Finding a Community During Lockdown

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While the lockdown was difficult for many, for Reyan Fernando and Mark Kuch it also provided an opportunity, as Ash Bolt finds out.

Geelong friends Reyan Fernando and Mark Kuch have found an online community of people who have shared their love of barbecuing during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The couple ran the Rib Appreciation Society with friends, where they reviewed barbecued ribs at area restaurants. But when the lockdown closed restaurants, Reyan and Mark started cooking their own barbecue and found a community online.

“Lockdown hit and we had just accidentally started barbecuing at home and came across this amazing online barbecue community,” Reyan said.

“I noticed a whole bunch of people logging on online and talking about barbecuing and I was dying to have another hobby because I wasn’t doing anything at home.

“I said to Mark, ‘let’s go and start talking about barbecue’.”

The duo launched their own online Instagram show, the BBQ and Brews Show, to share their passion for low ‘n’ slow barbecue.

“The first two episodes we did, we just had a conversation [between ourselves] and we thought that wouldn’t work, so we started inviting other people from the barbecue community to come with us,” Reyan said.

“Initially it started with a few guys from Sydney coming in for a chat – and it was a great conversation, everyone was having fun and sharing their knowledge.

“From there, we just kept going. We’ve had about 50 guests now.

Mark said the show is about bringing other members of the barbecue community together to share their unique experiences and expertise.

“It was about getting people to share their experiences and talk about how they got to where they got to,” he said.

“We were home cooks with no experience, but the community is so welcoming and we were getting tips from people all over the country.

“We wanted to share this, so we spoke to people from all walks of life – we spoke to people who do rubs, we spoke to the farmers themselves, we spoke to the cooking community and people who do competitions.

“And they all had something interesting to share.”

Mark said the show has also allowed the duo to shine a light on the great barbecues of the Geelong coast and surf, as well as across the country.

“There are so many great local barbecue businesses, whether it’s doing rubs or steakhouses, and being able to help promote them was great,” he said.

The show took off during the lockdown and more and more high-profile guests from the barbecue community got involved.

“We were doing it live on Saturday nights and we had the perfect captured audience because people couldn’t come out,” Reyan said.

“People were looking for something to do and a social connection and that’s where it all started.”

Mark added that the couple had made many connections with people they had never met and made new friends along the way.

“All those people we’ve met along the way and the people we had on the show, now that we’ve been out [of lockdown] we were able to organize catch-ups in real situations,” he said.

“We had two meetings in Melbourne where we invited all these people and it’s crazy to meet all these people you’ve been talking to online for 12 months.

“It was very cool.”

The show’s success also invited them to take part in Meatstock, Australia’s largest barbecue and music festival.

“We had high profile guests, like Jay Beaumont, who is part of the group that started the Australasian Barbecue Alliance and this interview introduced us to Meatstock,” Reyan said.

At Meatstock in Melbourne last month and Toowoomba earlier this month, Reyan and Mark hosted a live on-stage Q&A session with some of the biggest names in barbecue, called Meet the Pitmasters, which they will repeat when Meatstock visits Sydney next week. .

Reyan said talking to stars from the barbecue community such as Tuffy Stone, Christina Fitzgerald, Mike Johnson, Laura Rome and My Kitchen Rules winners Dan and Stef was a dream come true.

“Tuffy Stone is a six-time World Champion and Hall of Famer in America,” he said.

“American BBQ is on another level – we’re catching up but we’re not at that level.

“So for us, just two guys from Geelong, to rub shoulders with this BBQ royalty, both Australian BBQ and American BBQ, is next level. It was so cool.

While they were adjusting to the lockdown, the pair are now adjusting to the end of the lockdown after discovering their Instagram show was no longer working for their audience.

Reyan and Mark said they are now trying to make the show a cross-platform experience that will allow them to introduce their guests in new ways.

“We want to bring a bit more international stuff and attract more international guests,” Reyan said.

“And it would be great to do a little more live stuff. I would love to attend a few more events – at Meatstock we have recorded around 25 in-person interviews and the aim is to do another 10 or 15 in Sydney.

“We are posting these interviews on Youtube right now and we are looking at July, once Meatstock is out of the way, to restart the live shows in a new format.”

But Mark said the important thing was to make sure it provided a place for barbecue lovers to meet and chat.

“[The show] was a release for me and for others – it was a way for us to talk to other people and feel that connection when we were locked inside,” he said.

“It’s been a really exciting time and I never thought it would get to where we are now when we did that first show, but I really enjoyed it.”

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