Friday, May 4, 2018

Event Recap: 2018 Sunshine State Eggfest - Vero Beach Florida

Last weekend, thousands of hungry tasters descended on the 2018 Sunshine State Eggfest hosted by Wassi's Meat Market like a horde of ravenous locusts.  They were there to do 4 things:
  1. Taste samples of foods cooked on Big Green Egg kamado grills by some of the best backyard chefs in the country.
  2. Raise money for a good cause, Candlelighters of Brevard.
  3. Take advantage of fantastic deals on Big Green Eggs, grilling supplies, and accessories.
  4. Chew bubblegum.
They were all out of bubblegum.

In addition to cooking at the event, I was part of a Big Green Egg Dream Team cooking the dinner for 400+ people at the Friday night Meet and Greet.  Here are some behind the scenes pictures from this fantastic Eggfest.

We added branded aprons to our cook team's uniform this year.  We were having problems with getting these done but Alexis' friend, KS Customs in Knoxville was able to embroider them for us on short notice.
Being a successful cook team is like an iceberg.  The effort that you see on Saturday is just 10% of the work that goes into it.  The other 90% is a ton of preparation, planning, and sweat equity from cook teams, vendors, and the sponsoring Egg dealer.

All of our Eggfest gear loaded in our Nissan Titan XD
Doing a successful and food safe cook at a big Eggfest like this one requires a good bit of equipment. Here are 4 Cambro hot boxes for keeping food warm, a large Igloo cooler, a Yeti 75, prep table, my grilling gear box, a griddle, tent, adjustable rigs, chairs, and cases of foil steam pans.
It's a 700+ mile trip to Vero Beach so everything has to be neatly stacked, waterproofed, and tied down.

For the cost of hotel rooms for everyone, our team went in together on a beach house with a commercial style kitchen which makes it so much easier to prepare.  

Alexis and I got up early Friday morning to get in a walk on Vero Beach before prepping.  A walk on the beach is a great way to clear your mind and sharpen your focus.

We came across this insulated cup that someone left on the beach overnight. I told Alexis that I hoped it wasn't an omen for that night's Meet and Greet cook ;) 

You can tell this is the start of prep....because I'm still smiling.

We kept our shopping lists, menu, and task lists organized as checklists in Evernote.  You have to be organized to pull off an Eggfest cook the right way.  Here I'm making jerk marinade for wings and Rhonda is making the gorgonzola cream sauce for the beef tenderloin.

Sean working through another jar of pickles.  We made 640 servings of Jordan's Drunk Pickles.

Alexis, Rhonda, Sean, and I spent the morning coring an endless stream of pickles.
Finally, it was time for me to head to the Indian River Fairgrounds to start prepping for the Meet and Greet dinner.

Indian River Fairgrounds set up for the 2018 Sunshine State Eggfest.
This was the first year for the event at this site, previously it was held up the road at Port Canaveral.  This site is huge, big enough to hold the 300 Big Green Eggs being used.  We loved the cover that makes this a rain or shine event and provided great shade.  The concrete floor was useful for maneuvering Eggs, Cambo's and other rolling things around.

They were STILL putting Eggs together when I got there.  Think about this - if you allow 15 minutes per Egg, that is 75 manhours that went into grill assembly alone.  

The dinner was headed up by Josh Tahan of True Craft BBQ.  Josh did a great job of planning the meal, organizing his team, and relying on his resources. 

I was lucky and got stationed on meats with "Southbound Rob" Foster (pictured) of Southbound BBQ and John Sacher.  Together, we cooked 25 whole beef rib roasts on 12 XL Big Green Eggs.

Jeff Cowley and Big Green Craig loading the smoked brie appetizer into several XL Big Green Eggs.

Riverway Mike and Josh checking on the progress of dinner.  I think we used 20 XL Big Green Eggs for this dinner.

Rusty Ducworth and Jack Arnold working on the smoked brie appetizer.

John and Big Green Craig loading up the 450 baked potatoes.

Southbound Rob checking the internal temperature on rib roasts.
Southbound Rob and Riverway Mike checking temps on the rib roasts.
 Our plan for slow roasting the 25 rib roasts and then searing them off to order took a side turn.  We were up against a 6:30pm deadline, and the temps weren't coming up as fast as we needed them too. So Rob and I upped the cooking temperatures to 300°f and then 350°f to speed up the process and to crust the ribeye roasts.  The timing worked out perfectly, and by 6:30pm, all the roasts were in a box holding.  

We could have used more room for storage because we only had five Cambros and each was jam-packed.  So even with venting, the roasts cooked more than we would have liked while holding.  

Two of our 25 rib roasts finishing up. 

The fairgrounds has an exhibition hall, so it was the perfect place for the Eggfest store and dining area for the 450 meet and greet attendees.

