Ol’Chefskis pitmaster part of winning team at Memphis in May World BBQ Championship

Memphis, TN. – Cleveland’s Best BBQ winner pit chef Ol’Chefskis showcased his skills at the World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest in Memphis last weekend and brings home “a little piece of a price”. Jason Olszewski was a member of a winning team in Memphis in May, one of the most prestigious barbecue cooking contests in the country. His restaurant Aurora won cleveland.com’s Best Barbeque competition in 2018.

Olszewski was invited to compete with the New York-based Pig Beach BBQ team, made up of pitmasters from New York, Illinois, Louisiana and Ohio, in Memphis in May. The team won the beef category in 2021. This year they took third place for their smoked turkey.

The Pig Beach team that competed in the Memphis Barbecue World Championship in May 2022 consisted of pit masters from New York, Illinois, Louisiana and Ohio. Aurora Pit Master Jason Olszewski and his wife Grace (far left) have been invited to join the team this year. – Photo courtesy Grace Olszewski

The Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is a four-day competition where pitmasters who have been honing their craft for years compete for the title of world champion and a share of more than $140,000 in prize money.

Ol’Chefskis beat out 19 other northeast Ohio finalists in the 2018 local competition, including celebrity chef Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ. Olszewski has never cooked competitively before.

Michael Symon visits the team

Clevelander and celebrity chef Michael Symon visited the Pig Beach team during the competition. Symon was filming on location for the Food Network. Ol’Chefskis beat Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ in cleveland.com’s Best BBQ Contest in 2018. – Photo courtesy of Grace Olszewski

“It was a hell of an invitation to cook on a world championship winning team,” Olszewski said in the week leading up to the contest. “I always wanted to go – and was going anyway – but a business associate put me in touch with the Pig Beach team when a few guys dropped out this year.”

Olszewski was introduced to the team by Phil Wingo, who makes spice blends and sauces used by restaurants across the United States. Wingo has been participating in the Memphis Contest in May since 2007. His company, Pork Mafia, makes the spice blends that Ol’Chefskis uses on its smoked meats, as well as the rubs used by Pig Beach restaurants.

Barbecue Ol'Chefskis

Phil Wingo, left, with Jason Olszewski of Aurora-based barbecue Ol’Chefskis. Wingo introduced Olszewski to the Pig Beach BBQ team, who invited Olszewski to join the team for the 2022 Memphis contest in May. – Photo by Yadi Rodriguez, cleveland.com

“When I met Jason and tasted his food, I knew he was a guy who was dedicated to producing the best barbecue possible, and that’s what it takes to be successful in this industry,” Wingo said. “His meats speak for themselves, which is why I had no qualms about introducing him to the guys at Pig Beach.”

Jason and his wife, Grace, opened a roadside booth in Aurora shortly after Jason cooked all the food for the couple’s wedding rehearsal dinner in 2016. Guests loved the fare, cheering Jason to light the smoker more often.

At first, the Olszewskis operated out of a 10-by-10-foot tent on weekends in Jason’s mother’s side yard. But as the business grew, they built a small wooden booth to house the prep station, while Jason’s smoker was located in the back of the building. The couple opened their brick-and-mortar operation in 2020, at the height of the pandemic.

“The key to winning a competitive cook is for each member of the team to recognize their role in the process,” Wingo explained.

When asked what his role would be, Olszewski replied “everything they need. I go like a sponge. I just want to learn everything I can to become a better pitmaster. I go there with my eyes open, my mouth closed, and I just hope to educate myself to take my craft to the next level.

In Memphis, Olszewski helped prepare whole hogs and helped tend the smokehouse during cooking hours. He said he’s cooked whole pigs in the past, but not since the restaurant opened, although Olszewski said, “That’s subject to change.”

Jason prepares the pig

In Memphis, Olszewski helped prepare the pork and tend to the smokehouse. – Photo courtesy Grace Olszewski

“If I could take anything away from this whole experience, it was the opportunity to watch Skip Steele at work,” Olszewski said. “This guy has been a competitive cook for 20 years and owns 10 restaurants all over the South and has been featured on Food Network multiple times.

Jason with Skip Steele

– Photo courtesy Grace Olszewski

“It was absolutely great to be on a winning team, but to go there is to win. I wanted to learn – to rub shoulders with the best of the best – and I was able to do that,” he added.

Olszewski was invited by Steele to visit his base in Arkansas to spend time cooking together.

The Olszewskis said they learned several valuable lessons in Memphis, including how to prepare a successful dish and how the judging process works. While they believe “it’s definitely something we can do,” the costs are prohibitive for smaller teams, averaging around $30,000 for the weekend.

Olszewski said he had the opportunity to interact with “so many great teams and owners. The best part of barbecuing is that it is a family and whatever type of barbeque you serve, it is all respect among people in this industry.

“It’s a lifestyle and it was so great to hang out with people who understand what it’s like to have to run a restaurant in today’s economic conditions and what it means that the smoke doesn’t go away. never stop because you’re selling yourself everyday,” he said. mentioned. “It’s humbling to know where we’ve been and all the avenues available to us,” said Grace Olszewski.

Ol’Chefskis recently added smoked meatloaf and Moo-town Philly (chestnut) to its menu and signed a deal to have its sauces soon sold at Heinen grocery stores in Ohio, as well as select Ace stores. Hardware selected.

“This business has opened up so many opportunities that I didn’t see coming…I never know where it will take you,” Jason Olszewski said.


– Photo courtesy Grace Olszewski

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Edward L. Robinett