Day 4 – 25 Days of Christmas Blogging

One of my favorite contests from 2009 and was the Roc City Rib Fest.
It was a first year contest that was incredibly well organized by Good Smoke BBQ. You can really tell the difference when cooks organize a contest. I know we will be making the trek again this year. Heres the writeup about the event when I got back.

Here is the press release:

Get ready Rochester! Roc City Rib Fest is back and going to be bigger than ever!
We are very happy to welcome back our title sponsor Alex’s Place! Great to have you back on board!
We must be crazy because we are more than doubling the prize money this year and adding a grilling competition! NOW $15,000 in PRIZE money! (see competitor section for details)
Also introducing our first every Vendor’s People’s Choice Competition on Monday May 31st!
Want to learn more about Professional Competition BBQ? Then you have to tune in to the new reality series BBQ Pitmasters On TLC Thursday nights at 10pm. Watch some of the best cooks in the country battle it out!

Give The Gift of Competition!

See the website for details…

They even have a commercial running on youtube:


Day 3 – 25 BBQ Blogposts for Christmas Part 1 – Harry Soo

Todays the day. TLC BBQ Pitmasters airs tonight for the very first time at 10pm EST. I’ll be watching and I really hope everyone else does too. Today is the day where hopefully the rest of the world finally “gets” what Competitive BBQ’ers actually do at a contest. I think I can say that most of us are hoping that its an accurate picture of the challenges, the frustration, the glory, and the community and the BBQ family as a whole. I often get asked why I travel thousands of miles to BBQ in muddy fields, lugging equipment everywhere, spending thousands of dollars, loading and unloading, flying in wherever and whenever I can. My extended family of MIL, FIL, SIL, BIL and my own Dad & brother get my obsession. My friends for the most part just nod their heads and ask when I’ll be back. They don’t quite get it yet. I think I amuse them. Well that and they always like the leftovers.

I have been talking to some of my BBQ family in the past few days about the show. We are all excited for this. Excited to see some of our friends on TV. Happy that they will be getting some recognition. Hopeful for other great BBQ people (and there are so many great BBQ people out there this show in my opinion could run longer than the Simpsons with all the stories) to be featured in future episodes.

I hope this program does it justice. I have a lot of confidence in the executive producer John Markus and his team. I really have my own personal high hopes for this show.

Harry Soo- Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ

I have never met Harry Soo in person. He is the only pitmaster besides Paul Petersen that I have not met. I was interested in his team when I read about his amazing accomplishment of 4 – 1st place awards at one comp. That was front page news on the KCBS Bullsheet. Whats really cool is that they do it all on a couple of WSM’s and a stoker. That in my books shows a heck of a lot of talent- I really respect him for that. It really does go to show you that it doesn’t have to be a $15,000 pit to win awards. He even has a name for it Mary Poppins with a minivan LOL. They load up their WSM’s and everything else and away they go. No fancy RV’s no creature comforts.

Harry came to the USA in the 80’s. He says that BBQ is truly an American cuisine of lo and slo. It is a comfort food. It joins people on a common passion, bbq is a taste of the heavens to him. he says his passion lay dormant for 20 years and that it is now beyond his wildest dreams doing the TLC Pitmasters show.

Harry called me on the way from California to an IT convention in Las Vegas. That’s what he does during the week. He’s an IT guy. He has a full time job during the week and explores his passion for BBQ the rest of the weekends when he can.

Harry has a great story about how he got into BBQ. It all started with a personal bucket list. As in the list of things you want to accomplish before you die. His story can be read on his website here. His team (with his best friend of 43 years Mark Tung) competes in 8-10 competitions a year. He also thinks very highly of Gary Notley former ROY rival now turned best BBQ brother and roadie who drove his van 10,000 miles. He also has some sponsors:
John Jackson from Rocks BBQ Systems home of the Stoker, Roberto Lopez from T&H Meats and Sausage San Marcos, CA, and Steph from for their rubs. ( I have to say I am a BIG fan of the slabs products myself and one of these days I am going to have to get stoker to play with my WSM’s)
Talking to Harry is really easy. His passion and love for BBQ come through loud and clear.

Here is an introduction to Harry from the TLC Video clips:

Q-How did you become involved with the show?

H- Well its a funny story I was at a competition and I was working on my ribs. I got a call on my cell phone and there was this guy talking about it. I wasn’t really paying attention. It was crunch time. I was focused on my ribs. I asked him if I could call him back. About 7 hours later as we were driving home I asked my teammate Mark if I had been hallucinating. Sure enough though there was a New York number on my cell. I called back and spoke with John Markus and 3 days later signed the contract.

Q- How did you feel when you found out that Carolyn Wells had recommended you?

H- I was blown away. I met her in 2008 at Stagecoach. We had one heart to heart conversation. I think the love for our sport of BBQ showed through. It goes to show how one single conversation can change your lives.

Q- What were some of the challenges of the show.

