Posts Tagged ‘John Markus’
There is going to be a Season 2 of BBQ Pitmasters!!!
Confirmed with John Markus today : Our new format features FOUR different pitmasters competing in EACH episode. We are looking to augment our cast from last season and welcome all interested cooks to throw their aprons in the ring!!! Great news for all those guys and gals who want to be on the show. Here is how you can apply! Good luck to all those who send in their DVD’s!
For Season 2 BBQ Pitmaster Auditions: tapes/DVDs, under 5 min! Sell us on you/your team! Lindsay Freed c/o Original Media, 38 E. 29th St. 8th FL. NY, NY 10016. Get Goin’!
Or, send a file of your audition to firstname.lastname@example.org Shoot schedule runs from April 30 – June 26. Send ?’s there as well.
Ray (Dr. BBQ) was one of the first successful American Competition BBQ’ers I ever met. It was 2006 and he was the head judge for the Canadian Open. His BBQ class held in Detroit was the very first one I took. He is an extremely candid person. He never minces words. He has no regrets about calling people out on things that are not right in his book. In the years since he has done a heck of a lot. He has 5 cookbooks published, taught multiples of classes, and has been on countless TV programs and is easily recognizable to anyone in competitive BBQ.
Who is Dr. BBQ?
Ray Lampe grew up in Chicago and after high school spent 25 years in the family trucking business. In 2000 the trucking business had run its course, and it was time for Ray to do something different. He had been participating in BBQ cook-offs as a hobby since 1982, so he decided to take a leap and try to turn his hobby into a career. In 2000 Ray moved to Lakeland, Florida and began his career as a BBQ man.
I caught up with Ray while he was prepping his gear for this weekends first KCBS competition of the year in Lakeland FLA. I haven’t had much time to catch up with Ray over the last few years. I have been busy and so has he. It certainly hit home that we need to talk a bit more often as the conversation we had ended up being about 2 and a half hours. It wasn’t so much of an interview as it was just catching up with a friend.
D- So tell me about your new site Firecooker.com
RL-Well I am the resident Pitmaster of Firecooker.com. I want it to be a comfortable backyard community of grillers and BBQ’ers. I wanted a place to showcase BBQ videos, awesome recipes and a great forum. I think its lots of fun and really informative for anyone out there whether they be a competitive BBQ’er looking for tips or a backyard guy or family that wants to see some great tips. It really is for everyone. Just go on and check it out then upload a video. Its really user friendly.
From the website:
FireCooker is a free service for BBQ and grilling fans. You can use FireCooker to rate and review BBQ and upload your own recipes and videos. You can also keep track of BBQ you’d like to try and buy as well as subscribe to what your buddies have reviewed. The site was built by BBQ fans for BBQ fans. Whether you’re grilling or slow-cooking in the backyard, we want FireCooker to be the place where you can learn new grill skills, talk to other backyard chefs and rate their recipes and videos
D- How long have you been a member of KCBS?
RL- I have been a member of KCBS since 1991. I have seen a lot . I know where the bodies are buried. (he chuckles) I was there for a lot of it.
D- You have put out 4 books over the last few years when is the next book coming out?
RL- The next book to come out will be one I did for Williams Sonoma. Ribs Chops Steaks & Wings It will be available in April and is available for pre-order. So now I have done 5 books in 5 years. I am already working on number 6.
D- Recently you made an announcement that you are no longer the Executive Chef for Southern Hospitality. Was the split amicable?
RL- Absolutely it was amicable. Originally the plan was to open additional locations of Southern Hospitality. Unfortunately due to the economy this just didn’t end up occurring. As such I want to be able to leave my options open. I know that’s probably selfish but I was not a partner. I would like nothing more than to hear that they are expanding the business in the future. They are great guys. Good people to work with. I would certainly like to work with them again in the future. I wish them only the very best.
D- Would you have liked to be on TLC BBQ Pitmasters?
RL- John Markus is a good friend of mine. We were in negotiations for me to do the show. Unfortunately at the time I was already doing Tailgate Warriors. John had such a tight schedule that I just could not be there for them. We just couldn’t work it out. Its just business. It hurts me not to be on that show. I would have loved to be there with my good friends. I know Myron, Leeann, Tuffy, and Jamie. Myron is a ball-buster for sure ( he says laughing) he is a great business man. Its all good for BBQ.
D- You have had an agent now for about a year. How has that impacted your BBQ career?
RL- The opportunity came from Southern Hospitality. My agent was at IMG and has now moved on to another agency. Have an agent that represents me works well. I fill a niche. There are more opportunities.
