LoneStar Smoke Rangers
HEAD COOK: Tony Balay
COMPETITION: World Barbecue Championship
QUALIFYING EVENT: Wyoming State BBQ Championship
Here is an interview I did for the Bull Sheet a few weeks back.
How did you come up with the name LoneStar Smoke Rangers? Who is all on your team?
We came up with the name LoneStar Smoke Rangers from a former team member that passed away a few years ago. His name was Boyd Preckwinckle and he was a retired Texas Ranger. We took the Texas Ranger badge as our logo and fashioned the name. LoneStar Smoke Rangers team consists of my wife, Kim; our four kids, Doug, Matt, Carly, and Wyatt; my mom, Rosa and dad, Tony Sr; my Shiggin brother-in-law Keith and sister Becky.
What do you like to do when you’re not BBQ’n?
I am an architect and have a consulting firm based in Rapid City. Our family moved here from Texas a few years back where my wife joined a medical practice in Rapid City as a Pediatrician and Neonatologist. I enjoy coaching my kid’s basketball team, I'm involved in fundraising for several charitable organizations in South Dakota, and I enjoy being a Trophy Husband!!
Tell us a little about your equipment what kind of smoker do you use? What is your favorite “gadget” item you like to use when BBQing?
I have a Memphis Pro and a Stumps Stumpster XL. The Memphis is a pellet smoker and is by far the most versatile smoker I have ever used. It is a smoker/grill/pizza oven all wrapped into one. The Stumpster XL is an incredible smoker as well!! It is very similar in style to a Backwoods but much more maneuverable and durable. "Stumps don't build no junk"!! The Therma Pen is a great BBQ tool to have as well as the Grill Grates.
What BBQ accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
In the last 18 months LoneStar Smoke Rangers has won 8 Grand Championships and 3 Reserve Grand Championships. I am very proud of our team for that but I am most proud of the fact that we are returning to the Jack Daniels Invitational for the second year in a row in 2014.
What BBQ contest is your favorite and why?
Besides the Jack I would have to say Billings, MT. The contest is in the middle of the Montana State Fair and all the teams have close access to all concerts, carnival rides, exhibits, food, and fun for the kids and family. We have developed some really great friendships with some of the local teams there as well. Tye, Justin, and their dad Rick Hamilton of Montana Outlaw Q always make us feel welcome and treat all the teams like Kings. The Hamilton Boy's kick off the contest by a rafting trip down the Yellowstone River culminating into an incredible Surf and Turf feast gazing up at that famous Montana Big Sky while being surrounded by five of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. I would be hard pressed to find a contest that compares.
Do you have any BBQ goals for 2014, if so what are they?
We would like to finish this year strong with a contest in South Dakota and Iowa still left before we head onto the October and November invitational events. As a team we would like to place high at the Jack and the World Food Championship in Las Vegas in November.
Who or what has influenced how you BBQ the most and how have they influenced you specifically?
Mike Davis of Lotta Bull BBQ has been my mentor since I started in BBQ four years ago and has been a great friend. Joe Beland (Tippy Canoe) and Ryan Newstrom(Big T's Q Cru)! I had the privilege to be at their first class they taught, and it being the first class I had ever taken, made a huge difference in how I progressed in competition BBQ. John Nilges of Parrothead Smokers is one of my best friends in BBQ. He is always there when I have some crazy idea I want to try or someone I can just bounce a new recipe off of. I have never seen him rattled at a contest and can cook even better when two or ten sheets to the wind. If BBQ had a Doc Holiday, it would be John Nilges. John is also probably the finest cook I have ever met.
I studied architecture in Europe in Grad School and had the opportunity to sample many different types of cuisines. Being able to open ones horizon to a whole other "Flavor Profile" helped me develop a little different spin on my own BBQ style.
If you could only BBQ or eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
I know it sounds crazy but I love Smoked Meatloaf especially when it is wrapped in latticed bacon. My grandpa was a cotton farmer from Oklahoma during the Great Depression and would always tell my brother and I stories of life in those days. He loved smoked meatloaf and when it was wrapped in bacon he would call it Redneck Chateaubriand. Maybe it is just the poor redneck Okie/Texan side of my family but it is just comfort food to me. Nothing like leftover meatloaf on a sandwich with fresh potato bread and some tart yellow mustard with some crispy potato chips and a Texas Big Red to wash it all down with. My grandpa would say that's "Larrupin'!"
What is your Favorite Non BBQ restaurant and what do you like to get there?
I am a fan of all food but if I had to choose one I would have to say Mi Tierra in San Antonio, TX. Mi Tierra is the culmination of sights, sounds, and smells accompanied by the warm Texas breeze's over the water of the Riverwalk that allow one to escape the cares of the day and enjoy a cold beverage and the best chips and salsa in the LoneStar State! Everything is excellent the but I truly love their slow open fire grilled beef and chicken fajitas and their daily made from scratch buttery homemade tortillas.
Wildcard is there anything you would like the readers to know about you, your team or BBQ in general that was not asked?
Matthew Mcconaughey is a distant cousin twice removed! Lol!! As anyone who has met me knows.....we share the same looks....he got all the acting ability and I got all the BBQ ability!! Alright, Alright, All right!!!