H- For us it was logistics and weather. Logistics since we are in California. One guy would drive out with all the equipment and one would fly. It was a challenge for sure to get everything we needed. We have our own laundry list of 97 items. It shows many times how we adapt to every situation. You see us going to Home Depot in one episode. We had to. You see us getting local meat in Kansas that we didn’t like. You can see us losing our rhythm. It was all a challenge.
As for the weather well when we were in Mesquite there was beautiful warm weather during the day then it got really cold then it hailed and rained. You can see how much destruction there was. We didn’t have an RV to get out of it. Just a 10×10 tent getting soaked. Anytime the weather is bad you have to take drastic measures. Improvisation for us is key.

Q- What was it like having cameras following you everywhere.

H- I was apprehensive at first. The little red light on the camera would come on telling you there is recording happening and I could not even remember my name. I am not sure why that would happen. There was a boom 30 ft in the air over us at times taking different angles. The production team was there and they got first dibs. They are following a particular storyline and you get preoccupied. I was used to just focusing on the meat. Having the cameras around makes you learn to talk and also to pay attention to the meat and be aware of the cameras.

Q- How would you like to be viewed on the show?

H- We strive to be ourselves. We are not in it for the money or the glory. We are in it for the experience. We are having one hell of a time doing it. For us this show has been like Tiger Woods asking us to play with him. It has been a fantastic experience. There are also very few Asian teams out there on the BBQ circuit. I want people to see that we are constantly working for the judges. If standing on my head would help me get the perfect bite that I constantly pursue-I would do it.

Q- What did you like most about the show?

H- The people. IT was such a positive experience for me. The production crew and all of the rotations were terrific. They had it much harder than us often not sleeping or eating. They also learned about the camaraderie of BBQ as a whole. There are instances on the show where teams help each other out with equipment and even meat. They did not understand it at first. They do now. At the end of it all I got to make them a meal of a lifetime: Grilled lamb, porcini risotto, and many more dishes.

I also think that John Markus and Brian Catalina (co-executive producer) know what they are doing so well. They have captured the spirit of BBQ. This was my first TV experience and it was great. John was the buffer between the TV executives and us. He took care of our interests. As for the other pitmasters we became a family. At the end of the day they were a great bunch of people. I am learning from the BBQ greats. Competition BBQ has a wealth of interesting people.

Q- What was your worst BBQ disaster?

H- It happened at the Royal this past year. You will have to tune in to find out.

Q- Whats the key to your BBQ

H- For us its all about mastering the flavor profile. Its trial and error for us. it took us one year to develop that in California. Their preferences run bold and spicy. That doesn’t work in the East. BBQ is like fashion. Sometimes things are in like grill marks on chicken and then they are out. We are like the little engine that could. We cook with love and from the heart always. We also cook with intention not expectations.

Q- How long do you think you will learn about BBQ

H- It will be my lifelong journey. On any given day the meat can be different. Its always a challenge.

Thanks so much to Harry for sharing his love of BBQ. It was a true pleasure to talk with you. Ill be looking forward to meeting along the BBQ trail.


Well things have been mighty busy around here so once again I will apologize for not updating the blog sooner.

We left last week to travel down to Lousia Virginia. It was an interesting trip to say the least.

The trip started out well as we had our two daughters with us Ella (5) and Lexi (11). They were a great addition to the Diva Q team of Vlad and I. On the way we stopped at the falls. Our youngest daughter had never seen them. Wow was she excited. that was worth the trip alone the look on her face was priceless. She was so excited to be going on a BIG trip.

We decided to fulfill one of our daughters requests. She loves Ace of Cakes and it wasn’t much of a detour to Baltimore Maryland. We started out driving Wednesday night and drove through the night. Just for the record Vlad drove through the mountains at night and wow am I ever glad he did. IT is pretty scary when there is construction all around and concrete barriers down to one lane with an 18 wheeler on your bumper. I was relaly happy to let him drive and he did a great job.


We got to ace of cakes at 6am. Took a few pictures and decided to go for breakfast at the bue moon cafe. It was featured in Diners Drive Ins and Dives. Baltimore is a GORGEOUS city. Just beautiful. Very clean with terrific murals and architecture.


But there is a problem with Baltimore. One way streets. Lots of them. Very limited downtown parking when you are hauling a trailer. Ugh. To top it off there are these HUGE metal plates in the pavement. As luck would have it as we went around one corner one of those LOVELY *ACK* steel plates had come up on the corner and drove a really great 3 inch gash in one of our tires. Terrific. So now we have a problem to fix. We called CAA and they had one of the AAA guys come over and replace it with the spare we always carry. IT only put us back about 2 hours and no breakfast.


Off we went again. This time we decided to go to Q. As in Q Barbecue. That was our destination of choice. I have wanted to go since last year and this was our best opporunity. The inside and outside are well done. There is a consistent marketing of the logo throughout and Tuffy’s awards are impressive for cool smoke. We tried about 80% of the menu. It was terrific and I would recommend the restaurant to anyone for sure. I will say my favorite was the chicken. It was the best retaurant BBQ chicken I have ever had.


