Page 33 - JULY 2021 Digital Issue
P. 33

bbq profile
Andrew Cloer
  T. Michael Garrison
The Flying BBQ Judge
As the competition among BBQ Cook Teams continues to become more intense and challenging, the top contenders are always looking how to increase their points. As a result, we are seeing more and more “Double Events”, where there is a full contest on Saturday and another one on Sunday. In the Southeastern U.S. we are beginning to see this more and more at the Rufus Teague con- tests. As a result, more and more of the top ten Team of the Year candidates are competing at these double events. Recently, at the Rufus Teague Shootout in Evans, Georgia double event, there were six of the top ten Team of the Year teams competing at this contest. Several of the next 10 were there as well. I have decided to try to profile some of these champions since most of them are available at these events and nearly all have a remarkably inter- esting story to share.
This month’s profile was in fifth place at the time of this writing. Today we are going to get to know Andrew Cloer, who is
better known by his BBQ team name, Bald Hawg. I
think you will find he is a very dedicated individ-
ual and he takes his BBQ cooking very seriously.
Andrew was born and raised in the small town
of Simpsonville, South Carolina, which is very
close to Greenwood, home of the Festival of
Discovery which is one of the area’s top BBQ
competitions. His dad cooked many a meal in
the back yard, on a grill, but that was not
competition BBQ as Andrew knows it today.
Andrew grew up a Clemson fan and started at
an early age to tailgate before their football
games. They started off with one or maybe three
grills and initially it was hot dogs, hamburgers, and the
normal backyard type of grilling. They grew out of this pretty quick as most of this crowd demanded something far better than backyard BBQ. He recalls by 2005 they were actually cooking whole hogs for their tailgate crowd, as he learned to experiment with rubs, seasonings, sauces and just about anything else that related to smoking a whole hog. He thought they were getting pretty good and certainly those eating his food were all very com- plimentary. Someone suggested that he enter the world of com- petition BBQ and eventually entered his first contest at The Festival of Discovery, in Greenwood, South Carolina. He placed 29th out of 30 teams but he was hooked.
Competition BBQ would turn out to be his thing. He entered a big contest in Lexington, North Carolina where he witnessed a lot of major teams, the types of equipment they had, and this event re- ally opened his eyes on what he was about to get into.
One of his closest friends helped him get started and even fi- nanced some of his early efforts. His friend was a University of Georgia grad and their mascot is the Georgia Bulldog, but the folks from Athens spell that Dawg. Since the major meat in com- petition BBQ is pork, he wanted to use hog in his team-name and out of respect for his long-time friend that spelling became Hawg. Andrew’s long-time wife was stricken with breast cancer. As she started her treatments, she began to lose her hair. Out of love and respect for her Andrew shaved his head and became bald as well. The team name evolved from all of this and today he is the Bald Hawg!
Due to his success, this name is very well known among competi- tion BBQ chefs. He started off just doing one contest a year and thought that would be enough. That didn’t last very long as he’s been competing seriously since 2011 and today he does 25-30
contests a year. He thinks he is around 130-150 total contests, but he doesn’t keep count. Now that he is
near the top, competing against some really good teams, he will be entering more events
and cooking even more competitions.
Andrew is involved in the construction indus- try and basically works for himself. Thus, he is able to balance his time and get seriously
involved with competition BBQ. Conducting this interview was an on again off again proce-
dure. I gained a lot of admiration and respect for Andrew, for this weekend involving two con-
tests in Evans, Georgia, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. He told me when he had time to talk and when
he didn’t. I certainly always respect that in a competing team and go out of my way to never interfere with what their task at hand.
At this point in his career, he has six Grand Champions and eight Reserve Grand Champions under his successful belt. That’s not a bad record for 10 years of competing. This is the second Rufus Teague contest where I have observed his success and look for- ward to seeing him more often in the future. He is a one-man team and does everything himself. He is really busy at every com- petition he enters. At this point he isn’t marketing any products, doesn’t host cooking schools, nor does he have any sponsors. He wants to continue to maintain his focus on his competition and how he can continue to improve what he turns in to be judged. I think we will be hearing a lot more about the many successes of Bald Hawg and Andrew Cloer.
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