My Interview with Harry Soo of Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ!
I am going to try something a little different with the blog going forward as I am finding it hard to keep up with it with the many other things I am doing now. So I will try and post up some of my more popular Podcast interviews here in text form so people can read them if they are not inclined to listen to the podcast. So the 1st one will be my interview with Champion Pit Master Harry Soo from Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ, Enjoy!
Darrin - F & W : Hello everybody. Welcome back to the fire and water cooking podcast. I have a really great guest on today and I hope you guys enjoy him. Mr Harry Soo, world famous BBQ pitmaster. Harry, welcome to the fire and water cooking podcast.
Harry Soo: Hey Darrin, happy to be here. Glad to be on your podcast and I'm you know, eager to answer your questions and sort of tell the world about how they can all go out and spread barbecue love.
Darrin - F & W : Well, one of the first things I want to do is just kind of give me a brief synopsis and how you got involved in doing these barbecue competitions. If you don't know who Harry sue is, Look him up. He was one of the first guys that was on barbecue pit masters on TV. So how did you get involved in that Harry?
Harry Soo: I am a typical accidental pitmaster by day. My Day job is I work in it and I build things called data centers. And I got into barbecue totally by accident because of about 10 years ago there was a movie called the bucket list with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. We have staff meetings every Monday and one of my project managers said, you know, I saw a great movie called the bucket list and a bunch of ID nerds, so we should all make a bucket list so that we can do something with our lives before we kicked the bucket. And we proceeded to kind of right now the normal things that we want to do, like go to Bora Bora, you know, and so on. But we decided to make it interesting. And we started to Kinda ham around and we said, why don't we write stretch goals for each other?
So let's say Darrin, I know you and I say, I know you always wanted to say Water ski but you never ventured out to, you know, take a class. Then we'll write a bucket list item for there and to go out and take, go water skiing class. I enjoy cooking barbecue because I used to cook a barbecue for my coworkers at work. We would do fundraisers. My assistant is a African American, her name is Janice. Whenever we have fundraisers at work, I'd serve the barbecue to her and then she would hand it out to all my soul brothers and sisters in the building. We have about a thousand folks working in our building in downtown Los Angeles. And everybody thought that Janice cooked the barbecue and nobody knew it was me. And they said, Hey Harry, for fun, why don't you go out and cook barbecue contest just for fun as a stretch goal in those contests where teams bring in the meat in little white styrofoam boxes?
And I said, sure, why not? And I, nothing happened on the bucket list for many months because I was procrastinating. And finally they said that, hey, when are you going to do your bucket list? So I got tired of my coworkers nagging me. So I said, I'll do one contest in palm springs in California and get you guys off my back. And I showed them the application form that I filled in. So my team name was called the bucket list and they say that's a boring name. Let's come up with the team named for you. And I said, hey, I don't care what you call it, just call it anything you want. And they said that apparently in the south when you eat something you really, really like, you want to slap somebody. So I said, what do you mean? He says, well, you're a daddy, why not call it "Slap Yo' Daddy"?
Harry Soo: I said, that's a stupid name. Who wants to be Slap Yo' Daddy? But just to humor my coworkers, I just put it down on a piece of paper. So long story short, I won the contest and the rest, as they say is history. And that was 10 years ago. So since then I have been on a few TV shows, traveled around the world cooking and taught literally a 200 classes in barbecue around America and around the wall. So it's been a great journey and I feel blessed that now I can share my knowledge and my techniques on youtube. So I started a youtube channel and things seem to have taken off.
Darrin - F & W : Well yeah, we're going to kind of backtrack and go into some detail on some of that stuff. But that's a great, great introduction about who you are. And we were just talking a little bit before we started recording and that you still, this is know barbecue is still just a part time kind of hobby for you and love. You still work full time but you don't work by where you live. You kind of live by Los Angeles and you fly up to Sacramento area.
Harry Soo: Yes, I am on assignment. So by day what I do is I run a large team, so I oversee a portfolio of $15 million of a project and about a dozen project managers. So I'm the guy that gets a rolled up newspaper when something goes wrong and a, I'd build all the infrastructure needed essentially to bring water to 20 million people, 300 cities. So it's a kind of a stressful job. And I took a barbecue, sort of a stress relief because when I go out and compete in a barbecue contest, I'm usually a one man team. So I'm my own cook, my own dishwasher, my own driver. So nobody tells me what to do. So when I go out and Cook Barbecue, I can kind of decompress from work because at work, everybody is screaming at me. And by the time I get back to work on Monday, I fully recovered. So I always joke that it's cheaper than therapy.