We made one last stop to Wally world to pick up things. The bill came to $201.17. We have a US Visa in addition to a regular Canadian Visa. It was an inconvenience when our US Visa was denied at the cash. Visa would not let the transaction go through and we could not figure out why. It has no balance we pay it off. Well about 1/2 hour later and a very expensive cell phone call I found out why. Apparently Visa has security alerts in place that if you shop in 4 states in less than 24 hours they don’t allow it to go through. Visa apologized to us profusely and will be paying for the call and additionally the charges we will get for the conversion rates. Just another little kink in the day.

We got to our site at about 8pm and dropped off the trailer. We were all dead tired and feeling grimy from being in the truck so long. We really needed to get to the hotel and clean up plus take the kids to the pool. The hotel was nice and very new. We all had a great time in the pool and it made for a relaxing night for them. For me personally I spent two hours trimming chicken. It was so hot and humid that I decided to trim it in the comfort of the hotel. I really should apologize to their cleaning staff at the hotel. That was one really gross garbage can when I was done.

Now let me tell you all if you ever have the chance to do this comp do it. Don’t even hesitate. The site Is AWESOME. The campground is so well suited to a BBQ competition. It is out in the middle of no where land but that jus tmakes it moreendearing and special. There are showers available with all the hot water you would ever need. So clean they were impressive. Electricity and water were never an issue as each site has their own. The pool makes for great quick dips and the people well there are just not enough words for me to describe how wonderful I truly think they are. Bill Small his family and the staff were terrific. Very very well organized. Our site was terrific and it even featured a firepit.

We got our stuff set up and had a great time meeting with out neighbours Big Ugly’s BBQ and Dizzy Pig. Both of these teams are terrific and we were blessed to have them as neighbours for sure.

In and amongst this great time setting up was something I don’t ever want to repeat in my lifetime. EVER. We have a half fridge in the trailer for milk etc and small stuff. Well apparently we left something in the freezer from the two weeks prior. I could nto tell you what it had been but I can tell you I spent two hours scrubbing every surface with bleach. Vile doesn’t even begin to describe the smell. Putrid maybe. SO much so that when Tommy Houston a good bbq friend and his son Hunter stopped by they went and got us another HUGE fan to air it out. We poured coffee grinds all over the floor and even lit candles. Ugh. This sucked over 2 hours out of my day and I was really behind at this point.

Cooks meeting was at 5pm in the tent. It was a bit of a tick off. No actually it was a real tick off that the personal views of one of the Reps were broadcast to the cooks meeting. That was not appropriate and I didn’t agree that was the right place to do it. I do support the candidate he discussed but still that wasn’t fair to anyone else who would potentially be running. Cripes there are enough politics going on and posturing ont he other forums. I wish they would leave the cooks meeting alone at least. Ok moving on…..

We still had the butts briskets ribs Anything butt and dessert still to prep. While everyone was at the potluck etc I was still trying to get things done. When it came down to the Anything Butt category I was down to the second. We seated the judges and I was still plating. I was really happy with both of our entries for Anything Butt and Dessert but doing them on a friday night is a real challenge. I started trimming brisket at 9pm. Yes just starting. Ugh. I would like to mention that Big Ugly BBQ saved my a$$ by lending me their hand mixer as I had forgotten ours. Thank you all!!!

We got to try the Anything Butt entry from Can’t stop grilling. WOW. It rocked it was incredible. It was flavorful and they were gorgeous. I won’t tellyou what they made that would nto be fair but wow. I did not think we had a chance. Theirs was beyond impressive.

The night went fine enough but the hill that seperated us from a bunch of teams we really admire ( Cool Smoke , Checkered Pig Can’t stop grilling) did put a damper on visiting. Since I was so behind there just wasn’t time.

For the first time ever every single one of my butts came off at the same time in the morning. That was weird. They all hit the temp I like within seconds of each other. Brisket came off no problem as well. Actually the whole cook went really smoothly. Got to try a whole lot of Big Uglys food and it was AWESOME. Especially the chicken. Wow. We got our boxes in on time and then it was just about cleanup.

After a few refreshing beverages off we went to the awards with our girls. That was wonderful to have them with us.

We got to sit with one of our favorite groups of people Can’t stop Grilling. Now Tim and his team have been kicking my butt this year royally. We have an ongoing friendly rivalry at every comp. He sure had some Zingers for me at this one. LOL

To hear them get called and us as well was terrific. To see our friends take their walks was great. Seeing Dizzy Pig and VA Pirates win their GC and RGC was cool. It was however a diappointment that we did not have our 180 acknowledged at the time. It was not until much later that we realized we had received the 180 for the Anything Butt. That was a big deal to us. I still think getting a 180 is a big deal for any team. It does not happen every day.



After looking at the scores while we were happy to come in fourth I will say I was relaly disappointed with our chicken and brisket scores. I thought we had nailed it for sure. Unfortunately the judges just did not agree with us lOL>

So I am off tomorrow flying into Saskatoon to do some promo work for Traeger Canada and also to compete in the first ever Smoke on the Water Saskatoon Competition. There are a lot of incredible BBQ’ers out that way so we will see how we do.

All the pictures from Louisa VA can be found here.