Some of the things this BBQ man does:
* He’s an expert judge on the Food Networks “Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri”
* He’s featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”
* He travels the country as the Spokeschef for The Big Green Egg grill and smoker
* He’s the featured BBQ Chef at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia
* He’s a spokesman for The National Pork Board
* He’s judged at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship BBQ Cookoff
* He’s judged at the Terlingua, Texas International Chili Cookoff
* He’s judged at The Best of The West Rib Cookoff in Reno
* He served as Executive Chef at Southern Hospitality BBQ in NY 2008-2009
* He writes the “Ask Dr. BBQ Column” for Fiery Foods & BBQ Magazine
* He’s been a guest chef at the Club Med Food and Wine Festival
* He’s been a guest chef at the Woodford Reserve Distillery
D- Do you have any plans for the Superbowl?
RL- I am doing a corporate Tailgate Party. Ill be working with ribs chicken and all total I will have 4 dishes. I’ll even make a Jack Daniels Pie. Whether I get to see the Superbowl live remains up in the air at this moment. I sure hope I get to.
Thanks to Todd at Plowboys BBQ for the use of this photo
D-What TV Projects are you currently involved in?
RL- Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri is something I have been involved in as an expert judge on the Food Network. I have to say that working with Guy is something. He is a real TV professional. Nothing with him is scripted. I really can’t remember if he ever had to do a retake. He is that good at it.
Ray Lampe: Dr. BBQ – Italian Beef and Sausage Sandwich – Joe Boston’ Italian Beef2932 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622(773) 486-9536
There are also other great TV programs currently in the works and as they come up Ill let you know
Dr. BBQ has appeared on:
* Food Network
* E! News
* The NFL Network
* The Discovery channel
* The Outdoor Life Network
* Daytime Tampa Bay
* Good Morning Texas
* The Howard Stern Show
* Martha Stewart Living on Sirius
* NASCAR Sirius Radio
D- Will you be appearing on Guy Fieri’s new game show Minute to win it?
Minute to Win It, scheduled to debut on NBC on March 14th 2010, at 8pm, challenges contestants to complete ordinary tasks in ten seconds or less. Each completed task earns money, with a maximum payout of $1,000,000 for ten successful completions.
RL- (Laughing) I have not been asked to .
D- Your classes in the past have also included the Greenbriar. Are there plans to continue teaching BBQ there?
RL-The Greenbriar classes we (Ray, Chris Lilly & Myron) did in the past were excellent. I would expect them to continue in the future.
D-Whats on your agenda with Big green Egg?
RL- I’ll be in Phoenix for the Eggs in the Desert Eggfest with Big Green Egg. I’ll be teaching there and hanging out with other eggheads.
D- What competitions do you plan on attending this year?
RL- I would like to get to more but I just can’t anymore. I never have time to practice either. So far this year I will be at Lakeland this weekend, the American Royal, I am trying to get up to New York for the Grilling on the Bay. I will also be attending competitive BBQ’ers first $100,000 event in Little Rock Arkansas, Smoke on the Water. I always knew it would get to $100,000. I am glad I am able to attend the first one. I am trying to put together a schedule that will also allow me to attend some of the other Nascar BBQ events.
D- Where else will you be this year?
RL- I’ll be at the Houston livestock Finals show and the Dallas Pro Bowl event. Lots of other things and places as well. As the dates come up ill have them put on the website. Its going to be a really fun and interesting year. Check the website often for updates.
D-Whats the best advice you would give to people wanting to get into the business of BBQ?
RL- Just remember this. Have integrity. Don’t screw people over. Don’t back stab. If you say you are going to do something then commit to it. Above all BBQ is business. Just like any other business out there. This one just happens to be BBQ. Its not a mystical magical thing. You can help people and that’s great however you have to look out for your own business needs. You have to still meet your commitments. At the end of the day you have to understand its a business.
Also you can follow firecooker on twitter .
I have been regularly contributing to a terrific round table podcast presented by Hucks Hut. This episode was a great discussion with John Markus Executive Producer of BBQ Pitmasters on the TLC Network.
This weeks episode involves John answering a lot of questions about the show and himself in addition there was a great discussion on Super Bowl food!. Great recipes too! Listen HERE
Also just a reminder this show is part of the BCRN The BBQ Central Radio Networks
Well its a great night to be interested in BBQ!
First up at -9pm EST there is the BBQ Central Show
Tonights Live Episode will feature David Bouska from Butcher BBQ.
David is a really great guy. I speak from personal experience. He is an incredible BBQ’er and a terrific asset to the entire BBQ community. His team Butchers BBQ came in 7th on the TOY listings for the KCBS. He is a smart business man and his products are top notch.
I am looking forward to listening to this episode.
