Outdoor Cooking & Smoking with Marcus Bawdon of UK BBQ School
I've been a chef for over 20 years now and even though I still enjoy cooking, the light under my bushel is not as bright as it once was. Until I met a man called Marcus Bawdon through my foodie circles who, through his nationwide, family friendly bbq website, facebook groups and his new bbq cooking school, has given me the passion to try a new cooking skill which for many people is very much out of their comfort zone.
We can all cook a sausage or a burger on a standard BBQ but Marcus wants to take people out of this zone and show just how wonderful the world of smoking and outdoor cooking can be - and you don't need to be a chef.
The course I attended was the BBQ Basics Course and is aimed at people who want to go beyond just cooking burgers and sausages. The class promises to teach you about the kind of equipment will best suit your needs, the type of fuels available, how to light your bbq, making a dry rub and how to control the heat.
Marcus limits each course to around six to eight people so everyone can get involved in having a go, there is no sitting around just listening, you will have to work for your supper but in such a relaxed and friendly way that you feel like instantly at home. I think this helps so much, to sit and listen has me falling asleep after about fifteen mins but to be so involved in the class, I feel I have taken on board so much more. I didn't take many photos as it was dark and also to respect the other attendees.
The class is advertised to start prompt at 6pm but you are free to turn up anytime after 5pm; this just shows what kind of a guy your pitmaster for the evening is, he wants to welcome you into his world and not have you standing and the end of the garden until five minutes before the class starts. Neither will he be setting his chickens on you if you dont leave at 10pm on the dot.
When us students had all arrived and had a welcome drink including beer, wine or soft drink, we were told the agenda for the evening and by the smiles on all our faces we know we were going to be in for a good night! After telling us a bit about himself, it's straight onto work - anyone who wanted to have a go at lighting the bbq could do so with those less confident at this point just sitting back with no pressure to have a go.
Next we were shown a lovely piece of hanger steak and told where this meat comes from (behind the rib cage, see I was listening), how to cut the meat following the grain for a more tender steak and then it was on to cooking these strips of steaks. They were cooked dirty, and that doesn't involve Marcus slapping it around the floor for a few minutes like a toddler having a tantrum, it's a method of cooking direct on the coals - the result was slices of steak basted in a simple homemade dressing made there and then inbetween slices of amazing homemade bread.
The last hour of the evening is rather special; not only do you get to eat the chicken you created but along with the beef, more homemade bread and some crunchy homemade coleslaw, we all sit and enjoyed the amazing food. This also allowed time to ask as many questions as we could; even the shyer couple from earlier were now relaxed enough to ask lots of questions about cooking fish and the type of setup that would work best for them - every question being answerd in a very friendly but knowledgable way. I found out that this course was booked for them as a gift by a relative in America! That's how far Marcus' appeal reaches.
The evening ends with a little goodie bag including a tub of wood chips to take home to help you start on your BBQ adventures. This was only Marcus' second course and the next basic and intermediate ones are selling out very fast. Marcus asks for feedback and everyone said the same thing - don't change, just keep doing what you are doing - say no more!
Since the course, I smoked a whole joint the very next day, working through what I learnt.
I have since had Marcus, his family and some influential local foodie friends round for a BBQ and from what I learned, I cooked joints of pork, bone in lamb and chicken legs as well as making rubs and dressings for coating. I even did dirty steaks - my light is now truly glowing again thanks to Marcus! One thing I did learn is to keep it minimal - i.e. don't try cook so much at once and I will remember this next time, I was knackered!
Below photos are by Marcus, he's an amazing food photographer too!
The End Bit
Would I recommend? 100% YES! The food is fantastic, value for money is excellent, the knowledge you will gain will help you get going and raise your confidence but the real star is the man himself.
Marcus has worked very hard to get here and is a guy who is going places. If he doesn't end up on televison or with book deal within a couple of years, I will sell my smoker and buy an instant lighting portable BBQ and cook cheap supermarket sausages for ever. The best thing about him is his passion as well as his calm and down to earth nature.
I Want One
Where do I start?!
To book onto a course, visit his UK BBQ School website.
To read his recipes or see his videos, look him up on his Country Wood Smoke website.
If you're on Facebook, follow his UK BBQ Mag page join his BBQ group for tips, advice and to drool and learn from others are doing.
If you are on Twitter, follow him on @Devonwoodsmoke or @UKBBQMag
The possibilities are endless!
My friends over at Eating Exeter have done a 10 Q&A with Marcus and he is cooking at Powderham Food Festival and judging at PenGrillie - more info on the food festivals can be found on their 2017 food festival guide.