FLORENCE AZ (July 21, 2012) —The 2012 Pinal County Fair held this year in March had plenty of great food choices. One could find the standard corn dog on a stick or be a little adventurous with a braised turkey leg but one food vendor, Whiskey Ranch BBQ, pushed the envelope of outdoor culinary cuisine.
Whiskey Ranch BBQ pitmasters method of turning a side of beef into a mouth-watering, slow-cooked, barbeque masterpiece caught the eye of Food Network producers. The owners and pitmasters, Tom and Jennifer Duncan, will be competing on this Sunday’s season premiere episode of Chopped: Grill Masters.
“It’s very cut-throat and very difficult,” said Tom Duncan after competing against his wife, Jennifer, on the FN show. “As a cook you generally know what you will prepare, what ingredients you will have, and what kind of equipment you will be using. That wasn’t the case on the show. You didn’t know what you were going to cook until they unveiled it.”
The Food Network show Chopped is usually set in a studio with state-of-the-art kitchen equipment. This season, the series premiere was videotaped on the Old Tucson Studios movie set featuring a battle of the barbeque chefs. Although they can’t divulge the winner, the Duncans were pleased to be chosen for the on-air competition.
“It was really amazing,” Jennifer Duncan recalled. “You have four different people who had four different ideas on the food that was given to us. You would look at their ideas and you couldn’t help but to learn from it.”
“No matter how we did on the show, there are tens of thousands of people that the producers look at. We were lucky to be the one percent picked to participate,” Tom said. “Jennifer and I were the first married couple to compete on the show.”
The Whiskey Ranch BBQ truck is a staple at both the Pinal County Fair and the Pinal County Bluegrass Festival and it offers not only barbequed beef and pork but wood-fired pizza as well. The mobile nature of the Whiskey Ranch business has allowed the Duncans to cater a large variety of events and allows more time with children, Cole and Cassie.
“Before food trucks became big, we were already two or three years into it,” said Tom. “We developed a niche of being mobile. This allows us to serve anywhere from 50 people at an event to 20,000.”
Now that Whiskey Ranch BBQ has hit the “big time” will they be back for the Pinal County Fair and the Bluegrass Festival?
“There are things that are near and dear to our schedule,” Tom said. “We have already blacked out different events for the next year and Pinal County events are part of that.”
When the Duncans arrive for the 2013 Pinal County Bluegrass Festival and Fair, Tom and Jennifer might have a new item or two on the menu thanks to the Food Network appearance.
“The show gave us some new ideas,” Jennifer said. “It might be a small change in our ribs or a little change elsewhere. We love this business so much and it shows in our food. If it puts a smile on a customer’s face, it’s all worth it.”
Watch the season premiere of Chopped: Grill Masters Sunday at 7:00 PM on the Food Network. Let us hear what you enjoyed.
Article written for SedonaEye.com by Joe Pyritz and Heather Murphy.