Additionally tonight on Jay Leno – Myron Mixon will be making an appearance. Very excited to see a fellow competitive BBQ’er on National TV. Looking forward to seeing if they have to use the Bleeps much.
Day 19-25 Days of Christmas Blogging…
I know of a few chefs who have come into competitive BBQ just as he has done, brash arrogant and confident- thinking that their entire repartee of culinary knowledge will lead them to a Grand Championship on their very first turn out. I have also seen those same chefs seriously get their asses handed back to them on a platter. (I have personally had some pure moments of glee to see this happen first hand when I was on the receiving end of a chef who thought he was Gods gift to BBQ) They learn really quickly that while competition BBQ may seem so simple on the outset the complexities and nuances are vast and varied. It’s not as easy as they think.
I caught up with Paul as he was preparing for an insane night. He had 400 covers to prep for. Two hundred of those at Ricks Chophouse, and the other two hundred were catered in their private rooms.
Paul runs not one but two restaurants. The first as mentioned above is a destination restaurant- Ricks Chophouse. An elegant restaurant with restored press tin ceilings an original lime stone wall (circa 1885) and deep mahogany walls throughout. It is combined with private dining rooms, a grand ballroom and Grand historical hotel. The other is Sauce on the Square just 60 paces away from Ricks Chophouse. Sauce on the Square – is an approachable Italian concept that looks towards more multiple visits during the week by its patrons.
*thanks to Lisa Reynolds from Bubble Gems for the picture
From the Sauce on the Square website:
Your culinary experience begins as you walk through the covered dining patio to the smell of dough rising in our Woodstone-fired ovens. Once inside, the dining room speaks immediately of the restaurant’s unique charm and sense of communal gathering. Banquette seating lines the century-old exposed brick wall, while red and white checkered table cloths, stained concrete floors, and classic Italian art set the stage for an approachable family dining experience.
The menu is created by celebrated Executive Chef Paul Petersen, who uses local farm-raised ingredients and neatly incorporates them into traditional Italian specialties. House-made cheeses, imported Italian flour, fresh tomatoes, prosciutto DiParma, herbs, and pastas speak volumes of the flavors you will enjoy. And, absolutely everything is served family style, enhancing the warmth and camaraderie of your experience.
As you transition through the dining room into the bar area, your group can visit on high-top cocktail tables or line the bar and watch the action. The open kitchen makes for a fun place to split a pizza, share pasta, or enjoy a few signature Bellinis!
The wine list is also a home run-50 labels of the best wines in the world for under $50 make it easy to try something new. Each wine was chosen by our Sommelier Brad Pyle with an appreciation for the artisan farmer where each bottle began.
And to think, you didn’t need a reservation! Located on Louisiana Street on the historic square, Sauce is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
To say he is busy would be an understatement. He is extremely successful in his own world.
His quiet “office” where we did the telephone interview is outside at the back alley away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.
Q- How did you get involved with TLC BBQ Pitmasters?
PP- I had been approached a couple of years prior to TLC BBQ Pitmasters show to do an alternate BBQ related type of show. That didn’t pan out but I was still interested. I had cooked for John Markus a couple of times about a year and a half ago. We did a couple of tasting menus for him and he was blown away. I liked John a lot he was really cool.
Q-Had you ever done a BBQ competition prior to TLC BBQ Pitmasters?
PP- I had done an IBCA competition prior to the show and had placed 10th in Chicken.
Q- What did you think of the first few competitions that you participated in?
PP- It’s not my world. I am a hell of a Texan BBQer but it took a while to figure it out. The judges (where I competed) have not been exposed to my type of cuisine. I had to adapt to their style of cooking. It took a lot of change.
Q- If given the opportunity would you do the TLC BBQ Pitmasters show again>?
PP- I don’t know. I would certainly like to go back and redeem myself and kick some asses. However my bosses have already been more than kind to allow me the 2 months I needed to do this show. With the additional restaurant and many other things coming down the line I just don’t know. I have so much on my plate already. If I go out again these boys are going to be in trouble. I would want to go out with a Jambo. I have a lot of respect for them.
Q- What do you think of the comments that have been posted about you on the various BBQ forums and articles?
PP- Well there are the hecklers, there are people that hate me and people that love me. Overall it doesn’t bother me. It’s just a bunch of BS. The people that were with us on the show and the people who eat in my restaurants know my real culinary skills. It was really hard adapting to the world of competition BBQ but I really did like it.
Q- Who was the first pitmasters on the show that helped you?
PP- Tuffy was the first he helped me a lot. He is a bad ass cook (he says this with sincere appreciation of Tuffy’s culinary skills as a BBQ’er and chef). So much he helped me. I appreciate it. He was the first who opened up to me. Told me I was cooking all wrong. He started helping me out. Listening to him for me was important.
