Barbecue proprietor pits his work against area’s best in competitions
Kansas City has long been famous for its barbeque and now, thanks in part to Daniel Hipsher, Lansing and Tonganoxie are slowly joining its ranks.
Hipsher, owner of Daniel's BBQ at 834 N. Main St. in Lansing and 215 West St. in Tonganoxie, has competed and placed in local barbeque competitions governed by the Kansas City Barbeque Society for the past three years.
"I'm cooking with the best of the best," Hipsher said.
Hipsher, 34, can hold his own, though. He recently won Reserve Grand Champion ($300 prize), first place in the rib category ($125) and second place in the chicken category ($100) at the Zimmerman's Farm Hillcreek Barbeque Cook-off in De Soto on Oct. 15. Reserve champion is a second-place finish in the overall competition.
For his 2005 season that ended with the De Soto contest, Hipsher won Reserve Champion at the Leavenworth County Cook-off the last weekend in September, three first-place pork category finishes in Atchison, McLouth and Kansas City, Kansas, and two second-place beef and pork finishes in Emporia and Bentonville, Ark..
For Hipsher, who is married with two sons and lives near his Tonganoxie restaurant, the time commitment and effort involved in competing take their toll.
"You're gone Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday you're lying around recuperating because you have been cooking for the last 48 hours," Hipsher said.
His past awards include grand champion at the Tonganoxie competition in 2004 and first-place barbeque sauce at the 2003 American Royal Barbeque Competition in Kansas City, Mo.
Each season Hipsher competes in 17-19 contests, and he has received at least a ribbon in each contest he's entered. He will begin competition for the 2006 season in March at the Cabella's Cook-off.
His favorite contests this year were the McLouth and Tonganoxie competitions, because they are local competitions and many of his regular customers attended and had the chance to see him compete.
"I'm doing it to get away and cook, and you learn a lot too. There's a lot of benefits but it's an expensive hobby," he said.
For the most recent De Soto competition, Hipsher paid a $175 entry fee and approximately $300 in cooking supplies. With his three awards his earnings totaled three trophies and $525.
"Competitions are not profitable," he said.
For profit, Hipsher relies on his restaurants in Tonganoxie and Lansing, opened in 1997 and 2001 respectively. "Daniel's BBQ Sauce" is also for sale in 45 grocery stores, including the Leavenworth Price Chopper, and has been shipped to 24 states and several countries.
Hipsher says he applies what he learns at the contests to his restaurants and prides himself on serving inexpensive yet high-quality barbeque.
"I like being able to serve people really good food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg," he said.
Hipsher is now looking into starting his own competitions locally. He is currently reading the rules and regulations provided by the International Competitive Eating Organization so in the future he would be able to sponsor a series of rib-eating contests at the Tonganoxie, McLouth and Lansing cook-offs with the championships held at the Leavenworth County Fair. Hipsher is still in the planning stages of this competition.
Hipsher's professional tips for home-cooked barbeque are to smoke the meat for only two or three hours, because, he said, if you cook it longer the meat will take on a bitter taste. He also recommends keeping the meat moist with apple juice.
As for his sauce secrets, Hipsher would only share that his barbeque sauce that is for sale at grocery stores. If he revealed anything else, he said, "they wouldn't be secrets anymore."