Passionate taste for barbeque Sussex County man’s recipe for success

GREENWOOD — If you don’t know Jack Hollis, here’s the deal.

The 43-year-old Greenwood resident is self-employed with Source Supply, a janitorial and cleaning/maintenance supply business in Bridgeville.

He is married with children. He and wife Missy have two daughters, Lauren and Meredith and a son Tanner.

And he loves barbeque. Boy, does he really love barbeque

“That’s all I do. I work … and I barbeque,” said Mr. Hollis. “I don’t do anything else. I don’t hunt, I don’t fish. I don’t have a boat. This is all I do. It’s what me and my wife do, and my family does. We’re very passionate about it.”

The weekend of Oct. 20-21, he hit the jackpot as his Don’t Know Jack Competitive BBQ entry captured state of Delaware and Mid-Atlantic honors at the 2017 Boo-Que – a barbeque competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. It was held at Delaware Seashore State Park.

“It’s been a goal of mine for last two or three seasons competing to win the Delaware State Championship and then I also won the Mid-Atlantic Barbeque Association (MABA) Cup. I won two awards and had really good consistent scores across the board. I had a good consistent cook. I didn’t tank in any division,” said Mr. Hollis. “This is the first competition in my career since 2012 that I have put together what you would consider the whole package as far as I didn’t have a division that I competed in tank. It was a consistent cook across the board, on the scoring.”

“It’s a really big deal. We had 82 teams there this year. We had 69 pro teams and the rest were backyard guys. The backyard guys just do chicken and ribs. The pros of which I am, we do chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket,” said Mr. Hollis.

This week’s People to Meet, Jack Hollis.

Missy and Jack Hollis hold hardware for winning the Delaware State Championship and the Mid-Atantic Barbeque Association Cup at Boo-Que.

Are you a native Sussex Countian?

“I was born and raised in Seaford. I went to a private school away in Pennsylvania. I have lived in Greenwood 2002. Greenwood is my home town now.”

Your work history?

“I’ve had Source Supply for six years. Before that I owned my own businesses, a gamut of different businesses.”

Your barbeque roots?

“I always have liked cooking, my whole life. I just started barbequing in the back yard and people started saying, ‘Man, this is really good. You ought to compete.’”

“In 2011 I went Myron Mixon Cooking School in Unadilla, Georgia. Myron Mixon at the time was the winningest man in BBQ. I came back from his place and digested everything I learned there. In 2012 I started competing in Kansas City Barbeque Society competitions up and down the east coast.”

“Myron Mixon was a famous BBQ guy. I went to his class and I’ve been to several other classes since then.”

Your BBQ team name?

“Don’t Know Jack Competition BBQ … it’s just a play on my name,” said Mr. Hollis. “I have a couple of helpers. But I do all the cooking. I have a team. I have two friends in the neighborhood that help me, and my wife is of course the big pusher in the whole thing.”

How about preparation? 

“Actually, the week of a competition every night we are doing something to get ready. We prep the meat, make all our injections, our sauces, our rubs. We mix all of that together. When we arrive on site we get the trailer set up. We’ve got an elaborate cook trailer that we have built. Things we have done to it over the years to, now it’s a system.”

How about the competition?

“We start the turn-ins at noon on Saturday and every half hour you have to process a meat and put it in a Styrofoam box with garnish. You get judged on appearance, taste and tenderness. You get judged on three categories when you present it. So, it has to look good, taste good and be tender.”

“It’s a very intense from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It’s like there is no time to take a break because you are either processing meat or you’re building boxes. I do all of that pretty much single-handedly by myself because I know how I want it done. My wife runs the boxes. We can’t be late to have a turn-in or you’re disqualified. You’re on the clock.”

“It’s a 24-hour process. We catch naps in between. I stay up and keep an eye on everything. I’m a night owl. I’m exhausted after it’s done but I can withstand and go the distance.”

You did a practice run?

“We ran a complete practice cook just before Boo-Que to get our timeline down. So, we literally won Boo-Que in our driveway. We went to the contest and cooked there and collected the awards. There is so many hours put into this deal between prepping. You just don’t show up and say, ‘I am going to do this.’ There is so much stuff to figure. Plus, you’ve kind of got to know how to cook. It’s almost like a Zen to it, you feel like when you’re in the zone, and the meat is in the zone, when the weather is right, humidity is right and it all just hits. That’s what we did at Boo-Que. We hit a trifecta and everything clicked.”

Do you have a BBQ favorite?

“I do really good ribs and brisket.”

Support of your parents, John and Linda Hollis?

“My dad, I wanted to win that award for him. He’s been a big supporter of this thing. Every time I go to compete he buys my brisket. That’s always been his thing where he buys my brisket for me. And my mom loves it. My mom loves the atmosphere. It is just a bunch of great guys, great people. There is no drama. There is no inner bickering.”

Are there big winnings?

“I got prize money for state championship and the MABA Cup. I got a free invitation to a contest next march that I don’t have to pay and entry fee for that I have to attend. If I couldn’t attend that then it goes to the guy that finishes second place in the MABA. So, I accepted it and I’m going to go to that in Virginia next March.”

“Mid-Atlantic Barbeque Association, it’s like a subsidiary of KCBS, but it’s more or less an east coast thing with people from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. We kind of have our own little spin-off. It’s a whole separate point system. So, people compete for the MABA Cup and team of the year with Kansas City Barbeque Society.”

Ever consider going totally pro?

“No.  The only way you could go pro with this is, is if you started catering or something like that. I’ve been fortunate enough the last three or four months competing that I have been able to earn enough money for it to pay for itself. But the truth is the hardware makes up for it.”

“You’re anywhere from $500 to $800 a weekend. But you can go out and hit for $1,500. I’ve had a lot of contests that pay for themselves. So, it hasn’t really cost me anything to do it or took money from my family.”

Is your barbeque part of your family’s menu?

“Absolutely. And I do some friends’ picnics. They will ask me to do stuff. I don’t per say do any catering, but I do a lot for friends and family.”

Care to share your secrets?

“No, I am not going to be able to do that. I spent a long time developing all of that stuff. It’s a lot of stuff that makes up the rub, injection, blending different sauces to get a flavor profile. Your flavor profile is basically your signature. I have been perfecting that over the last two years and have gradually seen all of my scores increase and get better and better.”

You’re off until next spring?

“I am done for the season right now and am already thinking about when can I go again. It’s a great escape from work for me. We start back up in March. But we’ll still continue to practice and work through the winter. It’s just a deep desire and passion.”

A little break is welcome?

“Yeah, everybody kind of gets sick of it. It’s in your face all of the time. The first thing you want to do is get away from it and get a pizza or something.”

Closing thoughts?

“Yes, it takes money to do it, but money will only carry you so far. You have to have the natural cooking ability and talent to know what you need to do. You can’t go in buy a win. If you race a stock car you can buy the best car and the best engine and best whatever and be competitive right out of the box. Barbeque, it comes down to a lot of inner personal drive. It’s a big, deep personal commitment.”

“And barbeque is the kind of thing where the fat guy really is a good athlete, if you’re a good cook.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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