Q- What was a favourite and least favourite part of shooting the show for you>?
PP- Meeting the people – it was great. The hailstorm was pretty wild. I did not sleep through that (he says laughing). I was hanging out with the people from the Slabs. We ended up holding their tent so it didn’t blow away (this wasn’t shown on the show). They were great people.
Overall the travelling was hard. It was a lot of travelling in 2 months. I have a 2007 Tahoe that now has over 100000 miles on it. I am going to get an F250.
Q- Any other special moments with people from the show you would care to talk about?
PP- Hanging out with Johnny and Trish Trigg was really special (Unfortunately I can’t tell the rest of what he says because I don’t want to ruin some possible future moments for the show.) I also really liked Jamie too he was funny, I loved his humour and he had the best lines. Overall we were this little gang of Texas people.
Q- As Texas is renowned for their BBQ Brisket – whose brisket did you like the most?
PP- Well I had Myrons brisket and to my taste- it was like Lipton soup mix. A lot of the competition brisket wasn’t what I was used to. I was disappointed in my brisket a lot. However there was one who I thought rocked it Tommy from Checkered Pig. He is killer. I hold him in high regard. Best brisket ever on the BBQ tour out of anyone. At the competition we were at he only took 3rd. I was so confused by this his was far the best I had. He is so cool. He is a genuine guy. It didn’t hurt that he also set me straight on a few things.
Q- How would you label yourself cocky? Arrogant? Confident?
PP-Confident – that’s an accurate description cocky can come off as arrogant – I am just confident of my abilities. I am accomplished in my own world I just don’t need to throw it in their faces. I was good at putting on what they wanted to see.
Q- What was the inspiration behind keeper of the flame (his interactive cookbook)?
PP-Keeper of the flame- The name came from an article from Texas Monthly.
It was a huge deal in Texas. It was a 7 page spread on me. Freaked me out they don’t do it for chefs typically. It kind of stuck. The cookbook is very innovative – Online approach that gets updated frequently. Originally I had done a similar concept with 50 other Texas chefs. We pushed it out early to capitalize on the popularity of the TLC BBQ Pitmasters show.
Q- What’s the biggest challenge in running a restaurant.?
PP- For us its consistency (just like in Competitive BBQ) we want the same product to go out the door. I have so many employees and we need to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Q- What is your favourite BBQ food to eat?
PP- Ribs are still my favourite. I like a good Texas brisket. Personal favourite Kreuz Market or Smitty’s both of them. They are the same deal. Same family. However I have not eaten at Louie Mueller. It’s all real BBQ.
Q- Who do you think will be the next chef in Texas to come up the ranks since you are now established?
PP-I would have to say David Bull – He is my favourite Texas chef. I would put him up against anyone in North America.
Q- Do you still play drums?
PP-I don’t take it as seriously as i used to. For me its stress relief. I am a precise drummer. I hit them with finesse and rock out.
Q- Other than the restaurants what else do you have in the New Year?
PP- I am really excited about an event we are doing on January 15th, 2009. We will be on a stage on jumbo trons and we are going to do a BBQ throwndown Texas Style. It will be a benefit for the sustainable food center.
Three of Texas’ youngest and most acclaimed chefs – David Bull, Shawn Cirkiel, and Paul Petersen will go head to head in a high-energy, fun event with great food, live music and a competition that’s interactive and exciting.
W/ DJ, el john Selector spinning bad-to-the-bone soul, funk and world beats
You can find Chef Paul Peterson on Twitter
He also has a fan page on facebook.
Heres a sneak Peak at this weeks TLC BBQ Pitmasters show:
THURS – 10pm
Cooking skills, nerves and patience are tested at the historic Riverfest Barbecue Cookoff in Decatur, AL as the Pitmasters battle for the $3,000 top prize. Paul tries to avoid last place placement, Lee Ann’s schedule is threatened by a power outage and Tuffy Stone uses spreadsheets for BBQ?!?
Don’t mess with Myrons Muffin pans LOL
Power Outtages …. LeeAnn Whippen
Paul Petersen Discussing being new to competition BBQ and coming in last place.
Day 5 – 25 Days of Christmas BBQ Blogging…..
A bbq friend of mine John has a terrific website PatioDaddioBBQ.com . He recently did a review of the new TLC pitmasters show on TLC now airing Thursday nights 10pm E/9C. Johns blog gave me the idea to interview John and the cast of the TLC Pitmasters show.
Here is his review reprinted with his permission,
Tonight was the premier of the new eight-week docu-series, BBQ Pitmasters on TLC. I thought that I would offer a short review of each episode from the point of view of a fellow competitor.
