06/25/15 - 08:03 Filed in: BBQ Festival | Big Green Egg | BGE
One aspect of Big Green Egg ownership I never thought about was the social aspect. By that I specifically mean Eggfests, where old, new and potential EggHeads gather to discuss the Egg and enjoy some great food cooked by fellow Eggheads. They range in size from national such as the EGGtoberfest, held every October in Atlanta. This is the BIG one and it draws around 4,000 EggHeads from around the US, North America and other parts of the world. Then there are regional Eggfests such as NewEGGlandfest which draws hundreds of people from around New England. I have attended and written blogs about both these Eggfests. This time around I am going to write about the local Eggfests run by individual Big Green Egg dealers that draw maybe 100 people. Specifically I am going to write about the one I just attended held by my dealer Oasis Hot Tub & Sauna in Nashua, NH. They call it their Customer Appreciation Day. Many of the other Big Green Egg dealers in this area have their own version of this event. I would imagine dealers all over the US have similar events.
BACKGROUND:I have been attending these dealer-sized mini-Eggfest events for the last 3 years and they are a lot of fun. They are also brilliant marketing in my opinion. Whether they are large or small, these Eggfests all come down to getting people to sample various foods cooked on the Egg. There is a saying that the best way to get someone to buy an Egg is to cook them some food on it. So it is a way to get potential customers to try some food cooked on the Egg to help close sale. It is a way to say thank you to existing customers and also allows them to mingle and interact with other Egg owners. These existing Egg owners are typically very enthusiastic about their BGEs and they help sell the Egg. It isn’t that they are there working as a sales rep, but their natural enthusiasm rubs off on potential customers. And face it, the same comment coming from an actual owner carries a lot more weight than the same comment coming from a sales person. Not all sales people are shady or dishonest. The folks at Oasis are straight shooters who tell it like it is. But a new customer has no way of knowing how honest a particular sales person is, because they have only known them short time. But face it, most Eggheads are very passionate about their Eggs and without meaning to, their natural enthusiasm helps sell the Egg. The last component of many Eggfests is the dealer (local Eggfests), distributer (regional Eggfests) or the Big Green Egg Company (Eggtoberfest) furnish new Big Green Eggs for use by the cooks. After the show these once-used Eggs are sold off with some other items (stands, shelves, platesetter, charcoal) at a discount. So essentially the sponsor creates the environment, furnishes some Eggs, gets some cooks and invites new and existing users. Then they stand back a bit and let the food and the existing users help sell some Eggs for them. Plus the grills they sell off as once-used help defray some of the costs and also create more Egg users who will buy more products from them. Really brilliant marketing that is a win-win-win. New users get to try food cooked on the Egg before they buy it. Existing users get some good food, get to ask questions of the cooks or other users there. The company hopefully gets some sales out of the event.
OASIS CUSTOMER APPRECIATION DAYS:Format - The reason I said days (plural) is Oasis actually has 2 events. One in the the spring in early June and one at the end of the summer just after Labor Day. The events are held right at the dealership on a Saturday and run from 11:00AM to 3:00PM. Sometimes they will have a Friday night cooking demo where a Eggspert cook will teach a class. This is also a combination of marketing and a way of saying thank you. The class is free for existing customers who are asked to bring someone who might be interested in buying an Egg.
Setup - The setup is pretty consistent from year to year, with some slight improvements made along the way. There are usually 3-4 people cooking on 4 Big Green Eggs. The cooking area is setup along the long sidewall of the building that looks out on to the side lawn. The Eggs and prep area are towards the back with a folding table at the front. As the food come off the Eggs it is cut into small sample-sized servings and placed out on the front tables. Once the event starts there is pretty steady stream of food coming off the Eggs. Oasis sells outdoor furniture too so they have some of this furniture gathered into clusters in several seating areas. This year they took the added step of having a 10’ x 10’ popup tent sheltering the two seating areas. The cooks all had tents covering their serving tables this year too. There is a large cooler nearby with ice cold water and nonalcoholic beverages.
The folks from Stump Chunks had a demo tent where they were showing how quick and easy to light Stump Chunks fire starters were.
Vendor Tent - This year there was a vendor tent there which was a first. Bob and Cindy from Stump Chunks were demoing the companies fire starting product. Stump Chunks are made from ground up tree stumps. It is made by a local company from Hookset, NH. I started seeing the product in stores and hearing good things about it from multiple people last summer. I planned to try it out for myself but I didn’t get around to it. Bob was lighting fist full sized batches of Stump Chunks to show how easy it is to light and how fast it gets going. One claim for the product is that it can light wet wood. This tells me they should light easily and stay lit. Bob gave me a small bag for free to test out. I am looking forward to trying it out and will write about my impressions here.
Eric Mitchell is finishing up some Grilled Asian Pork Bellies.
Celebrity Cook - Eric Mitchell, author of the recently released SMOKE IT! LIKE A PRO, and his wife Cindi were cooking at the event. They were also answering questions and generally acting as good-will ambassadors for the Egg. They also compete on the competition BBQ circuit using the Big Green Egg under the name: Yabba Dabba Que. Eric and Cindi are regulars at this event and some others like it in this area. The Big Green Egg Company uses celebrity chefs and competition BBQ cooks as representatives and ambassadors for the company. This is a similar example but on the regional level. Tarantin Industries, the regional Big Green Egg distributer, has an arrangement with Eric and Cindi where they appear and cook at various Egg-related events. Oasis had a good supply of Eric’s new cookbook (see my BLOG ENTRY) and he was autographing copies of the book. Both Eric and Cindi are great ambassadors for the Egg. They patiently field a wide variety of questions from potential buyers, as well as new and long time Egg owners. At these events Eric answers any and all questions, but he is rather quiet and unassuming. He lets the food do the talking, and boy does it say a lot. As usual, they were making a wide variety of dishes on their two Eggs. The first time I ran across Eric and Cindi at this Oasis event 3 years ago, it was truly an eye-opening experience for me. I was relatively new to the Egg. I realized after seeing them in action, that the Egg was amazing cooking device and any limits on what it could do were only limits you imposed on yourself. This was why I was so thrilled when I heard last year that Eric was writing Big Green Egg cookbook. I knew it would not be the same old, same old.
