by Dana ‘Big Papa’ Hillis

During the heat of the summer, the competitions in Florida slow down because of the heat. But, addicted BBQ cooks always find someplace to do some smoking.

My good friend and plumber, Mitch, recently celebrated a birthday and had a party in his new shop. We enjoyed some ribs, chicken, stuffed jalapenos, stuffed mushrooms, baked beans and pasta salad. An all-out “Corn Hole” competition (throwing bean bags in different scoring holes on a plywood board) proved to be quite an event. Mitch had “home court advantage” and partnered with my son Cadin to take home the championship.

There was also a dart competition, and for the first time ever, I played “Beer Pong” (throwing ping pong balls into cups and drinking beer) Who came up with that interesting concept? Now that is some entertainment!

Myself and my good friend Jayson Craft beat out some tough competition (including Jayson’s wife and mother, who were incredibly good) to win. It was a great party, great BBQ and a good time was had for all.

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• Fresh grouper

• Rosario Pino olive oil

• Big Papa’s All-Purpose Rub

Cooking Instructions:

Here is a simple Grouper recipe (especially if you have a Big Green Egg):

Go fishing on the Solo Lobo and catch some fresh grouper.

Heat up the Green Egg to 500 degrees.

Rub fish fillets with olive oil (I use Rosario Pino’s because I really like it)

Apply Big Papa’s All Purpose Rub on both sides – but not too heavy!

Place grouper fillets on grill for 3 to 4 minutes on one side. You will see the top half of the fillet start to change (I peek at 2 minutes!) and then flip. Grill no more than 3-4 minutes on this side, and it is done!

Cooking on a gas grill will take just a few minutes longer because the Green Egg just cooks so hot.

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Our next little adventure took us to Del’s 24-Hour Store in Naples. We set up our vending trailer over the 4th of July and sold BBQ to the local neighborhood residents and fishermen. It was hot, and we weathered some storms, but it was quite an adventure.

If you have been to Naples, you have probably been to Del’s. This store has been in the Guiness Book of World Records for being open 24 hours a day for the last 49 years! I kid you not!

Del is one of the most interesting gentleman I have ever met, and all the employees at the store are really nice. I ran into a bunch of people I have not seen in a long time, and we enjoyed the fireworks. If you get to Naples, stop in at Del’s – 24 hours a day!

We then moved on to a birthday party for Capt. Brandon from Naples. Brandon runs fishing charters from the popular charter boat Solo Lobo and has a reputation as a fish-catching superstar. Charter with him to see what I mean.

We cooked up some Danish baby backs, competition-style pulled pork and chicken, pork nachos for Amy, baked beans, cornbread casserole, pasta salad and brownies on the pellet smoker.

The cool thing is that everything we cook (including the desserts) are all cooked on Fast Eddy pellet smokers.

As we cooked, we got to watch an exciting kickball tournament. These people take their kickball seriously! Most of the players had done this before, because the girls had matching socks and team shirts with custom names on the back. The rules of the game say you must have a beverage in your hand at all times.

Why ESPN was not there filming is beyond me. They must have played 30 innings, and I saw some truly amazing athletic moves. This was really a good time. Happy birthday, Brandon!

We did squeeze in one contest this month in Hobe Sound. The 2nd annual Hobe Sound BBQ Contest sets up on A1A and is truly interesting. They close the road and line up about 50 teams, right in the highway through town.

They had some good music, an inside “Ice Bar” – a trailer with some of the coolest ice carvings you have ever seen, where you had an opportunity to cool off and get something cold to drink.

“Unknown BBQ” was the coolest team this week – winning the Grand Championship, while “Can 2 BBQ” took Reserve for their best finish ever. You have never seen people get so excited! It was fun to watch and reminded me why competition BBQ is so much fun.

By the time you read this, we will have been to Live Oak for one of the best contests on the circuit. Damon Wooley puts on the “Smokin’ On The Suwannee BBQ Festival” at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. The trophies are made by the high school art teacher, and the one I won the first year is still one of my favorite trophies.

We had a little friendly fish-cooking competition in the neighborhood, but the real winners were all that came to eat. Joe “Boo Boo” Smirnoff cooked some snapper and some grouper, while I brought my Big Green Egg and did some grouper fillets. We all agreed it was a tie and we would have to do it again.

IMPORTANT: The FBA “Fun Cook” is set for Sept. 2-4 at Clerbrook RV Resort (20005 US Hwy. 27) in Cler-mont, Fla. This event is always a great time. There is a judging class, a cooking school, a backyard contest, BBQ poker crawl and an “Anything But” contest being cooked by judges and judged by teams, as well as a potluck dinner beyond compare.

Go to and sign up. Also, it is election time for FBA members, so PLEASE VOTE!

Thanks and Bless our Troops. I miss you, Pop.

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