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Barbecue Boot Camp  

Known as the Duck Brigade, student chefs from Taylor High School’s Culinary Arts program are gearing up for a new cooking experience that fits right in with one of Taylor’s best-known traditions – Barbecue!


According to culinary instructor, Chef Mike Erickson, the young chefs in training are teaming up to prepare for big-time competitions in the near future. They have officially kicked-off the season with a Barbecue Boot Camp. Area pitmasters are serving as mentors for these students, sharing their best techniques for grilling ribs, chicken, and steak.


“A student is typically in charge of one of the meats, but then a lot of times they learn everything so they can help each other out,” said Erickson. “There’s collaboration and they expand their skills. If a student is sick or can’t be there, they all know how to step in and do the job. Just like you would do in a restaurant, you want to learn all the different stations.”


Aspiring pitmasters are divided into three teams of five students each: The Mallard Meat Mavens, Duck Dudes and Duck Dynasty, a team of freshman lady chefs.


Mentors include Cassie and Sean Leschber from Twisted L barbecue, Syrissa and Anthony Dominguez from Serious Smoke, and Chuck and Vanessa Aleksines, owners of Rocking A Grilling Supply.


“All of them have volunteered their time to come in and mentor kids and to share their passion and their little tricks to teach them enough to be dangerous,” said Erickson. “We’ll have two competitions this year, and some of the mentors may actually go to the competitions with them and be there as an additional coach. I’ll be there to coach them, and their mentors will be there yelling at them from the sidelines like a football coach or volleyball coach.”


Erickson said his students have already learned enough of the fundamentals and basics that they are able to enjoy barbecuing as a backyard skill with their family. Students participating on competition teams are planning to attend their first event in Temple in November, followed by another competition in College Station in the Spring.


“All three Taylor teams will compete against each other as well as other teams,” said Erickson. “The top team in the state will go on to nationals in Branson. If one of our teams has the highest score, we will take the Duckmobile and the Duck Brigade up to Missouri and hopefully beat some Missouri teams.”