Sunday, March 4, 2018

2018 Chain of Lakes Eggfest

The inaugural Chain of Lakes Eggfest, presented by Mannix Pools and Grills, was held last weekend in Winter Haven, FL.  Teams of spectacular grilling teams gathered lakeside under the moss-laden oaks to fire up a plethora of Big Green Egg kamado grills.  

Photo Credit:  Laurie Walls

They came from all over the country to

  • have a bit of a grilling throwdown,
  • serve creative and tasty grilled bites to hundreds of "tasters,"
  • have a blast with friends, and
  • most importantly, to raise money for Girls Inc. and the Citrus Center Boys and Girls Club.

I wasn't able to attend this year because I had to have a little work done "under the hood" 3 days earlier and wasn't released by my doctor.  But Team Nibble Me This was there and kicked ass without me. 

From L to R:  Carson, Rhonda, Sean, Carrie, Marcia, Laurie, and Scott.

I may not have been there in person but I definitely was in sprirt....and Facebook.  I stalked my friends' Facebook accounts to see what was going on.  [Note:  I have tried to give credit based on the Facebook page where I found it; however, some pictures appeared on multiple pages.]

We like to get an AirBnB rental so the team can all be under the same roof.  Our team members roll in on Thursday/Friday and get right to prepping the food.  You have to be fully prepped or you will be "in the weeds" on the day of the event.  

Friday Night - Meet and Greet

Friday night is the "meet and greet," a social event that lets cook teams, sponsors, vendors, attendees, and the organizer hang out together.  The day of the Eggfest is too crazy for socializing much, if at all.

The trophies were on display at the Meet and Greet.  These bad boys are actual grilling grates custom made by East Georgia Metals.  If you have a design in mind for your grill, they can make it. Photo Credit:  Teena Schweier

The Meet and Greet is fun because you get to see long-term friends.  But you also get to meet people who you have only known from forums and Facebook groups.
Photo Credit:  Rusty Ducworth

Obligatory shot of the Egg inflatable.
Photo Credit:  Teena Schweier

Saturday Morning - Eggfest Day

The cook teams arrive on the event grounds early the next morning, around 6-7am.  The gates don't usually open until 10, but there is a LOT of work to be done.

  • Select/find your team's assigned location.
  • Get your demonstration Big Green Eggs and coal from the organizer's team.
  • Set up your booth, tent, and tables.
  • Unload your gear, supplies, and food.  This is a lot more than you would probably think. Boxes full of heat gloves, food safe gloves, grilling tools, thermometers, coolers of food, and more.
  • Fire up the virgin white kamado grills and get them dialed into the cooking temperatures that you need.
  • Do any last minute food prep.  You do everything you can ahead of time, but some things have to be prepped the day of the event due to quality issues.
I treasure those early hours, getting into battle mode as the smoke from dozens and dozens of Eggs climbs into the morning sky.

This picture cracks me up because I can conjure up so many stories of how it came to be.  Knowing Garry and Bo like I do, I know they weren't really arguing.
Photo Credit:  Kirk Muncrief

This was our menu board for the Eggfest.  A tradition we started at our first Eggfest was having the whole team put their mark on the board.  It's our way of saying we all are proud of what we are going to serve.
Photo Credit:  Laurie Walls

Rhonda with our cousin, Zelda, who graciously came by to see us.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda's Facebook

 Before you know it, the gates open and it's time to rock out some food!  One of the cool things about Eggfests is how everyone pitches in.  Kristi, Marcia, and Pat on the right have their own superb cook teams but weren't cooking this event, so they joined us to help out. Rhonda and Sean have cooked on Marcia's team.  It's just fun to mix things up.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda's Facebook

We also cook at BBQ competitions, mostly KCBS.  Eggfests are personally more satisfying because the cook teams interact directly with the crowds.  Instead of anonymous scores from faceless BBQ judges, you get the instant feedback.  Seeing someone roll their eyes back or exclaim "mmmhhhmmm" as they taste your food is a great feeling.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda's Facebook