Darrin - F & W : That's funny. Because usually, you know, from what I heard, I've never participated in a barbecue competition, but I would think it would be just as stressful to be in a competition for barbecue because it's so, so much, you know, so many things you're trying to do and so many other people you're competing against. But and that's another thing too. You''re in California, which is not known as a barbecue Mecca.
Harry Soo: Yes. And I think that that's kind of how I ended up on a TV show by accident 10 years ago because I don't come from a part of the country that's sort of well known for traditional American barbecue. We have our tri tips at the Maria style. We've got kind of our own California style barbecue, but nothing along the traditions of things like, you know, Texas brisket, Memphis ribs, you know, Carolina pork. And, I was very surprised that they cast me on a TV show. We had three world champions and a total of seven teams in pit masters season one. I reckon they needed some kind of humor that they wanted, kind of like the fish out of water guy from California to come on the show. Because whenever I compete, especially on the national stage and I compete in Kansas City, people see my booth and they see the sign slap your daddy and then see me there. Right. The first thing they ask me is, hey, where's the pitmaster? So I always joke and say he went to the bathroom because I do not look like your typical kind of pitmaster, And then like 20 minutes later they come back and they asked me again, where's he at? I say I think he's still stuck in the bathroom. You wanna go check on him? And then by that time they were able to Google me and they know I'm pranking them. So I don't typically fit the image. But you know, at the end of the day I always say it's a white styrofoam box, no need to fear me Just fear the white styrofoam box because it's a double blind judging and the judge will have no idea whose food they're eating.
Darrin - F & W : Well that's kind of , you know, amazing to me. And one of the things that when I watched a lot of the BBQ pitmaster show and one of the things that got me is how in season 2 and beyond, it's not double blind, but they just turned the box in to the judges, they just walk right up and hand it to them. So it's , you know, barbecue pit masters is not really the what a competition that you'd see in real life.
Harry Soo: Yes, you have to prove yourself on the comp circuit. So I won about like a hundred plus first places and 20 to 30 grand championships. So the way it works is when you go to a contest, you'll give it a number. So you're given that four boxes and your number. So let's say they're on your team is given box number 10 so you turn in your box. We started from box number 10 the first thing they official does is change your number. So your box number 10 could be become box 427 so box 427 he's taken behind the judging tent where you cannot see the judges and they cannot see you and is randomly assigned to six strangers sitting at a table. So at every contest, right, each of my entries is eaten by six strangers and the six strangers are rotated so that no judge eats your meat more than once. So your food is eaten by 24 strangers. The strangers was called box 427 and at the end of the day, only the officials and the computer knows that four 27 equals 10 equals Darrin.
Darrin - F & W : Nice. Yeah. And you can't get that when you watch barbecue pit masters. Because from the way you watch that show to me, if I was thinking well this is how a normal competition would go, you know, the, the pit masters just bring their box up and set it in front of the judges. So yeah.
Harry Soo: Uh yeah we the one that we did was the only one that was different. Season two and on was shot in a sound set in Burbank, California, Agoura hills, California. So I was the only first one that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoot because they had essentially 20 people flying around the country with us for four months. So that kind of a production cost just too much money. So I think in the subsequent pit masters they moved away from that format where the camera crew follows you around the country. So we had basically a crew of four people. And they were four teams of them. With four support people following seven teams. So you can imagine the logistical headache, right? Transporting all the equipment, including all the camera booms, all the lighting and the sound traveling with us as we go into these parking lots or, or what do you call and open fields and all the crew will have to go and kind of set up and shoot. So he was a very logistically challenging shoot because they had to shoot so much footage intentionally on like 90 hours of footage to cut it down to 40 minutes.
Darrin - F & W : Wow. That's amazing to me. Now, how long were you doing competitions before they asked you to be on that show?
Harry Soo: It was a stroke of luck because I only started 10 years ago and 2008. And, and I ended up my show 2010. I didn't realize how I got on the show until five years later because you know who Carolyn Wells is, right? She is the president of KCBS. Right?
Darrin - F & W : Yeah,.
Harry Soo: So what happened was the story goes that Carolyn Wells knew John Marcus. John Marcus is the producer who put together BBQ Pitmasters season one. He had been shopping that idea for many years, but he couldn't find funding for it. Finally, he was able to rustle up a deal to put together a show like a reality TV show featuring pit masters traveling across the country. I did not know that Carolyn Wells knew you know, John Marcus who produced also the Cosby show and a whole bunch of TV shows. So I guess I meet a lot of people when I go to contest because people need to come up to the Asian guy. He cooks barbecue and his winning on the circuit. So I speak to a lot of people and I did not know that at one of the contests in California called stagecoach. I spoke to Carolyn Wells. I didn't know who she was, but I apparently treated her well.
