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Saturday, Nov 18, 2017
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Man of many titles savors barbecue skills

NEW PORT RICHEY - Ask Gary Joiner what's cooking, and he probably will tell you he has meat roasting in his homemade smoker grills for hundreds upon hundreds of guests. Joiner figures he cooks about 10 tons of meat a year. A resident of New Port Richey for 53 years, Joiner is a man for all seasons who has come to know legions of people over half a century. Describing him as a colorful character would not do him justice. Joiner gained fame as the "dancing umpire" behind home plate in the 2003 Little League World Series in Williamsburg, Pa. He pantomimed to the song "Jailhouse Rock," he recalls.
He's been an umpire for 30 years. He operated a hardware store for many years, starting in 1962 in the Main Street location that Jilly's Lounge now occupies. His second career spanned 1977 to 2004 as an inspector for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He recalled dealing with many hazardous chemicals. "If you even breathe them wrong, you could be history." An avid hunter and fisherman, he proudly displays trophies that include the mounted heads of a deer and wild boar. He is missing the tip of a finger, bitten off by one boar he bagged. Last year, he trapped 81 wild hogs. Many people might know Joiner as the Pasco County Mosquito Control District's commissioner for the past eight years. But Joiner's main claim to fame may be his volunteer work barbecuing meat in wood-fired smokers for very large crowds. Joiner prepared a feast for a "small" gathering of about 100 supporters to celebrate his re-election to the mosquito control job in November. He will swing into action Saturday, cooking for the Clay Shoot Fundraiser in Land O' Lakes. West Pasco Chamber of Commerce governor candidate Tina Shelton is sponsoring the event in part to benefit the PACE Center for Girls. On March 2, Joiner will be cooking for about 800 people at the 2013 New Port Richey Rotary Wild Game Dinner. Fans of the Cotee River Bike Fest also have savored his smoke-flavored chicken, ribs and pork. At one Charlie Daniels benefit concert in years past, Joiner helped feed a crowd of about 3,000. Joiner has perfected his cooking techniques in the past 35 years or more. Joiner designed and built his smoker grills in the backyard of his home in New Port Richey. The biggest one can handle 800 pounds of meat at a time. One smoker is 30 years old; another is 20 years old. "They get used sometimes two to three times a week," he said. Nothing seals in flavor better than slow cooking, Joiner said. "No secret — the proof is in the wood that you use," Joiner said. "Everything is based on flavor from the wood," he said. "The only seasoning on there is salt and pepper. Nothing else." "You cook them slow," Joiner said. "It keeps the juices in it and the moisture in it." "I don't like cooking anything fast, because if you cook it fast, you dry it out," he said.

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