The clip below gives you some idea of what happened in the first installment. I can say that it is an accurate portrayal of how weather can and does affect a competition. The conditions were reminiscent of a couple of the competitions I’ve participated in.
must say that the show is just about what I had envisioned based on my interview with Executive Producer, John Markus, and others I’ve read and heard. It is indeed faithful to what actually happens at a competition. It shows the mix of personalities, the conditions, the pressure, and the humility that is mercilessly dispensed at the awards ceremony. I’m sure that Paul Petersen can really relate to that last part. Some may think that falling asleep and ignoring a cook is far-fetched, but it is not at all unusual.
While I’m happy that the show was authentic in covering what really happens in competition barbecue, I was somewhat surprised and disappointed in the abundance of foul language, especially from Myron. I know it’s part of the “reality”, but it’s sad when I can’t relax and watch the show with my kids. In my view, it was completely unnecessary. This is a common sentiment from what I am seeing on some of the BBQ forums.
All in all, the show is outstanding so far. If it continues in the same vein I think it will serve competition barbecue well.
Now heres my opinion:
I loved it. Every single moment of it.
I waited along with everyone else in the Competition world to see if they could do it. I wanted them to succeed. I won’t make any bones about it – I am biased completely. At some point I think they will need a Canadian Chick. LOL I wanted for them to produce a show and know that they “got” it. Did they get the real deal?
There are loads of reviews and critiques being written on all the BBQ forums. When it comes down to it though it gives people on the outside of this wonderful world of Competition BBQ a good glimpse of what really happens. Its good exposure for BBQ. I hope that the big companies out there take notice. That the competitions get more money. That KCBS, IBCA, PNWBA, FBA, NEBS and every other sanctioning body out there gets more bodies to their comps wanting to enter this unique “sport.”
Each of the cast has been picked because of their unique personalities. It achieved the goal of making it interesting highly viewable TV. The sour grapes I have been reading about from some teams seems to be missing the point. The point is to follow these characters not follow everyone in the world of BBQ.
Its a docu-drama on what happens. Did I like Paul Petersens lack of prep and research – Nope in fact it made me cringe. Did I like Myrons foul language – Nope I wanted to wash his mouth out with soap and ask him if he talked to his Momma with that mouth.(Seriously Gordon Ramsay has nothing on him) However will I watch again – I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
It makes you want to watch it. I want to know how Harry gets on, does Paul learn a bit, does Myron ever talk without a swear word, is Tuffy really that nice, where is Jamie Geer?, Can Lee Ann really cook BBQ ?, and finally does Captain parkay himself Johnny Trigg talk more? I want to watch period.
They did it. They created a Competition BBQ show that appeals to a vast audience.
An in Depth interview with the ever so modest Tuffy Stone.
I first met Tuffy Stone at the Jack in 2008. I was setting up some stuff getting everything in order for a night of watching the pits when this lithe lanky guy strolls over with a genuine smile on his face. He sheepishly introduced himself and asked if I would be the first person to sign his Jack lid. I knew who he was well in advance of him coming over. I had read about him and his accomplishments many times prior to this first meeting. I could not believe the Tuffy Stone would take the time to come all the way over to the International section (well apart from all the US teams) and ask a Canadian Chick to sign his lid. To me that was incredibly cool.
Since that first meeting I have had some truly heartfelt conversations with this incredibly humble man. I can proudly call him a friend and also a BBQ mentor. I have been blessed to have many BBQ mentors over the last 4 years. I have eaten at his restaurant Q Barbeque. Its terrific competition quality. More than ever he is a modest man with more Culinary skills that I could ever dream of. He has cooked with some of the finest chefs on the planet – Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, Julia Child……( Some whose restaurants are on my own personal bucket list. )
Ok just another warning Tuffy likes to talk. A lot. Its a good thing. It also makes it near impossible to leave out things. Get comfortable.
We begun our interview as he was leaving Richmond, VA to go to Hampton taking drawings to the health department and meeting with his partners. He has been pushing himself really hard the last few months. Juggling a successful restaurant (Q Barbecue) ,a Gourmet Catering Company (a Sharper Palate), Competitions, and now the TLC BBQ Pitmasters Series.
In his own words he says “I beat up the road pretty hard the last 3 months. To be in Richmond and not have to go anywhere has been a transition. It is becoming therapeutic. It’s interesting. It was like when I first didn’t have to go anywhere it was good – I feel healthy again. “
Q- How did you get the name Tuffy?
TS- My mother gave it to me when I was about two. When we opened A Sharper Palate, I thought I would put George on my business card, to be more professional. It lasted about a week, as everyone in Richmond already knew me as Tuffy. So Tuffy it is.
Q- What can you tell me about your new BBQ restaurant?