Harry Soo: So much so that she called all her friend John Marcus, you've got to go cast this guy from California on your TV show because he had spent two years scouring the first six teams that Myron and Tuffy Jimmy Gear, you know, and so on Leanne Wilson, I was a last minute add. So essentially what happened was on a Saturday afternoon I was competing in a contest in northern California and at 12:25 pm in the middle of the contest, my cell phone rang. And if you are a competitor like me, you know, that 12:30pm ribs are due. So I immediately thought one of my competitors was trying to prank me and trying to get me disqualified from the rib entry because I would be distracted by a phone call. So I picked out a phone and then the guy said, hi, you don't know me by my name is John and I want to cast you on a TV show. So I said, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I hung up not thinking who it was then. It wasn't until Sunday when we were driving home from northern California that I told my partner, mark, hey mark, I had a weird dream in the middle of the rib entry, kind of like my cell phone rang. So I looked through my cell phone and Lo and behold, there was a call from New York. So I picked up the phone and I talked to John Marcus and we hit it off right away. And he told me about this crazy idea of casting me on a show. And I said, well, I haven't done any screen tests. I haven't done anything. He said, no, I'm going to just put you on my show. And on Tuesday morning, a pile of paper, one inch high from discovery channel showed up in my doorstep. So I really didn't know what to do because I had never been on TV before. And I say, what the hell am I going to be doing on TV? And I no idea what was going to happen. But he just said, trust me. And sign the papers. I signed the papers. Two weeks later, we shoot episode one in Mosquito Nevada where we got hit by the humongous microburst thunderstorm.
Darrin - F & W : All right, so let's back pedal just a little bit more and go back to where did you develop your culinary skills all together before you even got into barbecuing for your work?
Harry Soo: I only learned to cook barbecue when I arrived in America about forty years ago. So I used to fly 747's for an Asian airline. If you as old as I am, you will remember a time when you had to buy gas on alternate and even days. And there was an oil crisis, so the young generation have no idea what I'm talking about and your readers and your listeners may not know, but there was an oil crisis in the world in the late seventies, early eighties. I was a refugee. I remember. So I lost my job and I had to retrain for a new career. I decided that being an airline pilot wasn't a good vocation because of the downturn in the industry. So I decided, I'm gonna go study computer engineering. And I ended up in Texas Tech. And within the first week of school, my classmate took me out and I had that one magical bite of Texas brisket and Texas a beef rib. And I fell in love with American barbecue. And I spent like the, like next 20 years of my life trying to figure out how to cook American barbecue. Because, I had no pedigree. It wasn't like my grandpa taught my father, and my father taught me, how to cook barbecue. I had no background in American barbecue, but I did have a very curious engineering mind. And since I was a computer scientist, I decided I would crack the American barbecue secret code by brute force. So what brute-force means is that I'll cook a piece of chicken, the salt and pepper, and I'll read the results about and I'll do salt, pepper, chili powder results, salt, pepper, sugar, chili powder, results, chili powder, sugar, garlic powder. So I build all these flavor profiles in the grandfather spreadsheet tool of Microsoft excel. Something probably, I'm not even sure you've ever heard, called VISICALC.
Harry Soo: So visicalc is the father of Lotus 1-2-3. And lotus 1-2-3 is the father of Microsoft Excel. So I built all of these flavor profiles to understand how seasonings fuse to meat, how smoke, fire, draft moisture temperature, all effect meats. So that's how kind of like perfected my kind of my techniques and I never knew that the techniques were any good because I just cooked for my family and friends until that moment in 2008 when the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman aired. So that was kind of like setting me off an accidental pitmaster journey. So I had no business really cooking barbecue, just an accidental pitmaster.
Darrin - F & W : Before you did the pit master barbecue pit masters show, did you just compete locally? Did you go outside of the state you didn't travel to do like Memphis in May or anything like that before you got involved in the barbecue pitmaster show?
Harry Soo: Yeah, I actually I did, I did I won reserve champion in Kansas City. I think that's why I caught Carolyn Wells eye. So I won what I wanna say like 120 team contest a kind of drove out to Kansas City on a lark, because people in California, although my friends around the country were dissing me, saying Harry, Your pretty good in California, you won a team of the year, two years in a row, rookie of the year. You went over to Arizona kick everybody's butt, won team of the year, two years in a row, if you're really that good, why don't you go cook in Kansas City? I' say, Oh sure. Anytime anybody says you cannot do it, you would you know, I find it an irresistible challenge to me. Just like the guy who said, Harry, you're wasting my time. You gotta cook, a brisket in two hours. Cook a whole packer. I say it that So, if you watch my youtube channel, I do the impossible brisket. I cook a fricking 14 pound packer in two hours. So I want all those funny people. I'm fiercely hyper competitive. If you tell me I cannot land, a 747 with my wheels are behind me, seven stories down and not wake up a first-class passenger, I will be able to do that. That's what drives me.
