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Interview: Jimmy Hollman's Swine and Wine BBQ Team on the Queen Mary BBQ Classic

Jimmy Hollman will be at the Queen Mary's BBQ Classic with his teammate, Graham
Jimmy Hollman will be at the Queen Mary's BBQ Classic with his teammate, Graham
Courtesy of Jimmy Hollman

Jimmy Hollman and his team, Swine and Wine BBQ, are getting ready for the upcoming Third Annual BBQ Classic at the Queen Mary in Long Beach on Saturday, May10. Yesterday, the Examiner spoke to Jimmy about their upcoming role in the competition. Even the youngest member of the team is ready, according to Jimmy. “My son's name is Graham”, Jimmy said. “He's 'Director of Quality Assurance' for the team. At 16 months, however, he's running all around and I've got to keep his hands off the smoker!”. The other members of his team include Heather Hollman, his wife, John Hollman, his younger brother, Justin Wheat, his brother-in-law and Ryan Bias, his friend and chiropractor.

“Going into last year's competition, I was the only one on our team who had a smoker. My brother in law was doing the chicken and helping out and my wife pretty much did the judging boxes. This year I'm pitmaster; I'm paying attention to everything, watching everything. Everyone else is kind of getting their hands dirty!”.

“My friend Ryan, the chiropractor, makes our ribs for the competition team. He makes the best ribs I've ever had. Last year, a friend that I've nicknamed “Musclefingers” who was there to help out, tried to help cleaning some sauce off the box and broke the judging box, so I'm sure the judges deducted points for that. Ryan was heartbroken. We wondered how much better the ribs would have scored if the box wasn't broken. This year in Long Beach we'll find out!”

This is Jimmy's second major BBQ cookoff, the first one being last year in Huntington Beach. “I'm definitely more prepared this time; I know more what to expect. You're on the clock, things have to be turned in on time. You really only need a few people and ones that are getting things done. We had way too many people helping last year, mainly getting in the way. Everyone wants a taste, to grab piece, to see it.....this time around, it will be a very small group, just the four of us. Last year I made some bonehead mistakes like over smoking the chicken. This year I'm definitely more prepared!”

Jimmy is slated to take Henry Soo's (Slap Yo' Daddy Championship BBQ Team) class in BBQ later this year. “He's the one that really made the Weber Smokey Mountain Smokers really popular. He cooks all his meats on one of these while the other guys are towing their big smokers. He has a smoker that's the same size as mine and that's where he does all the meats that he turns into the judges”.

Describing his cooking system, Jimmy said, “I'm using a Weber Smokey Mountain with a Barbecue Guru Temperature Controller. It's a really neat system, I can set it up from my iPhone, maintain the temperature and control the vents and fan to blow on the coals. It's really great that I don't have to hover over it now when I'm cooking things that can take over twelve hours”.

Jimmy described how he got into making barbecue. “A friend of mine bought a smoker, invited me over to try it out and the end result was kind of good but some of it was not. I went over to his house again with the same results and I thought 'I can do better'. I started looking into it more online, watching YouTubes, looking at how different people prepped their food, the times and temperatures, how much smoke exposure they are using. I realized that all these things were being done wrong. He just didn't have the patience for it so he offered to sell me his smoker so I took it, brought it home and started having fun with it!”.

Jimmy likes to use his smoker at home for his family. “I do a lot of tri-tip, pulled pork and chicken. I don't do a lot of ribs or brisket”. When it comes to competition brisket, Jimmy said, “It's the most difficult category. Brisket is the hardest one”. He continued, “Pulled pork is my favorite competitive meat”. For seasoning the meat, Jimmy said, “I've made my own rubs over time and perfected them a little bit. I use my own rub for pork butt and then I'll inject it as well. ”

Jimmy certainly likes the location of the competition at the Queen Mary. “It's neat, you're going to have the ship right there. It's a landmark for Long Beach, it's history. You've got the beach right there and you've got the ship”.

Jimmy is not sure where his cooking location will be yet. “We may be set off to the side for some TV cameras. All I'm concerned with though is, how far are we from the judge's table! That was a very neat thing from my first competition, when in the last few minutes you start approaching the meat turn in, you see people so very consciously carrying that white box. You can tell that some are incredibly nervous, they take these short little fast steps and they're just trying to get it over and drop it off. I did the same thing, Everybody scrambles.”

Regarding his team's name, Jimmy said, “On our first wedding anniversary we went to Napa. I've made several trips to the Bay area since I'm a San Francisco 49'ers fan. On Sunday I'd go to the game and then on Monday do some wine tasting in Sonoma, Napa or Calistoga. My wife and I have been married for nine years and when we were dating, we'd go to Refugio State Beach near Santa Ynez with her family. That's where I first started tasting wine. At first, it wasn't about the tasting, it was just about having a good time. Then I developed a taste for it”.

“I've taken a few trips down to Temecula, but I really like Northern California. I enjoy the neat little family wineries where you'll get more of the experience of the actual vineyard, they'll walk you around, you get a live tour, drink wine, or hear live music”. Jimmy added, "If you're going to have wine with barbecue, go ahead, but save the really good stuff for a steak. Don't overdo it for barbecue, it doesn't need it!”

As a newcomer at the Queen Mary's BBQ Classic, Jimmy and his team will be competing against many more experienced teams. With the passion he has for barbecue and the opportunity to up his game against some of the best barbecue people in the West, Jimmy and the Wine and Swine BBQ Team can look forward to many years of good competition and a great chance to do many walks up to the awards table for his team's BBQ.

The Third Annual West Coast BBQ Classic will be held on Saturday, May 10, at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach. Tickets and information are available through the Queen Mary's BBQ event website. At stake for the BBQ teams is over $10,000 in cash prizes and the coveted title of “West Coast BBQ Pitmaster Champion”. Live entertainment, a “Kid's Country”, eating contests, a merchant market and more will round out the fun at the Queen Mary Events Park. Sixty teams will be participating in the categories of chicken, ribs, pork and beef. In addition, many teams will be offering their 'People's Choice' entries for the public. Tasting portions are available from many of the teams for $2 each.

Third Annual West Coast BBQ Classic

May 10, 2014

11am to 6pm

Queen Mary Events Park

1126 Queens Highway

Long Beach, CA 90802

Ph: 800-437-2934

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