC. Along with that goal, we hope to make it to the Jack. Lofty goals, yes. But I think they are realistic.
Who has influenced how you BBQ the most and how have they influcenced you specifically.
I have tons of influences. I’ve read hundreds of books, attended classes, and I’m always trying new things. However, I have to give a big thanks to Steve Marrs of Denver Cajun Krewe for his friendship and support as I started competing back in 2009. Steve mentored me during my first contest, gave me pointers, shared some techniques, and made sure we had a helping hand so we didn’t fall flat on our face. He is a generous man with a big heart, and I think he epitomizes the true spirit of BBQ.
What is one thing you learned through the school of hard knocks that wish you knew when you first got started?
The one thing that we learned in our first contest, and we have stuck to it since, is to create a very detailed schedule. Put that schedule into a spreadsheet or another document, break it into 10-15 minute tasks, and use it as your guide for the entire weekend. Put every little step into the sheet, and post it on the wall of your kitchen near the atomic clock. Because, no matter how well you think you have the schedule memorized, you will forget something unless it’s on the sheet. Also, by having it posted, everyone on the team can see the “plan” and share in the tasks. It makes competitions much easier when you have it all scheduled out. Also, document your recipes for each meat, and keep it in a binder. If you deviate at all, no matter how small of a change, document it so it’s repeatable.
What is your favorite BBQ restuarant? What do you like to get there?
That’s a tough one. Especially since I can’t remember the names of some of them. Oklahoma Joe’s in KC is probably the best I’ve been to. However, we stopped in at Mary’s Old Fashioned BBQ Pit in Nashville last year, and it was a true Q joint. It was a small mom and pops place that had a 60-year old pit in the back room. We got the chance to tour the pit, meat the pitmaster, and watch him cook about 200 pork butts. It was a 20-30 foot long open pit that he had to scoop coals into. We had black lung when we left, but the experience was priceless. I just wish I would have had my camera. I will be back to that place when I visit Nashville again. As far as what I like to eat? I am a ribs guy. I always sample the ribs. I also like to try whatever the house specialty is. I always try all of the sauces as well, and for me the spicier the better.
If you could only BBQ and eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
No way possible for me to eat only BBQ. It surprises a lot of people, but I only eat BBQ once or twice a month. I’m versed in other styles of cooking and love to cook Italian and French cuisine. But, if I only could eat one thing BBQ-related, I guess it would have to be brisket burnt ends (when they’re done right).
Wildcard is there anything you would like the readers to know about you, your team or BBQ in general that was not asked?
Hmmm. Well, the one question we get frequently is how we came up with our name. When I was a kid back on my family’s hog farm in SW Minnesota back in about 1975 or so, one of the first songs I can remember singing along to was “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. It was on the radio all the time. I can still remember most of the lyrics. So, during the first couple of months of brainstorming on team names, that song came on the radio one day. So, transposing “Rhine” with “Swine” worked great, hence the team name.