Surrounded by 15 professional chefs, 600 hungry customers and 40 racks of ribs, Ethan Sumner, owner of Fire King Barbeque said winning the New York Grillsdale competition was a great experience. Regional chefs mentioned by the New York Times didn’t hold a candle to Sumner’s ribs and famous homemade rub, which won by a landslide.
“I’m a part-time barbequer and we ended up winning the whole competition, which was shocking,” Sumner said. “There were bite-sized plates from each vendor, and all we submitted was one rib and our country coleslaw. We sold 40 racks of ribs in 34 minutes. We cleaned out fast and everyone was still coming up to us.”
The annual Grillsdale competition, held on August 24th, featured some of the best grilled small plates from top restaurants, chefs, and purveyors from the area. Set against the hills at Roeliff Jansen Park in New York, guests watched the sunset while sampling their way through an all-inclusive food and drink menu. The prize for winning the Grillsdale competition was $500 and the chance to be featured in local magazines and publications.
Fire King Barbeque utilizes traditional smoking techniques and cooking over an open flame. Having been around for five years, the BBQ business offers catering services to private events such as weddings and family reunions. Sumner said he prefers the catering business to be mobile as opposed to getting a storefront because it makes it easier to go to private events. Always on the move, Fire King Barbeque caters to groups of up to about 200 people.
Sumner says it takes quite a lot of preparation for any event. “We typically roll up to these events about 6 hours prior to when the party wants their food served. It takes one hour for our smoker to get up to temperature, and then the meat will cook in the smoker for an additional 5 hours.” What really makes a difference in Fire King Barbeque’s meat is the wood used in the smoker, which is a variety of hardwoods such as cherry wood, applewood and hickory wood.
“We don’t use any propane, just all hardwoods and charcoal,” Sumner said. “I have a 14ft smoker that was built in the Amish County in Pennsylvania. The smoke and natural hardwoods really help define our flavor.”
The BBQ business has also participated in the Hudson Valley Rib Fest in New York in 2016, with 85 national teams. Fire King Barbeque placed in the top 25, which is a pretty good accomplishment considering it was their first competition. Yet again, the business beat out many different professional chef outlets, showing just how their delicious food wins over consumers.
Next summer, Sumner said Fire King Barbeque is planning to open a food truck stand in the Berkshires on a regular basis. Thursday through Sunday, the food truck will be open to all visitors. Whenever the business is booked for a wedding or other party, the food truck will close down and cater the event. But for the most part, Sumner wants the business to stay mobile.