Darrin - F & W : That's funny. That's, that's Kinda how I'm not quite as as hyper as that w but I do like to experiment and try new things and that's, that's what I love about watching your youtube channel is that you know, people think of you as just doing barbecue, but you'd do other things besides barbecue and you'd like to experiment a lot. And that's what I like, just the watch, the one that you are released this morning with the, you know, the Trans Glutamate and the, you know, the meat glue sticking all those steaks together. And it's Kinda like one of those things that, you know, somebody told you you couldn't do it and yet you did it to prove them wrong.
Harry Soo: Yeah. What stupid bizarre person would try to make a Frankenstein steak and glue five favorite steaks together. Only Harry sue would do something like that. So I have a lot of ideas that I've already shot that are in edits now. So in the coming weeks and months you'll see me do some crazy shit stuff because you know, people think that I'm just a barbecue competitor. I am actually, competition is only like 20% of what I do. The other 80% hasn't come out yet. That's why people always say to me Harry, Your channel offerings are very diverse. I say, you ain't seen nothing yet. I only post the 160 videos. There's probably another 500 videos in my head waiting to jump out. Now obviously some of this is not meant for everybody. Just like when I put out the ASMR videos, I got a lot of heat from everybody. Why did I do ASMR? I say, well, you know, my viewers want to see, so I'm one to spread barbecue love. I embraced the rainbow of diversity that makes up barbecue, because I don't care whether you could get fat side up, fat side down, MSG, no MSG injection, no injection, right? I welcome you all because we should all use barbecue as a method to spread barbecue love in this world.
Darrin - F & W : Well now that you said that though, what do you think of what I mostly do? Mixing Sous Vide and barbecue together.
Harry Soo: More power to you brother.
Darrin - F & W : I just, you know, it doesn't happen much anymore, but when I first started doing it, you'd get the hardcore barbecue guys that would kind of look at me and kind of, you know, give me that look. You know, that's not real barbecue. But you know, one of the things when I first discovered sous vide, I was doing barbecue for five or six years, you know, just really diving into it. I've done it all my life, but I had just done a lot more and I, one of the things I saw that what it can do is it kind of help enhance certain things, you know, so it's not like it's not going to replace cooking a brisket over, you know, wood. You know, it's, it's just different. Kinda like what you do with different experiments, different things, different cooking methods and you know, changing them around, you know, mixing them together. So
Harry Soo: Yeah, there is no such thing as a sacred ground. I was a former board member for the National Barbecue Association and I got a chance to kind of interact with Mama shed and Mike Mills and everyone. And we all have the same philosophy as the "leaders" of BBQ in America is that we really want to make sure a barbecue is inclusive, not exclusive, but we really don't care what shade of gray it is, whether you cook your ribs by boiling them and then grilling them or you even cook a hot dog so long as you are grilling and having fun and spreading love. That is the definition of barbecue.
Darrin - F & W : I agree with it 100%. You know, the food is what makes a difference. Now how did when you, you did the barbecue pit masters show, did that really launch your celebrity status? Do you think you would be doing the barbecue classes and personal appearances and stuff like that? If you didn't have that, if you were just relying on the barbecue competitions.
Harry Soo: I think a, the answer is it's kind of holistic. Obviously. It's not just one thing. It's a sum of all things. Obviously the show kind of got me a little bit of a notoriety on the national circuit. Winning a hundred plus first places didn't hurt also, but also having the message. I think that it most importantly is the messaging. You know, what you cook and how you cook it, in my opinion, is irrelevant because there's plenty of folks there who know what to cook and how to cook. I focus on why you cook. So I cook to spread a message of reconciliation, respect, understanding and kindness. That's what I am trying to do. So for me, a barbecue is not really about cooking. It's about reaching out to our humanity and teaching the world that I can teach you a skill so that you can master barbecue so that you can spend love in this world.
