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Hendrickson BBQ Team preps for state competition

March 15, 2019 

BBQ Team

News coverage: CBS Austin



A Facebook post about the Hendrickson High School Barbecue Team hit staggering heights in January:

  • More than 9,000 people reached
  • 235 comments made

To put it in perspective, the post on the campus Facebook account more than doubled the reach of any posts in the past year about Hendrickson football, band, soccer or even graduation.
So you could say there is a bit of interest in the team.
And with barbecue superstar chef Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue among those who have provided team members lessons, one might also see the educational benefits of joining the team, as well as the obvious savory ones.
And having qualified for the state high school barbecue competition in May, these Hawks are proving worthy of their seasoning salts.
Longtime Hendrickson Ag teacher Jeremy Bonds heads the HHS Barbecue Team, now in its second year. But before they could sizzle, team members were welding and designing barbecue pits, as students in the school’s Ag Mech program.  
Ag Mech students began building pits for Hendrickson FFA fundraisers and the like, which led to an appearance by Franklin about two years ago. Then, he largely provided pointers on building pits to a crowd of attentive students, also stressing the importance of math in doing so. Hendrickson Ag Mech students later used his instruction to design a pit.
The state high school barbecue competition is open to students in culinary and ag programs, with a five-person team limit. And what else is more synonymous with Texas than barbecue?
“Obviously, barbecue in Texas is big, so people love [the barbecue competitions],” said Bonds. “We enjoy it and coming up with new recipes. If you look at it, it’s a natural fit to bring the two worlds – culinary and ag – together in Texas.”
Gathered around the largest barbecue pit on campus as the sun set, team members Rope Lindgren and Tyler Wood, both seniors, scrutinized ribs and chicken the team had worked on that day. Fellow senior Emmaleigh Gowland happily reviewed her successful dessert recipe, confident in its chances at the state event.
“I’d never made a crème brûlée before in my life,” said Gowland, an experienced kitchen manager for a local restaurant, about her initial attempt at crème brûlée for the team. “Our first practice, it looked a bit like sweet potatoes and it did not taste good in any way, shape or form. It was disgusting. So, lesson learned.”
Sophomore Alyssa Sheil and Audrey Harris also were in good spirits, as the team had worked together on beans and brisket under tight deadlines that day.
Lindgren recalled learning how to trim brisket while at Hendrickson, being taught how to make it conform to the aerodynamics of their pits, to help it cook as evenly as possible. Initial sessions spent cooking included lessons on seasonings and baking times and temperatures, he added.
Easily the most outspoken of the team, Wood is ever willing to lend a hand to a teammate or coach. A smile is usually not too far away, as well, although it might also be followed by a smart remark, and eye rolls from teammates.
“For me it’s just been fun,” Wood said. “We started out building pits, so it was natural to cook on them. We’re looking forward to the state competition.”
The State of Texas High School BBQ Championship takes place May 3-4 at Burnet High School. Hendrickson qualified after collecting three second-place ribbons (ribs, beans and brisket) at a Nov. 17 regional event in Belton.
Connally High School’s Culinary program will compete in a regional event April 12-13 in Comfort, in the hopes of providing Pflugerville ISD with two state qualifiers in barbecue.