Barbecue champ Steve Farrin, 43, knows how to smoke the competition.
> You’re a five-time Massachusetts state champion. What makes an award-winning barbecue?
Judges lean toward a sweeter product. My preference is something spicier, with a little zip. I’ve learned it’s not about what you like; it’s finding the happy medium.
> You turned your passion into a career, opening New England BBQ and Catering in Canton earlier this year. Why?
I was a building maintenance mechanic for 19 years; I got laid off. Running my own business was something I always thought about. I jumped in with both feet.
> Any secret ingredients you can divulge?
Maple syrup. It brings a sweetness, but also that “maple-y” flavor that people associate with bacon. Put it on any pork and it kicks it up.
> Another one of your specialties is brisket. What’s your technique?
The secret is not too much smoke. If you oversmoke it, it’s going to taste like an ashtray.
> Do Southerners or Midwesterners tend to doubt the barbecuing abilities of New Englanders?
We cooked at the American Royal contest in Kansas City, [Missouri], one year. The team next to us was ribbing us, saying: “Oh, y’all from Massachusetts. Bet your barbecue is great. Ha, ha.” We ended up third, and they were like 40th. They showed us a little respect after that.
> You’re headed to the state championship in Cape Cod in June. How do you travel to events?
I have a custom-made trailer with two smokers mounted on the back. Inside, I have a place to sleep and counter space to do prep work. I get about 9 miles to the gallon, so it’s painful sometimes.
> What are your competitors like? Cutthroat?
No, it’s a great community – like a tailgate party on steroids. If you forget something, they’d be happy to lend it to you. If you’re having problems with a recipe, they’ll help you improve it.
> So, are you hosting your own Memorial Day barbecue?
We’ll be cooking somebody else’s party.
> Any last tips for backyard barbecuers?
Have a clean grill. I know some people say, “Well, that’s flavor if you leave it on there.” But it’s not. It’s kind of gross.