Welcome to another BBQ Team Spotlight where I open up The BBQ Beat to allow teams just starting to get rolling on the professional competition BBQ circuit. It’s with great pleasure that I share this response received from Aaron and Lee’ayn Lesley of West Texas Oilees BBQ Team out of Midland, Texas.
This post differs a bit from previous editions, as it’s more of a straight narrative. I’m a fan of this style of writing, as it tells the story of how Aaron and Lee’ayn started the West Texas Oilees team, learned some lessons from the various competitions in which they competed, and have arrived at a place where walks and Grand Championship honors are coming their way.
This is a purpose of the BBQ Beat BBQ Team Spotlight. Big teams who win a ton will always get good press. The series here is meant to highlight teams as they just start to “hit” on the BBQ circuit.
Again, if your team fits the bill, please email me via the contact page here on The BBQ Beat or message me via my Facebook Page. I’d love to provide some publicity and share some of your stories of BBQ love with the folks who read this blog.
With that, let’s get on to the meat (see what it did there?) of this spotlight post.
West Texas Oilees BBQ Team – Midland, TX
Kevin, thank you for choosing West Texas Oilees BBQ Team for a spotlight on The BBQ Beat. We are very excited to tell you and your readers all about our team and our experiences.
First of all, West Texas Oilees BBQ Team is a two person team, my wife Lee’ayn and myself. She has been by my side every step of the way, helping to support my ambitions of cooking great BBQ and competing all over our great state of Texas.
West Texas Oilees BBQ Team – How We Got Hooked On Competing
Back in 2010, we were hanging out one weekend with my the family and my brother-in-law was entered in a local BBQ competition in Midland Texas. Everyone was hanging having a few beers, laughing and having a good time. Our family always gets together every few months cooking and hanging out, this was no different.
Like any guy does, I was admiring his BBQ pit, thinking how cool it would be to have a trailer mounted setup of my own and absorbing all the smoke-filled air I could. Everyone was having a great time enjoying the weekend off from work, sampling the BBQ he was fixing and of course drinking beer! I believe my brother-in-law pulled out a first place chicken that weekend and remember thinking how cool that was seeing his hard work pay off for him.
Over the next few months I never thought anything about the cook off he was in or about going to any more. That thought was about to change, as my wife came home and asked if I was up to going to a local music fest / BBQ comp that my brother-in-law was entered in again. Of course I said yes. Beer, live country music and BBQ, who would turn that down?
I wanted to see a little more about what the competition BBQ was all about, so I helped out as much as possible without getting in his way. Now this was a 2 day drunk fest for most people, but I was really involved in watching him and having a blast doing so. Our families and friends had such a great time that weekend, he got to walk a few times and pulled off a few certificates that day, but the fun we had together was awesome.
I have always liked cooking. I wanted to go to culinary arts school after High School but could not afford to go. Backyard BBQ was always around and something we did quit often. I spoke to my wife and we decided to build our own pit to enter competitions. Heck I figure since we were going to hang out we might as well join in on the fun.
Our First BBQ Competition Was a Learning Experience
The next spring in 2011, we entered our first competition. I had no idea what I was doing, what the meat should look like or taste like and was struggling with the doneness of my meats. I had no idea I would be this tired after everything was done or would be half intoxicated by the time the awards started. I was excited and nervous, but I had a great feeling of accomplishment after it was over. I did not get a walk that day, but that was alright. I had a great time being there and had great family and friends around us all weekend. Little did I know that after I went home that weekend I wouldn’t be able to wait for the next BBQ competition to come. I was hooked!!!
We competed in 2 more cook offs around town over the next year. We were getting a little worried about what we were doing because we had not had a walk on any meat category. I started researching and YouTubed every video I could find. I focused on Brisket 1st. If I could place top 10 in that category I would be excited and move on to the next meat. After our 6th competition, I finally got my first call in Brisket with a 6th place. Even if you tried you would not have been able to wipe the smile off my face. I knew I was on to something good, so after that day it was on. Time to hit ’em hard and heavy.
I started looking at the BBQ schedules and calendars to plan the next cook off that I was off for. I sure am thankful for my family hanging in there because all I did was think of competing and cooking all of the time.
West Texas Oilees – The Gear We Cook On
We have been competing strong now for the last two years and just finished up with our 21st competition. During this time, I have built a 24′ enclosed trailer with an 8′ porch. I built a 7′ long x 30″ diameter reverse flow smoker with the fire box below the cooking chamber on the left side to save space.
