I should learn to keep my mouth shut before I become somewhat of a pariah in the Instagram barbecue community, a community that I dearly love due to the amazing amount of people I have met on there during my time posting since 2017. That lesson of learning to keep my trap shut will have to happen another time, because I have another bone to pick with the outdoor cookin’ community on Instagram (here’s the first post). At this risk of sounding like an entitled brat (and I will sound that way; don’t worry — I’ll admit it because I’m aware of exactly what it is), I’m going to drone on for a few minutes. Bear with ol’ Grizz for a few minutes.
There are companies I have shown clear biases in favor of when it comes to the barbecue/outdoor cookin’ community on Instagram. Chief among them is Caribeque. When I first delved into barbecue, the first business with rubs/seasonings — outside of the Weber seasonings you can pick up at virtually every grocery store in the United States — I ever used were ones by Caribeque. First, it was Honey Heat, and then the All Purpose rub that Kurt Halls (the creator of Caribeque) dropped in July 2017, and later that year I gave the Big & Bold Beef rub a shot. They are all incredible rubs that I use regularly. I support Kurt and his vision for Caribeque, because not only are the rubs amazing (and so is the Caribeque Honey Heat Smack Sauce), Kurt is an awesome, down to earth guy who is all about throwing down delicious grub and sharing that grub-concocting work with others around the world on Instagram.
But this post has nothing to do with Kurt or Caribeque. I only mention Caribeque as a precursor to say this: I only will ever use products I truly believe in and actually use. I will never use a product in my cooking that I think sucks, because why else would I? I don’t want to eat something featuring a rub that sucks, and neither does anybody else. I only endorse what I truly believe to be high quality as confirmed by my tastebuds.
In July 2017, a new start-up small business joined the barbecue world: Reload Rub & Seasoning. I remember the very first time I ever even heard of that name; one of my favorite members of the barbecue Instagram family, @bigjohns_bbq AKA John, posted a video using the rub in a pre-release video. I can only surmise that the creators of the rub sent out the product to various folks on Instagram to test it out. “Sweet,” I thought. I was curious, so I did some digging for some background as to what the hell this new rub was about. Fully Loaded, Reload’s first seasoning, is an all purpose rub purported to be delicious on everything, especially eggs (it is). In my quick research, I noticed that the company is based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. “Wow,” I thought. “I’m from southwest Virginia, which is only a couple of hours away from Knoxville, and not only that, I was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, which is only a little over an hour and a half away from where Reload Rub & Seasoning is based out of!”
I think the company officially launched on July 7, 2017. Based on such reasons of location, the desire to support a brand new company as a method of giving a new product a shot and derived from Big John’s praise of the new rub, I woke up that morning and placed an order for a bottle of it (I still have my order confirmation from when I ordered my first bottle at 9:55 a.m. on that day). I would bet an inordinate amount of cash that I was one of the first twenty people to place an order… to place an order of a rub that I had never tried before, from a brand new company whose product could either be hit or miss!
And so the order arrived a couple of days later (hey, the luck and privilege of living close by) and I posted about it immediately. Again, keep in mind, I bought it only going by the reasons mentioned. There were no official reviews other than ones dished out by those who received free pre-release bottles.
The first thing I tried Reload Rub’s Fully Loaded on was, as you can see, kielbasa with peppers and onions! It was delicious.
A few days later, I hit up some burgers with it. Amazing. The first time I ever used my 36″ Blackstone griddle a month later, when I screwed up and forgot to properly season it first due to my extreme excitement to test out the flat top cookin’ station, I made burgers with Fully Loaded!
I was hooked. Reload Rub’s Fully Loaded is a delicious, mouthwatering blend that is dominant in sea salt, garlic, onion and paprika among other spices. I became a proud fan overnight, or immediately upon the use of it as my tastebuds were met with a dose of deliciousness in every bite with any food I used it with.
Towards the end of 2017, Reload Rub & Seasoning announced their second rub. Double Action. It is sweet and smoky. I ordered it on release day. Another hit by the small business. In May 2018, out comes their third rub: Packin’ Heat! Another release day buy by yours truly. It might be my favorite from the line given that I’m a lite chilihead and love spicy food. It is amazing on everything, especially fries! Their most recent release dropped in late 2018: High Caliber — it is a chipotle garlic rub. I bet you can’t guess that I also ordered it on its release day! It is fantastic on wings and burgers, but I’m also sure that it’s spectacular on everything.