The highlight of the day for me was the Maryland-Style Pit Beef Sandwich.
Eric Mitchell is deep frying the tortillas for the “Honey Jack” Apple Nachos.
Here is the final product. I had to snap this picture quickly because these “Honey Jack” Apple Nachos began disappearing fast.
Many of the items Eric was making were from the cookbook. I enjoyed the Spicy, Corny Bacon Fritters, which were deep fried in the BGE cast iron Dutch oven. Beside corn and bacon for the fillings, the spicy component came from jalapeño pepper. They also made “Honey Jack” Apple Nachos which used deep fried tortilla chips sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. These were topped with an apple pie filling and a whipped cream topping Until I went to my first event where Eric and Cindi were cooking, I never would have thought about deep fry on the Egg. The highlight for me was the Maryland-Style Pit Beef sandwiches. The Baltimore Pit Beef sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches. The beef on these sandwiches was amazingly moist and tender. Also on the menu this day were Grilled Asian Pork Bellies which were delicious. Strips of skinless pork belly are marinated in a spicy/tasty Asian influenced marinade and then grilled for about 10 minutes. They also made Fajita-ish Shrimp Bites, a recipe from the Dizzy Pig website. I can’t eat shrimp, but from the comments I overheard, these were delicious too. If you can ever make it to an event at a New England area Big Green Egg Dealer, or at Tarantin’s regional NewEGGlandfest event, where Yabba Dabba Que is appearing, by all means do it! You will get to try some great food and you will get some new ideas about what is possible on your Egg.
Cooks Tent 2 had 2 Large Big Green Eggs fired up producing various meaty treats from the Flying Butcher and a steady flow of grilled pizza.
Cook’s Tent 2 - The second cook tent had two Large BGE’s turning out a wide range of food. This food was being cooked by Dan from The Flying Butcher and several family members of the Oasis staff. The Flying Butcher, a local premium butcher shop, was also a sponsor of the event and supplied most of the meat being cooked at this tent. They made a variety of items designed to show off the quality of their meats and how good grilled food made on the Egg can be. There were several types of beef and chicken dishes featuring various rubs and marinades. I also got to try some chicken cooked on a Himalayan pink salt block. This type of plank cooking has become popular lately and there are tens of thousands of words written about the virtues and benefits of this method. Lets just say I am not a convert yet. Frankly I was a bit underwhelmed. But in all fairness, the sample I tried had been sitting out for a while and many foods just aren’t the same after they cool off. So I would like to try this again in the future when it is fresh off the grill.
There was a fairly constant supply of various pizzas coming off the Egg, which is a very smart thing to do. Pizza cooked on the Egg is one of the great ways to sell someone on the benefits of the Egg. The pizzas featured pizza dough from the Great Harvest Bread Company right across the street from Oasis which made them extra good. It was interesting to hear that some of the people at the event were using pizza as their benchmark for whether to buy a Big Green Egg. If the pizza was as good as they had heard it was, they were sold. One woman I was talking to said she was coming back the following Tuesday to pick up a Large Big Green Egg. I am guessing the pizzas alone sold a few more Eggs.
The Guests - Talking to other guests is always an interesting aspect to these events. You meet a wide variety of folks at these events, ranging from someone who is just hearing about the Egg for the first time, to long time Eggheads. It is interesting to hear the questions of folks who are potential buyers and get an idea of what they know and don’t know about owning a Big Green Egg. It can also be interesting hearing the experiences and problems of new Egg owners. It is rewarding being able to offer them suggestions that may help solve their problems. Oasis is also good at taking advantage of some of their guests who are more experienced Eggheads. They remain open during this event, so they still have to serve customers visiting the store to buy something on this Saturday. But the sales people at Oasis will often introduce a newbie to an Egghead they know can help them and let them talk. They usually give short answer themselves and then say: “Let me introduce you to so-and-so. He/she does this all the time.” Besides freeing up their time on this busy day, they know that advice or answers coming from an actual user will carry much more weight than anything they might say. I have had several of these referrals and I don’t mind at all. I look at it as a way of paying them back for inviting me to this event. After all with 3 BGE’s and a boatload of Eggcessories, I am not a likely candidate to buy a lot more toys. I started bringing my iPad to these events. This way I can show some of these folks with questions actual pictures of items I have made. Once again saying it can be done is one thing, but pictures of my actually doing it say even more. The most interesting aspect for me is hearing what other folks do with their Eggs. There seems to be no limits as to what you can make on the Egg. I often get new ideas from hearing things other folks do.
CONCLUSION:I hope this blog gives you a feeling of what these small dealer-level Eggfests can be like. If you are interested in buying an Egg, ask your dealer if they have a similar type event coming up. You will be able to try before you buy and talk to other Egg users who aren’t on anyones payroll. Beginning users may be able to get some help with things they are having trouble with. Long term Eggheads will get to hear what others like them are making on their Eggs and what Eggcessories they like or dislike. They may get the satisfaction of helping someone else out solving a problem too. Best yet, everyone there will get some great food cooked on the Egg. Win-Win-Win!
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