Ricki Brideoake loves a good BBQ. You could call him a fanatic, a meat nerd – just don’t call him late for dinner. His style of cooking and approach to the cherished art is different to yours, guaranteed. With different styles, ingredients and a groundswell of interest in the BBQ movement in Australia, FOCUS caught up with Ricki to find out more.
You quit your engineering job to pursue a full-time career in BBQ. Why?
I had met some people on a training course that had left their normal jobs to pursue their passions in life, and it really inspired me to make a change. My interest in BBQ had slowly been growing over the past six years and had turned into a full blown obsession, so I decided to take the plunge to chase my dreams.
Now you’re not spending your time on the job site, how has BBQ taken over your days?
To say I eat, sleep and breathe BBQ now would probably be an understatement. Every aspect of my daily life now has something to do with BBQ. I will either be running BBQ classes, selling BBQ products, practicing or competing in BBQ competitions or researching new BBQ ideas. I also have regular meetings with Chris Marks from America, who is an eight-time BBQ World Champion, to ensure I am staying up to date with all the latest in the world of BBQ.
Explain what makes the way you approach BBQ different from what most people do in their backyard on a weekend …
A lot of my cooking is competition style BBQ, which is quite different from the normal weekend cook up. At the competitions there is a panel of judges who will most likely only have one or two bites of your food, so you need to have a complex flavour profile with multiple levels that really stand out. I want to make the judges slap the table and scream, “Who’s your daddy!” all in one bite. When I cater for people or cook for friends and family, I use the similar flavours but tone down the strength a little bit to be not so overwhelming, allowing you to eat more of it in one sitting.
The BBQ scene is growing in popularity within Australia. Can you tell us a bit about it and why you think people are getting involved?
There has been a big surge of late in the American style “low and slow” BBQ scene. It’s absolutely huge in America, and Australia seems to be following that trend – like it does with other American trends. However, I think the thing that is really drawing more and more people into BBQ in Australia is the friendly and welcoming culture.
Is there a typical BBQ aficionado?
I really do think the typical BBQ goer is changing as it grows in popularity. At the latest BBQ event in Port Macquarie, there was a really diverse crowd with a nice mix of guys and girls from all different ages and backgrounds down there to have a good time.
There are many different styles of BBQ e.g. smoking, slow cooking … tell us a bit about a few of these.
There is the usual Australian style of BBQ using gas burners and cooking at relatively high temperatures. The other popular Australian BBQ is spit roasting over gas or coals. The relatively unknown style becoming more popular is the American “low and slow” style of smoking.
In smoking, the Pitmaster will use different types of wood such as oak, ironbark, apple or hickory (American) to smoulder in the cooking chamber. This creates a “flavoured” smoke, which lands on the meat and is drawn inside it, imparting a wonderful flavour that truly has to be experienced to understand.
Describe your style of cooking BBQ …
I think the best way to describe my overall style is: “It has its roots in authentic smokey style American BBQ with influences of traditional home cooking, all bundled up with an Australian twist”.
Are there any events on the Mid North Coast BBQ calendar?
Port Macquarie currently plays host to the largest BBQ festival in the Southern Hemisphere; the BBQ and Blues Festival is held on the 2nd April next year. There is also a competition coming up in Bangalow in August. I would love to organise a BBQ Festival in Coffs Harbour in the future, so watch this space and drop me a line if you would like to get onboard in organising one.
Where can people find out more about modern BBQ?
The Australian BBQ alliance is a top place to start with; it has good educational material and a calendar of events. Besides that, there are also some forums on Facebook. And of course, you can always contact me to register for upcoming BBQ Boot Camps that I am running all across the Mid North Coast. Even if you would just like a chat to learn more about the wonderful world of BBQ, I love nothing more than talking about BBQ … just ask my mates; I don’t shut up about it.