TS-Its going to be a really cool place. I am really excited. Located in Hampton Virginia Peninsula Town Centre. It will be a Lifestyle centre. We are working with an architectural group out of Ohio that has really enhanced and embraced our brand.
It is about 3500 S feet 120 seats indoors and about 32 outdoors. I am excited about the designs I think it’s once again casual quick dining you order your food and we bring it to you. The smokers are going to be visible once again – in a glassed in room that will house two smokers so it will be once again a very visual maybe even more so that Q in Richmond.
It’s comfortable it will appeal to grandmothers and grand babies – We are getting that at Q already. I love looking out in the dining room at Q seeing all ages and backgrounds.
I love a BBQ joint but I didn’t envision Q to be a joint. All that being said – I have thought about what I wanted it to be… I wanted to have a farmer in one booth and a Doctor in another booth. I want it to appeal to everyone. The design is fresh and perhaps modern I don’t want to scare anyone away.
Q-What made you decide to open another restaurant?
TS-We had a situation come to us. The developer for this town centre is very successful man who happens to have been one of the developers of two or three largest lifestyles centres in the Country Ohio. My partner and his reputation have brought the man around. When he saw Q he really wanted to put Q in this location. HE courted us and we struck up a good relationship and a good deal. It’s probably sooner than I would have expected for us to do a second property but it makes sense to do it.
Q-When will it be opened and what will it be called?
TS-I believe it’s going to be called Q. Our date for opening is March 11, 2010
I have lots of trademarks that have been in the works for a long time all of this stuff to should be coming to a close. It’s a painful process. I have also thought of Cool Smoke as a name – it’s close to my heart. But overall I think it will be Q.
Edward who has designed Q Has won lots of awards. He drips with talent. He has been featured in CA magazine. This whole thing is such a passion for both of us. We spend hours on the phone working on all sorts of cool stuff. Making it better. We have a new website going live on Thursday (Dec 3 2009) we are having fun together.
Q-How did you transition from being a gourmet cook to a BBQ’er
TS-My catering company A Sharper palate is so formal. I have been cooking for a living since the 80s. Sharper Palate is still alive and kicking and pays the mortgages for a lot of people. We are into the process of reinventing ourselves there for the next 15 years.
BBQ is how I got reconnected with cooking. It’s fun and its refreshing and I can spend hours talking about why BBQ is so beautiful. BBQ came along… and you don’t have anyone intimidated by BBQ.
BBQ initially kicked my ass. I came in there knowing how to make Beurre blancs but BBQ is harder than it looks.
Q- Do you see shades of yourself in Paul Petersen.
TS- I can relate to Paul Petersen. I never saw the Paul Petersen where he is cocky. He might have been there in the original stages (I can’t relate to that part I am not cocky) I can relate we had a good conversation after Mesquite after awards in the first episode.
When I came in to BBQ with all of the things I had learned as a gourmet chef over the years I thought I would be able to apply those things and make it and define BBQ better. Demi glace on briskets. Or white truffle sauce so aromatic and sexy and lovely and that might be a nice flavour enhancer on brisket. The further I got away from the typical BBQ in the sense of flavour profile or expectations the worse I did. That being said the first competition I did I got a 2nd place pork and a 7th brisket call. I didn’t do bad coming out but I did have to regroup. I had to try to figure out what people thought of BBQ. Plus what I think it takes to do well. Hopefully you should never get too far away from the traditional flavours. I told all this to Paul Petersen take the skills from the kitchen but do not reinvent BBQ or surprise them.
So I guess how I relate to Paul Petersen is having an interesting Gourmet food. I can relate in a lot of those kind of things. There is always a level to us.
Q-Seriously Smack talk?? From you? How hard was it for you as you are lovingly referred to as the professor, Mr Rogers and so beloved by the BBQ community.
TS-Well I was part of the sizzle reel . John has hinted around that he had cast me as the professor as I could speak easily about BBQ . John only wanted us to smack talk if it felt natural. Keeping things genuine. I thought about this. I gave it great thought. I figured it all in my head. I had to figure out how I would be in front of the camera in general.
What could I say to keep true to myself but also add to the show? It all panned out as far as they were concerned. I always thought or guessed that you always had to be too overly confident or held yourself in high regards to talk smack. I think my grandfather come out because I am much more humble than that. I said those things in good fun and good nature.
I have a good rapport with Johnny Trigg. You have to be able to take it and dish it out as well. It took me many years to dish it out to him. He dishes it out a lot more. He is much more proficient at smack talking that I am.
Q-How did you become involved with the show?