Everything Joel and Stacy — the creators behind Reload — create under the Reload Rub & Seasoning label is money.
When they dropped the first Reload Rub apparel — the Army green t-shirt — I bought it. The hat? Well, take a look above! I bought it!
Reload Rub’s seasonings, to this day, is only second to Caribeque’s rubs/seasonings when it comes to what I’m tossing on my food. If it ain’t Caribeque, then you would have the odds in your favor if you are betting on my use of Reload.
Last summer, Reload Rub & Seasoning began advertising for their ‘Reload Squad’, basically looking to find brand ambassadors for their rub. All one needed to do was email them with an explanation as to why they should be part of the Reload Squad. I think one of the perks included with being part of the Reload Squad involves a big get-together in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is a place I’ve been to at least a hundred times in my life, given that I used to get up early in the mornings with my family, go down there for the day and come back home in one day’s time. I emailed them my application on August 30, 2018.
Hey guys, This is grizzly_troy from Instagram. My case for being partnered up with you guys goes way back to July of last year, when you released the first Reload rub: Fully Loaded. Prior to its launch, 'Big' John Anselmo, one of my favorite people from the Instagram food family, posted using your rub while using his outdoor flattop griddle. I was intrigued. I trust the people I highly respect from the 'Q-munity, so the very first day you guys launched your product (at the time a singular one), I bought it, no questions asked. This rub became love at first taste for me. If you have noticed, I usually am using only a few rubs (in rotation) most of the time when I make a post, and 99.9% of the time it comes down to Caribeque and Reload. I also snagged both Double Action and Packin' Heat on the days they were launched, because my affinity for the rubs was evident from the get-go. I knew that they, too, would be excellent, and they are. You guys know me by my username handle, but I think you also know that I am very close by you guys. I'm in Richlands, Virginia which is only a couple of hours away from Knoxville. I was actually born in Tennessee (Johnson City) and I'm frequently through those parts (a big reason is because this area here in southwest Virginia is weak in things to do, honestly). The Grizzly Troy handle is for two reasons: I'm a fairly big, hairy dude (Greek/Italian genetics?) and, well, the gray hair. In addition to my Instagram page, I have a work-in-progress site over at http://grizzlytroy.com That's what you do know, as well as the fact that your rubs have flavored the hell out of my food tenfold. I'm 27-years-old (yeah, the salt'n'pepper hair can fool people) and I'm just about to get my bachelor's degree in business administration in December from King University. I'm always on the go. I have a fair amount of personal marketing experience on the web, mainly in writing, from all the blogs I've delved into over the years. The biggest thing that I feel I bring to the table is that I am a genuine, keep-it-real kind of 'feller'. I only use products that I truly believe in. I don't spew nonsense to my followers or have I ever tried to promote or sell anything that is not an extension of my beliefs. I'm passionate about food, flavor and community. I believe in building and sustaining relationships, and I'd like to believe that I am capable of representing Reload Rub with gusto. The close proximity to where the magic is made over in Knoxville, my place here in the mountains of southwest Virginia and that same passion for food and flavor that I just described above is my strongest case for this. I am also not afraid to get in front of the camera and talk, which you can see on my page. I would like to eventually set up a YouTube channel if I can get into a groove. No, I don't have several thousands of followers, but I only hopped into the cookin' community on Instagram last summer, shortly before Reload launched. At the time, I barely had any followers and now I'm just a couple hundred away from a thousand. These are all genuine followers who I believe in connecting and engaging with. I will never, ever buy followers like so many on social media do. What reloads me? I'm an active, caffeine junkie of a man who enjoys being outdoors, often no matter the time of the year. Being a part of the Reload Squad, for me, seems about as natural of a fit as there can be, like wings and beer or even burgers and Fully Loaded.