Harry Soo: That is essentially the underlying reason why I do what I do. That's why, you know, I think that I've been able to kind of resonate with a lot of people in America. I would just shock that. I just posted my youtube channel about a year plus ago and right now about 60,000 people who listen to what I say. And that is not something I really had planned for because I even got into the whole youtube by accident. I had a student named Ricky Tran and he knows how to sharpen knives. He has a youtube channel called Bur-Fection. And I told Ricky, hey, Ricky, I'm tired of having dull knives. And he said, Harry, why don't I teach you how to sharpen a knife since you taught me how to Cook Barbecue. I went to his home and he had a nice sharpening knife sharpening set up and he also has a video camera. So he said, hey, do you mind if I just turned on my video cameras while we sharpen knives? And I said, sure. So I thought to myself, who wants to watch, two guys sharpening knives for two hours? I was surprised that when he added the video, I think right now he's at 50,000 views. So that got me kind of started on the idea that I could share my knowledge and techniques on the Internet using my cell phone. And, Ricky told me, hey, why don't you set a record, a few clips of you cooking on your cell phone and see what happens. So I did that. And the next thing you know, it kind of gained momentum. And, now today I've, you know, 64,000 subscribers and I've been kind of posting consistently only for the past year.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah. And I think that's an instance too where your name is known as throughout the barbecue world and you got shared really quickly through a lot of the bigger barbecue channels. Like, you know, Troy from t Roy cooks and Greg Mirvich over at ballistic barbecue. You, you know, you're a known guy, so it it really believe me, you know, you got a really good camera personality. I, I watched you as soon as I saw your channel. Like I subscribed and I watch it all the time. You know, because it's different, you know, you know your, your attitudes, like you said, you're really wanting to teach people and that's Kinda me, you know, that's what got me started as just wanting to help and teach people how to do what I do and, and and not make them feel intimidated or anything like that. So your, your videos are very instructive and not intimidating at all. And that's, that's why I think you're getting very very good traction with it.
Harry Soo: And people tell me a, you know Harry, why are we giving away all the secrets? You know like, Hey, I always tell people, you know, in life, right? There is a simple formula. When you are 20 years old to 40 years old, you learn like a sponge from many masters. When you're 40 years old to 60 years old, you hone your craft to be the best that you can be in the world, in your particular profession or skill set or trade. When you hit 60 like me, you got to give it away, man. You, you know, life is short. You're going to die soon. So in the last 20 years of your life, you give everything away, pass it onto the next generation so that they don't fall and slip on the same banana peels that used to slip on because there's no need to. So I always tell people, you know, some people tell me, Harry, you're a godsend. I came to your class. I've been cooking brisket for 20 years. Never could get it right. Just spend six hours with you and I turn in championship brisket after the class. I said, yeah, that's exactly what it's about is I want to pass my knowledge onto you so that you can go around turning it around and become ambassadors of barbecue love. Take a boomerang. When you toss a boomerang into the universe, if the boomerang starts out small, it's going to get a momentum and come back and hit you on the side of the head Way bigger than you possibly could imagine.
Darrin - F & W : Well, and not everybody's going to go out there and compete against you in a barbecue competition. Either you're, you know, they're going to take it home and cook for their family like you said. And just like how you started, you know, just cooking for your family just so they can do it. They're not stealing your ideas to go compete against you in a barbecue competition.
Harry Soo: And they do, I congratulate them. I trained the first will be grand champion of California and I trained the first woman grand champion of Arizona and I'm so proud that she took my class and Saturday the following Saturday I competed against her in Scottsdale. I was reserve champion and she was grand champion. It just really brightens my heart. Where do I go to any contest where I compete and when The awards ceremony on Saturday comes around five o'clock half the people going on stage, right? They go on the stage, they signal me because these are all my alumni. I feel like a a proud father, 3000 pit masters around the world. I was even Amazed that even the Costa Rican national team told me, hey, they're coming to Jack Daniels this year because they got so many tips of my videos that they won the national championships, so now they have a seat in a check Daniels. Another team from Melbourne, Australia or new castle told me they followed my recipes on youtube to a t and now they're coming to America for the Wold Food Championship. So you know the story goes on and on internationally and nationally. People send me all these pictures. I just don't have time to post all this on my Facebook, but I get constantly every week I get pictures of people who have won awards and to me that is the reward that I get. I don't need anything more besides hearing their stories of their success.
