The phrase Hands Down has long been associated to describe the Best of the Best. I have heard others mention my name when it comes to some of my cooking. Though I have several awards, accolades, and praises, those are not words I use to describe myself. Hands Down does mean something to me but in a far different sense. In the quest to rebrand from Spice Your Life Rub Your Meat into a more updated and sophisticated name, Hands Down was actually leading the pack of names and attitude that would elevate the business into Bigger, Bolder, and Better.
A friend told me that Hands Down was originally tied to horse racing. When the jockeys got far enough ahead of the pack, they would put their hands down knowing they had the race won, that things were taken care, had it handled. Don't misunderstand, certainly in competition I never thought I had things handled. Sometimes it's just the opposite. Sometimes you feel like things are spiraling out of control.
I almost died twice in my life. The first was at birth. My wonderful Mother (RIP) was in labor almost 24 hours. I was sideways. In the 60s, C-sections were not very common, so they waited, Mom fought for us both. She almost died too. She never gave up and I eventually popped out. The second time I was in the house with what I was told was pneumonia. I started to turn blue and was rushed to emergency surgery.
They had to suck out the poison, remove the appendix, and stitch me back up. Mom never gave up on me then either.
Like so many others, there has been tragedy in my life. Like so many others, I wanted to give up. I wanted to throw those hands up and quit. Why was this happening to me? Did I deserve this? After my paternal Dad died when I was 5, After 2 failed marriages, after my first son died at only 13 months, and after every failure in life, I certainly had feelings of just being done.
In food competitions, the first BBQ competition was a bust. What was I thinking. I had several people tell me I would never be good enough. The first time I headed to the World Food Championships, I was told that no way I could compete with all those fantastic cooks. That first year was tough, I almost agreed that maybe I wasn't good enough. It would have been so easy to throw those hands up in surrender. Ever watch the cooking shows on TV? When the contestants are finished they throw their hands up. Are they admitting defeat, surrender?
HANDS DOWN! Yes my hands are down. I refuse to throw those hands up. I refuse to surrender, to quit. I will keep pushing, fighting, winning, being the best, I can be. I may stumble and fall, but those hands will be down beside me, helping push myself up. Yes, I may need a hand from time to time, but quitting is not an option. Even when things go in a direction not planned, I still win. I win because I learn, I become better, I become stronger.
Every one of those tragedies I went through, every failure, every broken heart, something great came out of them. My hands never went up. I gained a Father through my Stepdad, but I have always called him Dad because well, he is. I have 2 other beautiful kids and the failed marriages have given me time to find me. I have awards in BBQ and other foods. I have competed in the World Food Championships 6 times and qualified for a 7th. In 2022 ranked 6th in the World of Bacon. Won the Omaha Beer and Bacon Festival twice, Culinary Fight Club Tasters Choice twice, and a Treager Influencer for 2 1/2 years, the list goes on. The doubters I never hear from anymore and they never mattered anyway.
My Mother never gave up on me. She taught me to keep fighting. When I wanted to give up, she wouldn't let me. She stood beside me and always encouraged me. She loved my cooking. She should have, she was my first instructor. She taught more than cooking. she taught me compassion, love, and to never put my hands up. Hands down, my Mom was the best Mother ever. Even up to her passing, she refused to surrender. She never through her Hands up.
The new name? Chef Michael Hogan! It's real, it fits, t's me, and it brings the past into the future. It's all come full circle. Why you ask? Because of........