This pit is a beast and it holds 250 degrees with no problem. I can cook a whole comp on about 20 sticks of wood. I also incorporated 2 Smoke Daddy 18″ pellet hoppers on the right side for those nights I need a nap. This allows me wrap my meat and use the pellets to maintain my cooking temps while I get my beauty sleep. I did not have this option before on my first trailer pit but seen the addition to my new setup very helpful. I call my pit the night hand, I am very comfortable walking away from my pit and know it will keep steady heat and not need much tending to.
Catering Business Success Leads to Our First Grand Championship
Competing in BBQ has opened up doors for catering steak lunches. As news of our competition efforts grew in our area, people began contacting us asking to know if we could host ribeye steak lunches cooked on site. We started catering 5 days a week, and during this time I made my own steak seasoning and used it on everything. The feedback on the steak seasoning was great, and we started getting asked for samples and bottles of our seasoning to take home.
I never thought our steak seasoning – which we call Texas Oil Dust – would turn into anything more than a gift for friends and our personal use. I started using my steak rub on my briskets with huge success, and we saw our walks in that category to the point where we were getting walks and placing top 3 at almost every competition we went to.
I then started using it on my ribs and as a base rub on our chicken. Our ribs started placing and getting some top 3 calls. I knew I was onto something good, but we were still looking for a break with the chicken turn-ins. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t nail down chicken. I finally pulled it all together last year in September of 2014, and we won our first Grand Championship in Levelland, TX. We were so excited to have finally worked our way up and see that all of our hard work was paying off.
Fine Tuning After Our First Grand to Build Consistency
Since we pulled off our 1st Grand Championship, I researched more and more videos, books and watched tons of BBQ Pitmasters. I wanted to get better and more serious about competing. I looked at Facebook and talked to other competitors to see what rubs and injections they were using at the time, hoping to find a winning combination without the other Pitmasters thinking I was shigging on them.
I purchased a few how to videos and started watching them over and over. I took notes and started recording my timelines and cook times. This was the best thing we could have done, and if there’s one thing I can share with folks trying to improve at BBQ competition – writing down a timeline and schedule for your meats is it.
Once I started keeping a written schedule of when to brine, inject, how long to rest, when to put meats on the smoker, take them off and wrap, and such, life got a little easier. Everyone we spoke to or saw on videos we watched emphasized keeping notes on timelines and cook times. We’ve done this since, with a board or paper hanging with turn in times, prep times, and cook times on it.
West Texas Oilees Competition Overview and Moving Forward
Since we started competing in 2011, we have competed in 21 competitions. We have managed 1 Grand Championship, 2 Reserve Grand Championships and placed in the top 5 overall 5 times now. I feel we have achieved so much for just getting started. I love cooking BBQ and competing, as I am a very competitive person, and this gives my wife and I something fun to do with plenty of time to hang out.
Competing and winning on the barbecue circuit has also helped me market our Texas Oil Dust seasoning in stores around West Texas. We’ve had such an awesome and fun experience meeting new people at every competition we attend. The BBQ brothers and sisters we have been fortunate to meet and hang out with continue to be great friends and are so helpful to us.
This year is almost over. Our most recent cook was Patsy’s Cookoff – also known as the Breast Cancer Awareness and Chili Cook Off on October 10th, which was a sanctioned IBCA competition. This was a Texas State Championship and one of the biggest around West Texas each year. When the results came in, we learned we won Grand Champion Honors. Overall we took 1st in Brisket, 1st in Chicken, and 3rd in Ribs.
This was a stacked field. We do not have to many events around these parts in the summer months due to the hot summers and usually drive a few hours or more to find one, so when Midland does have a cook off it usually brings out the best teams in Basin and all over West Texas. I look forward to sharing with you our success and stories along the way as we grow in our sport of competition BBQ.
One more thing, I’d like to mention our sponsor Jesse Salcido of QUE-IT-UP STEPS (432-524-2097). Oh, and for those who want to try our Texas Oil Dust Seasoning, contact me directly by phone at 432-230-3073 or by email at email@example.com.
Is Your Competition BBQ Team On the Rise?
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and that it contains some useful info for you! That’s really the purpose of these posts — to share some of what’s working for folks from teams who are just starting to win consistently with teams who are still getting on track.
If you’re just now starting to see RGC or GC calls and would like to have your team featured here on the BBQ Beat, contact me here so we can see about making that happen!
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