Darrin - F & W : So how many barbecue classes do you do a year now? Do you still do a lot of them or,
Harry Soo: I probably am one of the most consistently prolific instructors in America because I teach about one to two classes a month at least. So I, and on the average I do between 25 to 35 classes a year, which I, I'm not sure even anybody who has a full time job. You instructor is able to do that consistently for 10 years. I mean the classes themselves or kind of a accident too and accidental teacher. Because my coworkers at work, I have a building of a thousand people. They would stop pestering me. Harry, you know, you, you, you, we like your barbecue. Can you teach us how to cook? So I kept saying, no, no, no, no. And on one Saturday morning my doorbell rang and a few of my coworkers showed up. They say, Harry, you cannot escape. We are here. You must teach us how to cook barbecue. So I kinda threw together an impromptu class for a few of my coworkers in my backyard. And then what do they do? They go back and they tell a thousand people in the building and then they start cooking the food and everybody badgers me for classes. So, and then I started teaching class. I said, yeah, I'll do two classes a year just to humor my coworkers. Then my coworkers. Started telling their friends and next thing you know, total strangers are sending me emails, right. Asking me to do classes. So I thought, hey, I'll do like maybe one class every three months. So he got to the point where I do teach three classes a month because I couldn't keep up because I felt bad because the waiting list was up to nine months long and I didn't want to disappoint people. So now I've kind of reached a steady state where I tried to do a, you know, like one to two classes a month and then I'm putting my knowledge out on youtube because I say, hey, you know, you don't have to come to my class. You know, if you're willing to watch my 160 videos, you essentially get the same information except in my class. I do it in a condensed way. We do 27 items in six hours. So is my version of BBQ insanity, you know, because if somebody told you that you would come to my backyard, sit and cook with me side by side and we will cook 27 items in seven hours, you think I'm crazy. But we do that every Saturday.
Darrin - F & W : Wow. Well, I know personally, I've got a friend of mine, John Setzler, he has his own youtube channels. Had it for awhile now. Man-Cave meals. I don't know if you've looked at that, but he was also, he did a lot of videos for Kamado Joe ceramic grills, but he told me he went out and did one of your classes a few years back and he said that it was one of the best things he ever did. So I know he'll be listening to this podcast as well.
Harry Soo: Yeah, the shout-out to him and I have many friends who have different kinds of pits and they will always know that. I told them, I taught them that it's always about the pit master and never the pit. So if you are skilled pit master, you should be able to cook with some chicken wire and cement blocks from home depot. That is the rule I taught my students.
Darrin - F & W : Now do you do a lot of personal appearances and like do companies hire you to come cook at events and stuff? I think you went to the HPB and all that.
Harry Soo: Yeah, I am constantly, you know, there is many more invitations that I can do that I have time for. I I decided that in order for me to reach the widest possible audience to kind of teach the world how to master barbecue the youtube seems to do be working. I still do a lot of events on the side. So I, I do approximately maybe 25 to 30 classes and then the re remaining 20 weekends of the year I spent doing other things. I, I'm big on trying to give back. So I'm trying to start up a, a kind of a grassroots social program, I call it the lifestyles grilling class. So we are going out and targeting at risk youth. I started the program in northern California with a social worker in Hayward where we run Saturday classes. We spend six hours teaching at risk youth, how to cook barbecue so they can have a new skillset. When you're 16 years old you should not be thinking about what gun to buy. You should really be thinking about what kind of clothing you want to buy to go attend a job interview. So America unfortunately has 50,000 of these kinds of At risk kids. And if you don't intervene in their life, they will end up into the juvenile system and then the adult penitentiary system and then you have a 40 times more likelihood that they will become career criminals. And this is just, in my opinion, a total waste of human potential because a lot of these kids are really good kids. They just have not had the opportunity to go beyond, they are kind of living in a worse environment. So I decided that I would try to put that program onto youtube and then put it in a kit.
Harry Soo: So anybody around the country now can download the kit. It's a kind of instruction manual that has a dozen chapters that teaches you how to set up such a social assistance program in your inner city, how to partner with social workers so that you can spread barbecue love in your own communities. And I'm happy to report that people around the country have been downloading the kit and I, I'm kind of coaching people now on how to teach them how to teach. So there's going to be a series of videos coming that I prepared by now that I teach you how to teach. So you can download the kit, go out to your inner city pair with the social worker, devote six hours of your Saturday roundup, your pit master buddies. So instead of kind of like going out and cooking barbecue, I'm asking people to join in this crusade to try to reach out to those 50,000 at risk youths spread all across America.
Darrin - F & W : Well and that's an amazing and very honorable thing for you to do to spread that knowledge and put that into a social program like that. I really love those kinds of organizations and that sounds similar to what chef Johnny Stewart does and chef Johnny works for a high school but he does a lot of that to teaching some of those kids how to cook. So I know you know Chef Johnny Stewart, cause you probably met him when you went to Troy Smith's house.
Harry Soo: Yeah. So what I want to try to do all the energy of America in terms of all the pit masters out there and a new weekend kind of unite to realize that the barbecue and the skills and the techniques right should be shared with the world. And I would submit that sharing it with at risk youth is not a bad thesis start. I think Anthony Bordaine said it best when he said that barbecue may not be the path to world peace, but it sure is a good start. And I think those words are very profound.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah. Well this is a good place for us to take a break. We're going to and take a little break for a, for an ad. I got ink Burt's, you know, sponsors this podcast, so I'm going to give them a minute or so, but we're going to be right back with Harry and we're going to talk about some other things. So we'll be right back.