Wassi's had the new modular Big Green Egg tables there. They seem very sturdy, and you can configure them any way that you like.

Check out this two level swivel grate from East Ga Metals.  These guys make some killer custom hardware. I've had work done by them, and it was a great experience.

I think Wassi's brought their whole store....and then some.
Everything was a success, but we would undoubtedly do the serving in a different manner (two lines, multiple stations, etc.) next year.  That was a loooong line but the crowd was patient because the results were worth it.

Jack Arnold got a pleasant surprise.  His mother drove from 10 hours away without telling him and just showed up in line.

Jack and Craig ready to start slicing about 250 pounds of boneless beef ribeye roasts.
Every time I see this picture of Craig, I swear he is aiming a slingshot at Teena Schweier, who took this shot.

I got out of the event site about 9:30pm and when I got back to the house, the team was finishing up prep.  Rhonda is making the stuffing mix for Jordan's Drunk Pickles while Carson and Brandi prepping for the Mexican Street Corn.

Sean helping me season the beef tenderloins with our NMT Beef Rub v.2.  That rub recipe has salt, pepper, garlic, dried shallot, dried red bell pepper, and some herbs.

We had time for a quick team picture at the beginning. Brandi was taking the picture.

One of the great things about cooking at Eggfests is cooking with our friends. We often cook on friends teams and have friends cook on ours. Here are our friends, BJ Mannix, Teena Schweier, and Justin Bishop cooking with Cortlandt Minnich of Pizza Porta. 

We have cooked next door to Pirate Q for at least 3 years at this Eggfest.  It is cool to be able to help each other out if needed when things get crazy.  Tom and Jeff must have been on break when I had a second to snag this shot (Kidding!  You don't get breaks at Eggfest.)

Southbound Smokeworks were cranking out a great dish.  Rob told me about it the night before while we were cooking beef - it is Mexican Street Chicken, a spin on elote. It sounded like a winner.

Quick selfie with Sean and Alexis.

Selfie with friends Grillin' Garry and Tom Blevins.

Our menu for this year was:
French Toast Bacon Casserole
with candied bacon, homemade mixed berry syrup, and whipped cream

Jordan's Drunk Pickles
A Cuban sandwich stuffed inside of a pickle and roasted.  It's twisted!

Mexican Street Corn
Butter slathered corn grilled and then drizzled with a chile-lime crema, cotija cheese, and cilantro

Beef Tenderloin Crostini
Reverse seared beef tenderloin, sliced thin and served on a roasted garlic crostini
with gorgonzola cream sauce

Jerk Chicken Wings
Wings marinated in a spicy, earthy jerk marinade and grilled over hot coals.

The candied bacon on French toast casserole was Alexis' idea and it was a big hit with the crowd.  We'll be posting the recipe this week.

Sean and Alexis serving up the French toast.

This Eggfest opened at 9am, earlier than most others.  We expected it to be light traffic for the first hour but that turned out not to be the case.  By 9:30 it was crowded.

Shawn dressing the French toast with the syrup which had blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and a splash of Razzmatazz.

There is a lot of sweet in there and the saltiness of the bacon balances it out.

Brandi, Scott, and Alexis stuffing Jordan's Drunk Pickles.  We did this 640 times.

We even have a particular way to apply the mustard.  I'm not kidding.  I once got corrected for doing it the wrong way.  

People tell us that they look forward to these each year and they go as fast as we can make them.

We went through cases and cases of corn for the Mexican Street Corn, even when we divided each ear into 1/3rds.

Carson and Scott were hammers as always, cranking out the food. 

The corn has been very popular at our last 2 Eggfests.  I think that is because people get so many meat and sweet based items that this is a welcome departure.
Some 4,700 people walked through the gates, so we were crazy busy.  The Cambro hot boxes really help by letting us safely hold food at temp.

Sean, Alexis, myself, and Rhonda serving the beef tenderloin crostini.  

I like slicing the roasts at the table and getting to answer questions as we are serving.

Of course, Pizza Porta was rocking out the pizzas all day long. They make some great pies.

Alexis and Scott, catching a breather.

Time is an illusion at an Eggfest.  When things get busy, you would swear it was 30 minutes to close but then you see you really have hours to go.  But at the same time, before you know it, the event is done.

We made record time in cleaning up and actually got to spend a few hours on the beach.
The worst part of and Eggfest for me is the drive home. We were in the truck Sunday from 7am to 10:30pm thanks to back ups all day long.  

We made Top 5 for people's choice.  Unfortunately, we didn't pull off the win this time but we still had fun.  Congratulations to the winners:

First Place - Risk It For The Brisket
Second Place - Southbound Smokeworks
Third Place - Shark Bite Bob's Bistro

Another wild Eggfest is in the books.  If you missed this one, go ahead and schedule it for April 27th, 2019 where they will do it all again, even bigger and better.