Cooking is a necessity. Some love it; others wish to UberEats. One Godwin resource officer, Officer Frank Smolka, has a passion for cooking barbeque. He joined a Backyard Barbeque team in 2018 and hasn’t looked back since.
During his first two years of competing, Smolka placed highly in competition.
“We finished off the 2019 season competing in Zom-B-Que in Wytheville, VA finishing 2nd in chicken, 2nd in pork, and 4th in ribs. We finished the 2019 competition season with our first Grand Champion. At the 2020 KCBS World Invitational, we finished 8th in Ribs and 12th overall,” said Smolka.
Smolka has been cooking barbeque with his team competitively for four years now. However, his passion began long before that.
His love for cooking started during middle school. He took on cooking as a hobby and continued to learn from his grandma.
“A lot of what I learned about cooking I learned from my “Grandma D”. I started taking Home Economics classes because the class was held in the morning and we always made breakfast,” said Smolka.
His joy for barbeque was sparked after receiving a gift from his family.
“My in-laws gave me my first smoker for Christmas nine years ago and the interest in smoking and barbequing took off,” said Smolka. After Smolka’s interest was ignited, he started to use barbecuing as his creative vent.
“I love experimenting with new flavors and trying new things. Competitive barbeque is my outlet, as law enforcement is a stressful job,” said Smolka.
Throughout his cooking exploration, Smolka has maintained a support system. His friends and family help him navigate through this process.
Smolka and his family call their barbeque team “Red Smoke Barbeque.”
“Red Smoke Barbeque is one of the few first responder family teams in competitive BBQ and recognizes the need to serve and give back to the community,” said Smolka.
All of Smolka’s family enjoy barbeque, but Smolka’s daughter is following closely in his footsteps.
“Our nine-year-old daughter has competed in several Kids’ Que’s competitions and has finished in the top five in her age group in every competition. At the 2021 York County BBQ Festival, she took First Place at the Kids’ Que competition, coming within .06 of a point from a perfect score,” said Smolka.
Smolka says he is grateful for the support from his family and is thankful for the mentorship from fellow barbeque expertise.
“Several Master Series Competition Barbeque teams have provided mentorship including Chiles Cridlin from Wolf’s Revenge Barbeque (Henrico, VA), Randy Grigg from Wolf’s Revenge Barbeque (Henrico, VA), and Bill Jones, an organizer, and KCBS Competition Organizer and Master Competition Barbeque judge (Henrico, VA)” said Smolka.
In 2021, Smolka achieved great success following support from mentors, friends, and family members. In the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) standings, he placed 28th out of 277 teams for chicken and 58th out of 279 teams for ribs.
Furthermore, in the Mid-Atlantic Barbecue Association (MABA) standings, his team placed 14th overall. Smolka says he feels great pride in achieving a great placement at a competition since the field is full of talent.
“In competitive barbeque, it is important to be willing to try new flavors and techniques, learn from other teams and competitors, and improve flavors and methods to increase standings each year,” said Smolka.
Today, Smolka’s future cooking goals are to win a KCBS World Invitational Grand Championship and to eventually open his own food truck. Smolka will continue to participate in barbeque competitions to meet new people.
“Competition barbeque unites people from all walks of life and all areas of the U.S. The people that make up the sport of competitive barbeque make it worth continuing the journey,” said Smolka.
Smolka has learned much from this experience and is excited for what the future holds. If any student wants to learn more about barbeque, Smolka offers advice.
“I would encourage any student interested in learning more about barbeque to stop by and talk to me anytime,” said Smolka.