Darrin - F & W : All right Harry, we're back. Now I just kind of want to go into some different things. You know, some basic questions of, I know when you first got into barbecue and I think even some of the competitions and even when you were on the barbecue pit masters you use simple grills and smokers you use, I think the Weber smokey mountain was like what you used, you know, to win a lot of your competitions. Is that right?
Harry Soo: Oh yes, I actually can say that I probably have the world record having won 101st places on a Weber smokey mountain 18".
Darrin - F & W : And have you ever been tempted to try to get the fancier stuff, the pellet grills and you know, cause some of the stuff you see on the newer you know, the newer competitions, I mean, some of these things are $15,000. You know, machines.
Harry Soo: My friend Jamie gear, who is the owner and inventor of the Jambo pice always joked with me, Harry, when your Weber smokey mountains grew up, they want to be a jambo offset smoker. So I always tell Jamie that when I go to contests, I've shown up in contest with, with Tamale pot on top of a smokey Joe and taken five walk with the KCBS contest. Because I, I always show people that, you know, it's never about the pit, it's about the pit master. If you look at the top 50 teams in America and you look at a kind of equipment that they use, you'll see a great diversity of equipment. You'll see stick burners, you'll see pellet cookers, you'll see a drums, a you see offsets, you see everything. And really, you know, I think that is exhibit a, that at the end of the day it's not the golf clubs that matter it is the person who swings the golf club that matters.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah, that's what I was going to kind of say. Cause it's the same thing with golf or you know, anything and any kind of a competition. People think that the equipment is the most important thing. Not The saying that, you know, you gotta have something that actually works. But I mean it's really about, like you said, you know, it's the pit master. It's how you put the food together, how you season it, how you treat the meat. It's, you know, not about the most expensive or the most technologically advanced a cooker just like with golf clubs or, or any other thing like that. So yeah, I agree 100% now I do like pellet grills for certain things. I like my Kamado grills for certain things. They do have their little idiosyncrasies and things that they do better than one another. But like you said, I, I really don't think at the end of the day it will turn out any different food. It just makes cooking a little bit easier. So,
Harry Soo: And then what matches your style. I mean there is a certain zen meditation ritual involved in putting a log into your offset smoker every 40 minutes. And people like that, they like to stay up to the night hours, watch the smoke rafting through the night and then watching that dawn and you know, go to dusk with the smoker and the meat, there is a unity and a connection with the food. So I appreciate that because that's what people enjoy. That some folks there who want to put the meat in and go to their cell phone, press a button, go out to the mall and watch their food cook on their cell phone. That's okay too. You know, different strokes for different folks.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah. There is a place for technology. There's a place for different types of, you know, cookers. I think it's like you said, anybody, you know, you can be, have a guy that just loves to cook on pellet cookers and he's going to turn in and win every time. But then again, you've got another guy that cooks on his Weber smokey mountain, and it's just the love that you put into it. It doesn't matter what you're cooking on.
Harry Soo: We have a saying in competition bbq, it's just a white styrofoam box. So whatever we use to create the product that goes in, you know, nobody knows because the judge told us, don't know.
Darrin - F & W : Right. So let's talk about what's your favorite thing to cook on the pit, whether it's for competition or for family. What, what, what's your favorite part of, when you're in a competition that you know, that's your favorite part of the competitions and brisket? Chicken, pork, ribs, what is it?
Harry Soo: Yeah, actually none of the above. I love the mystery meat entry.
Darrin - F & W : So what's the mystery meat entry. Tell us what that is,
Harry Soo: Okay, So in a most KCBS context, at least in California, is that they have the mystery entry. So the mystery entry can happen on Friday. It can happen on Saturday. Sometimes it's called the anything but category because I've cooked 300- 400 contest. So after awhile the ribs, pork, chicken and brisket become a little bit routine. So what I look forward to is actually these kind of iron chef type of events. Like when I cook the in London and I want the London championships they had the iron chef event and I was more happy that I won the British iron chef grilling championship. Then I did the British Barbecue Championships because he kind of not affair right at an American pit master going to England and, and, and beat the British in American barbecue. So I was a little bit sort of a kind of like muted in terms of my enthusiasm that hey, you know, the legacy is the American guy goes to London and beats everybody in England in American barbecue. That exactly is not a great headline. But I was very tickled when I won the grilling Iron Chef Contest by making a Moroccan style ginger orange glazed pork chop because the mystery meat that day was pork chop. So I love shows like food network, like top grill masters where you open up that basket and in sheer terror takes over because you have no idea what to do with brisket ice cream.
