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Let him cook

Robinson, BBQ team smoke competition

BBQ is a staple food in Texas, with chili labeled as the official state food. Sophomore Eli Robinson and his culinary teammates have learned to prepare, smoke, and present multiple delicacies for contests. The BBQ team has become Eli’s second family, extending from his experiences and challenges with his dad at the pit. 

“My dad has barbequed since I was very little, and I have always enjoyed helping him, but recently, I had the opportunity to join the barbeque team at school,” Eli said. “I’ve had a lot of fun meeting new friends and cooking with them.”

Eli works on his craft with his team and at home with his dad, where the two of them try new recipes together. 

 “Eli practices at home by cooking with me, and I love every minute of it,” Eli’s father, Jason Robinson, said. “He’s always been a good cook, but to see him get excited about a cooking style I love is the best.”

Eli’s mom, Angela Robinson, loves Eli and his dad’s hobby, which allows them to grow closer while Eli learns a skill he can use throughout his life. 

“Eli and his dad love to geek out over BBQ,” Mrs. Robinson said. “Eli loves experimenting with new flavor profiles and techniques, and the two of them can often conspire over the next weekend’s grilling project.” 

While his parents are enjoying Eli’s new hobby, they also see the benefits of being a part of a team.  

“I love that Eli is on the BBQ team,” Mr. Robinson said. “It gives him ways to express his creativity and leadership skills while allowing him to be a part of a team that works together to create a better product each time they meet.”

While Eli’s passion for barbequing started as a hobby with his dad, his skills have grown through competing with his team.

“After numerous Saturday practices, frequent in-class recipe testing, and competing in two regional competitions, Eli is much more confident in his duties on the BBQ team and no longer struggles with second-guessing himself,” culinary arts teacher Josh Neubauer said. “He has taken a lead role in maintaining the fire on the Santa Maria grill.”

Eli’s newfound confidence and skills have allowed him to cope with the stressful situations that the competition entails.

“I definitely think the most difficult part of the competition is the morning scramble,” Eli said. “It’s getting everything out, setting up, and making sure that you have everything, and it’s that frightful moment when you can’t find something, the pressure makes it even more fun.”

Eli’s positive attitude and experience with the barbeque competition encouraged him to invite others to join.

“I knew Eli was on the team and he invited me to join,” barbecue team member sophomore Efraim Conde said. “The team has taught me that I can do a lot more on my own than I thought I could.”

Eli’s continuous encouragement of his teammates has not gone unnoticed by Neubauer, who sees how Eli’s support has positively impacted the team.

“Eli has a positive attitude; he compliments his teammates when they succeed and uplifts them when things go wrong,” Neubauer said. “Eli is a good communicator and delegator; it takes multiple people and precise time management to prepare the chili, so communication and delegation are key.”

Eli’s chili team and the team as a whole have worked hard the past months through practices to perfect their craft.

“I’ve seen the team grow in its teamwork,” Neubauer said. “They’ve learned to work with different personalities and communicate.”

While the whole team has shown growth, Eli’s personal development has been noted by his coach and his dad, who is excited about Eli’s improvement during his time on the team.

“Seeing Eli’s skills develop this year has been awesome,” Mr. Robinson said. “From his skills with a knife in the kitchen to his willingness to try new things on his plate, it is a testament to his growth since joining the team.”

The upcoming competition has caused stress for the team, but Eli hopes for a good outcome, win or lose.

“I am hoping we pull through with the win at the upcoming competition,” Eli said. “But, if we don’t, all I am looking for is a good outcome for our team and at least an appreciation of our work.” 

Eli’s time on the team has helped broaden his perspective. Going into the last competition, he appreciates barbecue and other people’s opinions just as much as winning.

“I’ve learned that while you may think you have the best recipe for everything, people have different opinions,” Eli said. “Everybody likes their kind of food, and everybody wants it a specific way, and you have to find the best of both worlds for everyone.”

Eli’s new appreciation for differing opinions gives insight into how powerful food can be as a tool in bringing different people together.

“Barbecuing requires a lot of patience and waiting, and in that time, there is an opportunity to strengthen bonds and relationships that are less common in a world increasingly consumed by distance and technology,” Mrs. Robinson said. “There is something familial about this group and how food brings everyone together.”

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Addi Hollinger
Addi Hollinger, Assistant Editor
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