Beef Tenderloin Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw and Chipotle Crema Drizzle.  Of course, whenever possible, we use Certified Angus Beef® Brand, the Best Angus Beef and one of our best sponsors!
Photo Credit:  Rhonda Hollis

The Mexican Street Corn was a bit labor intensive, but it was a big hit.
Photo Credit:  Laurie Walls

The corn was grilled and then topped with cotija cheese, chili powder, cilantro, and drizzled with crema.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda Hollis

Speaking of labor-intensive, Jordan's Drunk Pickles are always a crowd favorite.
Photo Credit:  Laurie Walls

Jordan's Drunk Pickles are named after Rhonda's son, who passed away in 2016.  He is always a member of the team, and we have his picture on the serving table.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda Hollis

Rhonda and Laurie taking a quick break from stuffing pickles for a selfie.  We work our tails off, but we still have fun.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda Hollis

The Ship of Fools team members are great friends of ours. They always have a menu of some fantastic pizzas.  A key lime pizza?  Get out of here!  I heard it was great.
Photo Credit:  Teena Schweier.

Trace Scarborough of Thunderbird Wings and Kirk Muncrief of Albukiry Seasonings were at the Eggfest.  They make two of my favorite rubs - Chicken Scratch (Trace) and Albukirky Green Chile Seasoning (Kirk).  If you have never tried both of those, you seriously need to try them out.
Photo Credit:  Albukirky Seasonings

Well, that's cool!
Photo Credit:  Teena Schweier

The BGE Nation team is loaded with our close friends too. I would cook with them any day and know that they would help me as well.

Third Place went to a team that I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet but look forward to getting to know next year.  I heard that they were fun guys.
Photo Credit:  Garry Yanke

Second Place went to more of our very dear friends.  We have spent many events with Alicia & Scott Wehner, Justin Bishop, and Scott Davis over the past couple of years.
Photo Credit:  Garry Yanke

First place goes to Ship of Fools!  Congratulations Bill and Kellie Kist and Greg and Teena Schweier.  They are also great friends of ours.  Heck, Alexis and I even camped in the Kists front yard last year.
Photo Credit:  Teena Schweier
 And the award for 1st Place - People's Choice goes to.....
Nibble Me This!!  I was so excited to read this from my recovery bed.
Photo Credit: Garry Yanke

I really couldn't be prouder of our team.  We would be happy just cooking for funsies, but it is just a bit sweeter when you bring home the hardware.
Photo Credit:  Rhonda's Facebook

I am having an extra made so we can keep one in Florida and one in Tennessee.

How great is it to have 3 of the 4 awards won by close friends of ours?  Along with Team #BGENation, we are a tight group that loves to get together, have fun and cook.  I think that love shows in our food.
 After the smoke has cleared and the gear loaded back up, it's time to retreat to the rental house for some R and R.

After the event, it is so great to do nothing.  It has been a 3-4 day ordeal, rewarding, but still an ordeal.  Laurie and Scott cutting up for the camera.

Rhonda, Carrie, Marcia, and Laurie relaxing poolside.

A toast to the team's well-earned victory.  Have I said that I'm proud as can be of these guys and gals?
Congratulations to B.J. Mannix and his kick butt crew.  They nailed this Eggfest, which isn't easy to do in your first year.  I'm proud to be associated with this event.

I love Eggfest season.  Getting together with talented cook teams, feeding hundreds to thousands of hungry "tasters," and having fun with friends, new and old, make the time and expense worth it.

Here are some upcoming Eggfests that you definitely want to check out.
  • North Florida Eggfest hosted by Pinch a Penny on March 10, 2018, in St Johns, Florida.  This was a first-year event last year and James and his crew did an amazing job.  This year will be even better, and my sister will be teaching a women-only grilling class as part of the event.
  • Sunshine State Eggfest hosted by Wassi's Meat Market on April 28, 2018, in Vero Beach, Florida.  This is always a popular event, this year it is moving to a nicer and bigger venue to accommodate the number of cook teams and guests.  This is one you don't want to miss.
  • Dizzy Fest hosted by Dizzy Pig BBQ on May 5, 2018, in Manassas, VA.  I haven't had the pleasure of attending this one yet, but have only heard good things.