For this edition of Meet the BBQ Pro’s, I had a chance to interview Harry Soo from Slap Yo Daddy BBQ out in California. I had a chance to meet him at the First Annual Kingsford Invitational and I actually really admire him because of the type of pit that the cooks on which is the same as mine: A simple Weber Smokey Mountain and also because of his passion for competition barbecue.
Harry really proves that it isn’t the type of pit you use but how dedicated you are to the techniques of competition barbecue that makes you a great pitmaster!
Here is our Q&A with Slap Yo Daddy Pitmaster: Harry Soo
Grilling with Rich: Tell us a little about your cooking and personal background
Harry Soo: I started in competition BBQ in 2008 after a co-worker made a few of us write down a bucket list after she saw the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Harry joined the California BBQ Association in March 2008 and found many supportive mentors including Kristin, Bentley, and Thom who encouraged him to enter his first contest. After joining the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) and with little equipment and a lot of chutzpah, Harry persuaded his childhood buddy Mark to come along for the thrill ride. Amid the many mishaps , they won First place in chicken and Reserve Champion on their first outing and were immediately hooked by competition BBQ.
Grilling with Rich: Why do you think that a lot of people love to barbecue and more importantly why do you like to barbecue?
Harry Soo: Barbecue is the only true authentic American food as we pretty much copied everything else like pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs from other cultures and countries. Americans are the only people who cook meat low and slow above ground for many hours. The Hawaiians cook their pork underground. Fire, smoke, and meat universally rekindles the Neanderthal instinct in us and cooking over fire is practiced by every culture in the world. I love to barbecue because I use barbecue as a vehicle to spread love and happiness in the classes I teach and in the events I participate in.
Grilling with Rich: I also use a Weber Smokey Mountain while participating in BBQ competitions, why did you choose that type of smoker and what kind of tips can you give people like me when using a Weber Smokey Mountain during a competition?
Harry Soo When I began my BBQ journey, I bought two WSM-18 off Amazon with free shipping. I entered my first contest to get my co-worker off my back as she was pestering me to complete my bucket list item. The initial name of my team was “The Bucket List” as it would be a one-time throwaway name. I never intended to use it more than once. My co-workers said that name was boring and decided to name my team. So they came up with Slap Yo Daddy BBQ as I’ve been told that in the South, when you eat something you like a lot, you want to slap someone. Since I’m a Daddy, they picked the name. I was not planning to use it more than once and amazingly win Reserve Champion and first place chicken at my first contest which started me on my crazy BBQ journey.
For folks using a WSM during competition, I suggest that they cook with their WSM at least 5 times prior the contest to ensure that the pit is properly seasoned. [See Harry Soo's Tips] I have also answered 279 detailed questions on how to compete on the WSM-18 on the Virtual Weber forum.
Grilling with Rich: Do you ever feel “Pit-envy” when you just roll up with a couple of WSM’s when you get to a competition?
Harry Soo Actually, I’ve been told that my competitors are intimated when I show up in my minivan with one WSM-18, one canopy, and a couple of tables! No, I’m cheap and lazy so doing a contest with one bag of Kingsford blue and one WSM-18 suits my style perfectly. Remember that as a one-man team, I’m my own dishwasher, driver, cook, helper, box runner, and ash dumper. I work a 50-hour work week so I don’t want to do more than absolutely necessary so I like to carry the minimum and do the minimum since I compete or teach almost every weekend in the year!
Grilling with Rich: What was it like to be a judge at the First Annual Kingsford Invitational? Would you ever do it again?
Harry Soo: It was an absolutely amazing experience and I am very honored I was among the six persons chosen among many thousands of more worthy judges for the task. I would love to do it again and I have made it my 2013 goal to be one of the cooks at that contest if I don’t get to judge it. I’m working on my blog about judging that event and I’ll share some must-read stories about what I learned being a judge for the 8 world champions who participated.
Grilling with Rich: In your mind what made this competition so different or even similar to other Barbecue competitions.
Harry Soo: The KF Invitational is a one-of-a-kind event because it’s never been done before. Numerous contests have “World Champion” in their title and the winner considers themselves the World Champion. Everyone knows there can only be one world champion. The KF Invitational settled that question conclusively and determined, once and for all, who was really the World or Planet Earth Champion!
Grilling with Rich: If I say BBQ what is the first word that comes right into your mind?
Harry Soo: Happiness!
Grilling with Rich: What is your favorite protein to make and why?
Harry Soo: I love to grill rib tips with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. I like eat them when they are charred off the grill and still chewy with some spicy Pico De Gallo
Grilling with Rich: What is one thing that your fans don’t know about and you would like to share?
Harry Soo: I used to be a 747 pilot for an Asian airline. That training and discipline taught me how to pace my endurance and concentration so that I could land a plane with 350 passengers onto a narrow runway after a tiring 10 hour flight. I apply the same pacing to my barbecue process during contests. For example, I focus on getting sufficient rest during the Friday overnight cook by relying on my Stoker control system so that I’m not tired during the time I have to prepare the Saturday meat turn-ins. I pace myself so I can be fully focused when I build my competition box 15 minutes before the box is due at the judging tent. Win or lose, how well you think and adjust during those 15 minutes determines whether you will win that day.Google+