Monday, May 18, 2009

Ubon's and Jubon's

David Rosen, long time resident of New York City, raised in the metro area, had just finished standing in a very long line for a plate of Memphis style pulled pork from Ubon’s Barbeque at the 2007 Big Apple Barbeque Block Party in Madison Square Park. He commented to one of the guys pulling pork, "This is terrific." Allen Campbell, member of the Ubon's cooking team, replied, “You know, you’re eating that all wrong….” David responded "then I'll get back in line and do it the right way." After all, he wanted to experience barbeque the way it’s intended. Instead Allen brought David up onto the trailer, within arm's length of Ubon's smokers, and taught him - everything on the plate, goes on the bun - especially the cole slaw. David and his family spent the next 4 hours visiting with Allen, Garry Roark, Leslie Roark Scott, and Brian Campbell. And so, an obsession began.

Ubon’s Barbeque was invited to join Danny Meyer’s Big Apple Barbeque Block Party in 2004. Danny's dream was to help New Yorkers come to love the kind of BBQ he grew up on by inviting top pitmasters from across the country to the Madison Avenue festival. “We were completely honored and totally unprepared for what we were getting into,” says Pitmaster Garry Roark. Roark’s Ubon’s Restaurant, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, had been open for almost a year when Garry and his daughter Leslie headed to the Big Apple for the first time. “We were so nervous about how we would be received. It’s hard to explain a serious relationship with barbeque to people who think cooking a hot dog on a grill is barbeque,” says Leslie Roark Scott, “but from the very start we were treated like rock stars!”

David, Allen and Leslie stayed in touch and the Ubon’s family invited him to bring some friends to the Memphis in May World BBQ Championship in 2008. The New York boys booked hotels and got their airfare; they were coming to Memphis. But, they didn't know what to expect. They actually made back-up plans just in case they felt uncomfortable or "in the way." What they found was the complete opposite! The hospitality extended past a friendship and into the realm of family.

Three weeks after MIM 2008, on a sunny, hot NYC June day, David and his future teammates: Brian Jay, Adam Rosen and Bob-O Livingston, suited up in cotton and disposable gloves and joined Ubon’s on Madison Avenue for the 2008 Big Apple Barbeque Block Party. “You entertain friends…you make family work,” said Garry. David and his friends found that their passing interest in the art of barbeque had turned into a passion for smoke.

Over the next year, plans were made for Jubon's (David and his friends) to enter Memphis In May’s 2009 “Patio Porkers Division” and cook ribs to be judged. They chose the name Jubon’s in honor of their mentors and their heritage. First, t-shirts were made, then, the rub and ribs were developed and perfected. Ubon’s helped get a smoker, tent, tables, fence, Ubon's BBQ Sauce and raw ribs to Memphis. Jubon’s weathered rain, wind, mud, heat, humidity, and a new smoker, not to mention putting together a blind-box for the first time. They had great ribs, but didn’t make it to the Finals. They missed being in the top three by 0.3 of a point (which they would learn after the awards ceremony).

Ubon’s, cooking in the Professional Shoulder Category, made Finals! This would be their 3rd trip to the Finals in 18 years. Their Finals' presentation began and ended with hoards of people wearing Ubon's and Jubon's shirts cheering, yelling and clapping on the muddy walk out in front of the booth. Ubon’s made it to the big stage with a 3rd place win.

Then, out of nowhere, a little bird brought great news for those four Jewish kids from NYC, Jubon’s would get up on stage too. The boys from NYC received a 4th place trophy! When asked what a Jubon's is, David replied “We’re four Jewish kids from New York City cooking barbeque in the Deep South -- At least the salt is kosher!"

With MIM 2009 still fresh in their memories, Ubon's focus has already turned to packing up the trucks and trailers and making the long drive back to the 2009 Big Apple Barbeque Block party the weekend of June 13-14. Its just around the corner. Aside from getting to see their new family and friends, Garry Roark says, “Come on, we’re a bunch of Mississippi Rednecks cooking barbeque in the big city This is what barbeque is all about.”