I think it was in late September or early October when Reload announced their Reload Squad. I’m going to sound like the most entitled idiot in the world, so forgive me dearly here, but I thought that I was a shoe-in. I was one of the very first people to buy it on its launch day (without even trying), tirelessly supporting the brand with posts and purchases of each subsequent rub on its launch day, buying seasonings to pass out to friends and family, bragging about how excellent it is, conversing with Reload regularly, featuring the rubs in various videos, etc. Furthermore, the Reload brand is rooted in outdoor activities, especially hunting (hence the name ‘Reload’); I’m not a hunter but I’ve expressed explicit support for hunting, because 1.) venison and elk is delicious (to name two things), and 2.) there are too many deer roaming around here, causing vehicular accidents. If that’s not enough, I’m closer to Knoxville than the Reload Squad members that were chosen (except for maybe one or two), and southwest Virginia is a rural, agricultural haven for hunting.
Needless to say, Reload Rub & Seasoning goofed up by passing me by. I was not selected as part of the Reload Squad. Initially, I was deeply hurt by being picked over, because I felt like yours truly and Reload was (is) a match made in heaven for all the exceptionally valid reasons I’ve mentioned throughout this entire post. I expressed this discontent with a close friend who said, “They flubbed up. You will have better, more prosperous opportunities in the future.” (In trying to keep this site a bit clean, they used a different F-word other than ‘flubbed’).
I began rationalizing their ultimate lackluster choice, however, by considering one big factor: I had under a thousand followers on Instagram. Perhaps if I had a couple of thousand followers, they would have chose me. It is a no-brainer that any company on Instagram who chooses brand ambassadors wants to bring on members with a decent amount of followers due to the desire for such members to post about and bring attention to the brand, but I’ve also witnessed Instagrammers with less followers than me become brand ambassadors for other companies. I have no interest in playing some sketchy ‘game’ on Instagram. I’m in it for the long haul by accruing followers the old fashioned way; I refuse to ever pay for followers or engage in fishy tactics to increase my follower account other than by building genuine relationships and honest networking.
Still yet, I parted with all the salty feelings I felt because I felt ridiculous to feel so entitled despite what I feel to be valid reasons, foolish or not on my behalf.
Let me not forget to mention that perhaps it was a positive thing I was not chosen, because my life became exceedingly difficult in November of 2018, when my mother had a stroke. A minor stroke in a major region of her brain, something that she is still dealing with the side effects from over seven months later as she slowly, but surely, heals. This naturally coincided with me posting less and, shortly after, I spent half a year away from the ‘gram. I would have made a terrible brand ambassador during that time, to be frank, because of my absence, even though I was still using Reload in my cooking multiple times a week. I want to express deep appreciation for Kurt from Caribeque, Chuck (@c_train707), Ron (@cptnron302), Wes (@sunnysidebeachesbbq) and Jimmy (@borderbangerbbq) for reaching out to me over my time away to check in with me to see how things are doing.
This has nothing to do with wanting anything for free. I can buy my own Reload Rub products just fine, as I have. This is more-so about wanting to be part of the Reload family as I find myself to be a natural fit (hence my use of the saying, ‘a match made in heaven’ a few paragraphs back) for the business as a natural brand ambassador due to my outdoors loving background, the location to where I live in close proximity to Knoxville as well as my legitimate love for the rubs/seasonings and what the company stands for. I’m as natural of a fit to that family as salt & pepper is to a smoked beef brisket.
Anyhow, when I saw the final Reload Squad roster that was announced, I had an audible laugh that escaped out loud.
You see, again, Reload is rich with patriotic pride and outdoor hobbies (once again — hunting included) in its brand. When I saw the roster, most of the members chosen to be their brand ambassadors fit that mold, which is excellent — something I have no qualms with — and the same choices I would have made if I were Joel and Stacy, because if you look at their Squad roster, you will see it littered with hunters and/or outdoorsmen/outdoorswomen. Perfect choices.
However, my chief complaint lies in the fact that one of their members is… is… is from New Jersey. Who, wait, what, huh? Exsqueeze me? I took a look at this person’s Instagram; there’s no mention of Reload Rub in their Instagram bio, and I took three minutes to quickly peruse their last 60 (!!!) posts and saw that Reload is only mentioned three times. Obviously it would be shortsighted to only ever use one rub in each dish (one of my favorite combinations when making smashburgers on my Blackstone griddle is to use Caribeque Big & Bold on the burgers and Reload Rub Fully Loaded on the caramelized onions and mushrooms), but this is a supposed brand ambassador — a city slicker who seemingly is bereft of outdoor hobby-related activities — who hardly ever posts about the brand.