TS-John called me about the show. I have known John Markus for a bit now. I got to know him through Johnny Trigg mainly. John Markus is such a wonderful and interesting person. I love to read what he has to say and listen to what he has to say. I wish I could speak as well as he does he is so eloquent. His words are so eloquent.
It doesn’t matter how brief a conversation may be with John Markus or what’s talked about its always going to be that way with him. He always impresses me.
We have a rapport and I got to know him more then he got his Geer pit and in a couple of contests and giving him my thoughts on cooking on it and BBQ. Trying to hopefully help him with that process. We were neighbours in Dover Delaware one year and close at the GAB and those times cooking on the Geer pit. I know I am scolded sometimes for sharing or telling too much I can’t help it just bubbles out.
He came down to a competition and he filmed a little bit and my thoughts about Myron . When he was leaving he said “I have something else to talk to you about.” I was cooking by myself at Dillard Georgia and I got the call.
He sent me a text message one day while I was playing football with my son Sam. I had sent him a txt wishing him luck as I knew they would be doing the pitch to TLC on the Friday. Later I got a message back and they had picked up the show and at the time they had purchased 6 episodes that I helped sell the show and got a thank you from him.
I didn’t want to come across unexcited so I sent him back a txt expressing my congratulations. He went on to give me more details. He didn’t come out and say I was on the show and then later on John Markus said I was in. I didn’t respond quickly. I had been playing football. I didn’t want him thinking I was unappreciative.
Q- What were some of the Challenges of the show?
TS-The show has a lot of challenges I like them. I continuing to learn and grow- I am 47 now. I keep trying to take on new things in life. My perspective is just like the Nike tag line- just do it.
Q- What are some of the details on how you came to a life of BBQ and your first pit.
TS-I had already really worked hard to be a gourmet cook. But I had worked hard to raise my skills as a cook not to be just a cook but a great cook. My catering business is part of that. I would say that in mid 90s I used to volunteer to cook at an even at the masters of food & wine in Carmel CA (just some of the chefs names-Alice Waters ,Jacques Pepin, Charlie Trotter ,Julia Child_. I would do anything they asked (I would make tomato confit, I overcooked Jacques Pepin duck breast -thats a long story LOL) and fill my brain as much as I could after working 16 -18 hours and writing my journal. I wanted to make my impact. For some reason to be a chef owner of a Gourmet catering company- it’s difficult to make a name for yourself like going into a James beard dinner , I really needed to have a public venue. While I had a successful company and food and provided good employment for myself and employees I needed to stop worrying about being in the Gourmet part. I had convinced myself of that. So I just tried to go to be about a good dad, employer, husband, son and cook.
Our business grew but I got disconnected with cooking. In this process for some reason I knew it would be with a wood fire. I spent all this time researching pits. Then through that process I found the BBQ forum in 2004. I asked all those questions. I got a load of hickory and my first pit was a Lang 84 I went off to my first contest Johnny Trigg was there- I was stuffing wood in my pit all night as I thought that’s what you had to do and stick burners seemed to be the ones who had to stay up all night. He hadn’t even lit his pit. I didn’t know who he was. He had this big motor coach and this pretty pit. I was really curious. About 330 / 4am he was just getting his pit lit. I walked over and started talking to him. He won that contest and I fell in love with Geer pits.
I went down this path of BBQ. I love all the different pits out there. I think I cook on a stick burner (a Geer Pit) because its primal and basic. I think anyone who ever had to bake a cake with a wood burning oven could make it better than anyone. Having to run that fire clean is something. This whole world of BBQ turned me on to a whole new world of people. On a side note I have had to change my cell phone plans so many times because I get talking and its a $400.00 bill. The talk is always about BBQ. I want to keep talking everywhere. It’s the way I feel.
This whole BBQ thing got me reconnected to cooking. I love the humility of it all. I like the fact that BBQ kicked my ass. You take modest cuts of meat and you have to coax out greatness. What seems so simple on the outside is so really complicated on the inside. I love that it appeals to everybody. I would probably say globally. There are so many wonderful things about it. The BBQ family is a beautiful thing. I love competing against my friends seeing them win and myself as well.
It’s been one journey of a lifetime.
Q- When do you believe it is the right time to label yourself a pit master?
TS-Golly. You can ask that question many ways. I always had such a reverence for the word chef. Being called a pit master is like that. It was given to me by others before I was comfortable with it. If someone calls me a pit master today would I be comfortable? / I would just say I am just getting comfortable with the start of it. A couple or three years ago technically I think you could have called me a pit master but I think i may just be starting to get comfortable
Q- What’s the definition of pit master to you?
