Hudson’s Pelletier can Smell a National Barbecue Championship

October 17, 2014

by Tom Tollefson

Often times when you think of a competition of any kind you think of the stress and frustration that comes along with it.  Not for Hudson resident Mike Pelletier, part of the barbecue team, “Can U Smell My Pits,” that will compete for the Jack Daniels World Championship at Lynchburg, Tenn. (the barbecue is held near the distiller for the Jack Daniel’s beer company), for the second consecutive year, on the weekend of Oct. 24 and 25.

“I don’t expect anything,” Pelletier said.  “I just want to have fun.  Just going for the contest is enough for me.  The privilege to go twice is awesome.  I know people who have been competing longer than I have and never made it yet.”

There are four standard categories that are judged in the professional barbecue competitions: chicken, brisket (beef), pork, and ribs.  There will be three additional categories of sauce, chef’s choice, and dessert in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship.

“It’s almost like cooking another contest because you’re doing three extra categories.”

The Can U Smell My Pits team made it to the same national competition last year and placed 48th out of 123 teams.  This year, the team will represent New Hampshire in the national competition.

After cycling through several different partners in the past, Pelletier is joined by his friend Dan Lyford from Allenstown and his cousin, Kevin Roux, from Manchester.  Lyford helps barbecue and Roux assists with organization, cleaning, and setup.  The group also is assisted by Lyford’s wife Deb, who also helps with setting up and organizing the barbecue while Pelletier’s daughter, Ava, plays a role in the sauce preparation.

“She won’t be making the trip, but she helps me make all my sauces, helps me make rubs (spices on top of the ribs), and makes my parsley boxes,” Pelletier said about the team’s youngest contributor.

Pelletier and Lyford originally met while competing at the Amateur Grand Championship barbecue in Methuen, Mass., in 2012.  The two set their barbecues up near each other and struck up a conversation and have been friends ever since.

Later that year, both barbecue competitors went down to Long Beach, N.Y., to help barbecue food for the first responders and victims after the disaster of Hurricane Sandy.  Together with the rest of the volunteers from Operation Barbecue Relief (a non-profit organization of barbecue teams with a mission to provide barbecued food for those in crisis) they all made a total of 14,000 meals.  It was during that time that Pelletier and Lyford became close friends.

Later on, Pelletier needed some help at his competitions, and both Lyford and Roux came to help him.

“I put it out on Facebook that I needed help cooking at the competition, and he volunteered and has been there ever since,” Pelletier said about Roux.

Pelletier succeeded right from the start with Roux and Lyford on his team.

“We came out of the gate with a Grand Championship and we had four more top fives and a top ten,” he said.

The group won the Monadnock Up In Smoke State Championship Barbecue Festival on the weekend of June 1-2.  This victory helped them qualify for the Jack Daniel’s World Championship.  They continued working together at competitions throughout the summer and received multiple top-ten placements.

According to Pelletier, the keys to their success are camaraderie and communication.

“It’s just the way we get along.  We can look at each other and know when something is good, bad, or indifferent.”  He also says they plain and simple “have fun together” and “keep it loose” as they all agree.

“If I can say one thing about Mike (Pelletier) is that he is the calmest man in barbecue,” said Lyford.  “A lot of people are frantic when they are doing competitions.  He knows what he has to do and does it.  He never gets mad and raises his voice, just calmly goes about his business.”

Even after a disappointing placing at a competition in Richmond, Va., the group was in high spirits.

“It should have felt like a 24-hour drive home, but it felt like a five-hour drive home because we had so much fun,” Pelletier said.

Pelletier started barbecuing at the competitive level in 2010 at the amateur level.

“It was a tougher than I thought it was going to be for an amateur competition,” Pelletier said about his first taste of competitive barbecuing.  “The first time out you have so much going on.  You can practice for a competition, but can’t really get the grip of it until you’re there competing for the first time.  You can’t anticipate what could go wrong like rain, wind, or your cooker going out over night.  I think that now I’ve had every scenario happen to me.”

In 2012, he won the Amateur Grand Championship Contest at Mann Orchard Contest in Methuen, Mass., and soon moved on to the professional level.  In total, he has competed in six amateur competitions and 18 at the professional level.