But I get it. I’m no dummy. I understand how things operate. This person has ever 17 times the followers I do, so obviously they were chosen due to being a big name in the community, but my annoyance over this selection is rooted in the fact that everything about them, asides from being involved in culinary ventures, is the antithesis of everything the Reload brand allegedly stands for. It is like Jess Pryles from Hardcore Carnivore asking a vegan to be a brand ambassador. I’ve struggled to make sense of this selection other than summing it up by the company wanting to use a random popular big name to pump out the fine name of Reload Rub & Seasoning. Despite that New Jersey native’s massive following, I would bet every penny from my checking account that I have influenced and sold more people on Reload’s products than them by virtue of my own genuine passion and excitement for the brand’s culinary friendly goodness.
I’m not attacking that person’s character by any means; I’m only stating the glaringly obvious from my perspective, biased or not. That person has a wonderful page with photos of delicious food and homemade recipes featuring products that are easily accessible rather than obscure items. They are a fantastic asset to the Instagram cooking community as a whole because of their contributions. However, from what I can tell, they have nothing in common with anything the Reload Rub & Seasoning brand stands for other than a desire to cook (which everybody in the community inherently has), and their fit in the family is very much like a beef brisket in a crockpot. I also have a sneaking suspicion that they did not even send an application to be a part of the Reload Squad but rather Reload contacted them due to their big following, but I definitely could be wrong and I’m willing to admit it as soon as I find out if that is the case, if I ever do.
Signing up a city slicker as part of a rural, outdoors-heavy brand is like me — little ol’ small town, rural southwest Virginia livin’ Troy — being a brand ambassador for a BBQ company from New York City whose brand’s personality is rooted in living up in the expensive streets of NYC. Fits like a round peg in a square hole.
Yes, I’m being unabashedly judgmental, but I find every bit of this to be valid. I find that ‘Squad’ member choice to be disingenuous.
I learned the majority of what I know about business from my late father. He owned a business selling coal mining parts in Oakwood, Virginia. He believed in genuine honesty and creating long-lasting relationships with customers. He conducted a great deal of his business at mining sites in Kentucky who ordered a horde of parts from him; he would often thank them by buying them bourbon and tickets to Kentucky Wildcats college basketball games. He believed in expressing unfettered appreciation via such means. Maybe I’m old fashioned and look at the bigger picture of things rather than quick solutions or short-term goals that are temporary and tantamount to a fart in the wind in the end.
Keep in mind that I’m writing this post while wearing Reload’s latest t-shirt, comically enough. I love the company and have an overwhelming love for both Joel & Stacy for being good-hearted people who created my second favorite line of rubs/seasonings in the world with Reload, but it’s just another bone I have to pick with the community at large. I still use their products weekly due to my extreme enjoyment of them.
I considered scrapping this post altogether, but this has been stewing in the back of my mind for nine months. If you think I’m over my head and these qualms are ridiculous, feel free to let me know, because I know how outrageously entitled I sound. I’m fully aware of that, but I still feel that way, anyhow. I’d rather be transparent as myself.
In relation to my last post in regards to having a bone to pick with the Instagram barbecue community, I understand that everyone is trying to make a name for themselves in the game. Businesses want to expand, make more money and grow their brand as much as humanly possible.
Give me authenticity all day, every day. There’s so much crap that goes on in the outdoor cooking community on Instagram that turns me sour. I want to once again emphasize that I’m not spiteful. Aggrieved? Absolutely. Jaded? You bet. Envious? Damn straight. Overly entitled? Too much so. Confused? Oh, you know it — over 4500 words of confusion in the word vomit blurted into this post.
I love Reload Rub & Seasoning. Go buy some, because their rubs are amazing and among the best the world has to offer.
Potential retorts to what I’ve written above:
“Jeez, Troy, you shouldn’t just expect a brand to make you an ambassador just because you post about them a lot on social media; besides, your follower count doesn’t lend itself towards being a marketing powerhouse or anything.”