TS-You have to have knowledge of your own pits but it needs to go beyond that – that you could step up to anyone’s pit and figure it out and have the knowledge to do it. Reading can help but no teacher is better than doing it. You need to understand butchering. It wouldn’t hurt to know how break down a pig or cow. You need to be able to know how to make a BBQ sauce or BBQ rub. So how to cook all the different meats to the right tenderness. How to retain good flavours and moisture.
Q- When will you teach a bbq class?
TS-I am not yet ready yet.
(He already has taught many culinary classes but when asked if he would do a BBQ class he pauses.)
I have hesitation due to my abstract thinking. I babble and I drift. To me subtleties and nuance and observation and things that move on you that you have to follow and watch I worry that if it was a class I would want to teach it would be a very abstract moving process. I would worry that too many people would want to know when and how to do things at an exact time. My cooks schedule is like that but it would be abstracted and I can talk a long time about smoke and cooking. I think there would be a population that would dig it and some people who would just say- what time do you put the rub on?
I know there is good money to be made and some of my friends are already doing it. For me though I think I am still learning so much.
I think I will want to share BBQ with people. I have always taught- I teach in Richmond all the time. I have been involved in a culinary arts program. I love what I am doing now. I see teaching a class at some point. I just hope the story I have to tell and what I want to convey will help people do really well. I am sure at some point I will.
Right now I am still digging in.
Q- What have been your observations about different pits (ie Charcoal and Pellets) since you are a stick burner.
TS-Charcoal cookers (stumps, wsm, backwoods -any small charcoal closed in pits) are different. I would have to become a real student of the fuels ahead of time so I could embrace and absorb that. I would want to learn all about them thoroughly.
Pellet cookers have to do what I do in reverse. Stick burners and charcoal cookers have to worry about too much smoke and too much flavour. Pellet cookers (because they burn so clean) they have to focus on how to get more smoke and more flavour in – it’s the opposite.
Q-Do you think your modesty is a big hold back for you?
(He gives loads of credit to his Mom, Dad and Grandfather. He is uncomfortable with receiving compliments of any kind at all. He cringes at any mention of his accolades and his well thought of personality)
TS-My father is so funny and proud of the successes we have had at Cool Smoke, He is knocking on the door of 70 and this makes him happy. He embarrasses me sometimes when we are together. He likes to talk about it. When I am exposed to it I can’t stand it. He laughs. For example – We are pumping gas going to some competition and someone will say- nice pit. My Dad is right in there saying this pit won 3rd place at such and such a competition. I’ll turn to him and say “Dad why can’t you just say thank you very much. He is so proud of me” One day he turned to me and said You know what Tuffy there’s really not much fun in achieving so many things if you can’t tell people. I really didn’t have a response to that (he says with a chuckle).
For me, it’s just a challenge it’s the next contest not the last contest.
Now we have this TV show. It’s funny they did a piece on me near Richmond. One of the producers called me the Clark Kent of BBQ. Here I am filming a TV show. However no one in Richmond knew. Going all over the country going BBQing and no one knew in my own town of Cool Smokes achievements.
It’s interesting to me the second show we filmed was in Decatur. The first one I wasn’t uncomfortable in Mesquite. I didn’t know many people and we all were off to our own section. When I was in Decatur however a bunch of my friends were there. It seemed like everyone I knew was there. I was miked up and cameras were following me everywhere. I was so embarrassed all weekend. It goes back to my modesty. I want to make a difference in this life and I want to be humble. For me it was so weird having TV crews following me. I am still me.
A writer from Richmond asked me if I was going to have a big party for the premiere tonight. I said “no way.” I am going to be holed up in my house all by myself. Why? She asked. I just want to see what it’s like. She then asked comically-“ Have you turned into a diva??” I just laughed that’s so not me.
Q- Any contest in North America that you have never done before that you still want to do?
TS- I am going to go and cook Memphis in May this year.
Also until this year till this show I had never cooked a whole hog a couple of small suckling pigs but never a whole hog. Honestly speaking – (as a pitmaster) I always felt lacking as a BBQ person as I had not done a whole hog. This year I cooked a 165 lb hog. I bought a JOS (Jack’s Old South) cooker to do it in and peach wood. That was in a contest setting. It was cool.
Q- Do you think it will be easier after the TLC Pitmasters show that the public will understand the love of our sport of BBQ
TS-The people making it think it will. I am sitting here waiting for what it will end up being. I hope it shows how cool it is – what we all love to do each weekend.
There is such a depth and character to the personalities of this show and of all BBQ’ers. They all have passion. That’s what it is : passion.
I hope it gives it a really good face I hope its good TV. I think there are so many things that are depressing out there that I hope this is a really positive, joyful, experience. I Think the things that we do, the friends that we make is a really great group of people. I hope it gives them a good snapshot of this. I really think this show will do that.
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 TheSlabs.com 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.