Blazing A Trail
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The sizzle of cornbread batter hitting a hot skillet, the rich scent of collard greens simmering on the stovetop, the all-day process of getting a pot of gumbo just right – these are just glimpses at the storied history of southern food and the traditions that helped shape competition barbecuer Erica Blaire’s passion for cooking and, ultimately, her career.
The kitchen – both indoors and outdoors – has always felt like home to her. “I've been cooking since I was 10 years old,” Erica Blaire said. “It has always made me happy, and I knew whatever happened in my life, I could always find peace in a kitchen.”
Her father’s creole heritage has had a huge impact on Erica’s cooking style.
“We have family recipes ranging from beignets to BBQ that are from the early 1900s,” she said.
But it isn’t common for her or her family members to reference recipes while cooking, preferring instead to cook “from feeling.”
“We were raised on oral traditions and recipes were based on the way you felt a particular day and not tied to measurements,” she said. “Cooking from feeling instead of reading a recipe has made me a pretty fearless chef because I can cook anything based on family memories and emotions.”
Her dad’s family hails from New Orleans, which Erica said was reflected in their house rule to “work hard, have integrity, be supportive, treat everyone right, and celebrate everything!” And that’s the way Erica chooses to live her life still, seeking any reason to host get-togethers and celebrate as a family.
When they all gather around the table together, Erica says ribs, collard greens, cornbread, and gumbo – served with rice – are all a must. “Or else somebody is getting yelled at and sent to the grocery store!” she joked.
The idea to venture into barbecue competitions was sparked with her father’s goal of starting a barbecue restaurant.
“I figured BBQ competitions would be a way of testing our food out before starting a restaurant,” Erica said. “I watched BBQ competitions on tv and thought they were the best thing I had ever seen so I jumped out there!”
It wasn’t until she got involved in competitive barbecue that she learned that it’s not the same as cooking for a restaurant. However, she calls that the “best and most rewarding mistake” of her life.
Everything Erica knows about barbecue and competing she learned through trial and error.
“I made every mistake possible, set large fires, smoked out backyards, embarrassed myself, and served awful BBQ, but those mistakes made me just want to get better and try harder,” she said.
“The grill is a great equalizer, because it doesn't matter who you are, the only thing that matters is your dedication,” Erica added.
It took some time for her to figure things out before she took the competition barbecue world by storm. The biggest lesson she learned along the way is, "Keep trying and ask people for tips and tricks!"
Erica credits much of her success to her family’s support and belief in her. To explain how supportive her family is, Erica tells the story about how she was preparing to leave for her second barbecue competition.
“My mom jumped in the truck with me and said, ‘Alright, I don't know what this is, but let's do it!’” she said. “We slept in a U-Haul, hauled grills out, set up tents…She's been my copilot ever since! We are extremely close and supportive.”
Since then, Erica has been crowned Master of ‘Cue on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl, tied for a championship at Memphis in May BBQ World Championships, and much much more.
Pit Boss is proud to partner with such an accomplished name in barbecue, as she shares our passion for the craft and family tradition.
The Pit Boss Legacy
Founder and CEO Dan Thiessen shared a lofty dream with his sons to create a pellet grill that could withstand harsher climates and had the ability to be used year-round. More importantly, he aimed to do so by building on the cornerstones of quality and authenticity.
Some hard work, family support, and a whole lot of answered prayers led to that dream being realized in Pit Boss grills.
Now, Pit Boss manufactures wood pellet grills that are unlike anything else on the market and are built to last. So, no matter where you are or what you’ve got cooking, you can gather around the grill with those you love for years to come.