Those are fair points. However, I have an argument against the first part of that, in regards to the ‘not expecting a brand to make you an ambassador because you post about them often on social media.’ I didn’t make my case to be a brand ambassador just because I post about products a lot. I love Kurt and his Caribeque brand, but I don’t expect him to ever reach out to me and ask to be a brand ambassador, because he is in Tampa, Florida; I’m in southwest Virginia. His seasoning/rub company is called, “Caribeque” and is entrenched in the ideas of promoting ‘authentic flavors from the Caribbean islands’ (from the About page on the Caribeque website). Yeah… Caribeque is number one in my heart as far as the best rubs in the world go, but I’m Grizzly Troy, a rugged a hairy son of a gun from the country in southwest Virginia; while I would emphatically say, “YES!” if Kurt came to me and asked if I were interested in becoming a brand ambassador for Caribeque (because I genuinely believe his rubs are top notch and the best I’ve ever used, hence why I talk about them so often in addition to using them almost every day of the week in my culinary journeys, not to mention my strong belief in Caribeque and its values), I would never think one way or another if he never did, because there is nothing even remotely ‘Caribbean’ about myself other than my love for food, Caribbean dishes included.
Reload, on the other hand, was founded on the ideals of the outdoors, rural retreats, living out in the country and being in the sunshine among friends family while engaging in delicious food via its seasonings/rubs in the act of cookin’ while enjoying the nature-packed activities of the world. Reload is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. East Tennessee. I’m in southwest Virginia. We are neighbors. I genuinely love their products and believe in their vision as a company. I believe I have made a solid case as to why they missed the mark by passing over me.
As for my follower count, I appreciate everyone who follows me. While I am interested in growing the Grizzly BBQ brand, I prefer building authentic, long-lasting relationships and connections with those who follow me and who I follow in return versus having a super high follower count that I would have a hollow bond with. All I’m saying is that it would have been a perfect match for Reload to bring me onto the squad, and I don’t think I’m wrong by saying such a thing given all the aforementioned reasons.
“This post reeks of entitlement. You are better than that, Troy.”
This is also a fair point, and I’m typically the last person to express entitlement in any way, because I know how you have to earn everything you chase after in life, but I’ve blatantly stated over and over and over again in this post that it would reek of entitlement, so if you have chosen to read this far, to go that deep into my inane rambling, not only do I appreciate it, but I can’t help but emit the words, “Well, you knew what you were getting into.”
I’ve gone back and forth in my head as to whether or not I should post this.
“If you post this, be sure to know whether or not you are OK with burning bridges.”
What? I told one of my close friends about this post the other day, about how I was thinking of posting it, and that’s what they told me. I’m not burning any bridges. The Reload Squad was chosen almost a year ago and I’ve still been using Reload’s rubs virtually nonstop since that time.
Joel and Stacy, I love you guys. I’m not interested in burning any bridges whatsoever. Your rubs are incredible and I’ll continue to support the both of you and your awesome company, regardless of my transparency in these harshly expressed thoughts. I just wish I were part of the Reload Squad. It would have (it would still) mean a lot to me to be a proud, official member of the Reload brand, but regardless, I will still tirelessly support Reload Rub & Seasoning because it is something I avidly use to flavor up my grub.
“What about the person you called a city slicker?! You attacked their character!”
The person who mentioned the ‘burning bridges’ thing said this. Hey, I don’t mean ‘city slicker’ to be an insult whatsoever, even if it reads like it has undertones to it. That person is an amazing human being who is kind enough to share homemade recipes from their own personal concoctions, and that is phenomenal. However, much like I stated above about how I, a rugged ol’ hairy dude living out in rural southwest Virginia, am tantamount to ‘Caribbean food’ in nature by the same way the carnivore diet has vegan elements to it, somebody who is living out in a metropolitan area, or in the suburbs, of New Jersey is as related to Reload as Michael Jordan was to baseball. Needless to say, Reload and I could be Jordan and the Bulls. Yeah, I said it. The #23 Michael Jordan, too; not the #45.
“Why say anything? Why not just move on and stay quiet?”
I’ve done so for the last nine months. I can’t stand when things are left unsaid.