Darrin - F & W : Right. Those are some of my favorite shows too. And my family too. We'll sit there and we'll just watch, you know, they'll have episodes of you know chopped on, you know, six of them in a row and we'll sit there and watch every one of them, even though we saw it 10 times. That would be my biggest fear is all of a sudden you've got 30 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever it is to decide what you're going to cook out of this mystery basket that they given you. So, but that's awesome.
Harry Soo: I enjoy meeting people, you see me on a different collabs that I've done. I'm famous for being invited to somebody's house and the next thing you know I go to their pantry and I whip up a dish. So you see me do that at Troy's house. You see me do that at Justin Baby Back maniacs house where you know, I just go there with no preparation and I just go and plunder ingredients from all the other youtubers and then I'll make some kind of a dish for everybody to you enjoy . That's really where I'm in my element. To answer your question directly, I really like kind of like iron chef kind of create something on the fly type of moments.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah, that's, that's great because those are my favorite ones to watch when I'm watching those. Like, you know, Troy's video or Justin's and your, you know, you guys are there all together. I know you're going to do something nobody else is gonna do. So it's crazy. I like just the, I like that stuff. So let's talk about your slap, your daddy rubs and sauces and all that. When did you start those and when, how, how are they doing and how did, how long did it take you to get your formulas and stuff down for that?
Harry Soo: My sauce recipes is sort of a in engineering, in process type of journey. And I had been tweaking ingredients and sauces for many, many years and I didn't know they were any good until I started winning on the competition circuit and ended up on a TV show. Once I was on a TV show, somebody called me, I'm gonna say, Harry, I'm a fan of your TV show. And you know, do you sell your rubs? I said, no, I have a full time job. I have no time to make products. So he says, well, you know, I so happened to own a rub company. Would you like to partner with me? So I thought to myself, well, you know, my revenue from Sauces and Rubs is zero, so anything higher than zero is not a bad thing. And a, I entered into an agreement with David Sievers, a guy from Cleveland. He owns soup base dot com so folks around the country who buy the soup bases to inject in their brisket. They all pretty much buy it from David because David sells to a lot of wholesalers around the country who in turn sell it to barbecue stores. So if you buy like a minor's au jus, I'll do a minors beef base is good odds that he came from Cleveland, Ohio, from David's Seavers of soup base .com so I got into this partnership with David and then we decided to sell the product and we said, well, why don't we just do a test and see if anybody would buy it? When we launched it in, I think August of 2010 or 11, we sold $1,000 the first month. I thought, wow, that's insane that I'm a nobody. I put out the rub and then he sells $1,000 in the first month of launching with no advertising, just purely by word of mouth.
Harry Soo: And I was very thrilled because people who know me know that a lot of the net proceeds from barbecue benefit charities. So I support Operation Home Front for the troops, the families and the veterans as a support Save the children foundation, which takes care of children around the world because every day 22,000 children around the world die. So I also support other things like Operation Barbecue Relief and American Cancer Society because I lost my wife to cancer. So I do barbecue kind of as a way to give back to society because I already have a day job. So the day job takes care of my living expenses. So when I barbecue, I truly barbecue and whatever I have left from barbecue, I try to give it away to spread some love in the world. So the sauce kind of took off and the rub kind of took off over the years.
Harry Soo: And today I think we sell them all over America and Amazon and everything and everywhere and it was a very kind of an accidental journey. I never imagined myself to be a seasoning type of person, but people who use my products, they seem to win like doug shining. He won the Houston livestock and Rodeo first place beat 400 teams the first place just using just one product, just my chicken rub and you, he cooks on a GMG. So I was fortunate enough to be invited by him to go join him in the following year where he defended his title. So I got to go get a front row seat at the Houston livestock and Rodeo and a lot of the Times people tell me that they've used the product just out of the bottle to win first place. I say, wow, that's amazing man. Go for it.
Darrin - F & W : Now do you, do you still tinker around with rubs or do you kind of, you know, got your one ones at work and you just don't leave you leave them alone? To me. It sounds like you're somebody who likes to keep tinkering with things to try to make it better.
Harry Soo: Yeah. I always believe a perfection is not attainable only pretty good. So I have a pantry in my home that looks like a Frankenstein lab. I pretty much have like 120 spices from around the world, some that are so exotic, like our Resa things like you know that you probably have not heard before. But you know, I love to tinker with seasonings because a painter looks at a piece of white canvas and sees the possibility. When I walked into my pantry and I see my 120 spices, that's my pallet. That is how I paint. I paint with flavors and I paint to bring smiles to people's faces.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah. That's, that's Kinda how I feel. And, and my wife thinks I'm crazy because I try all kinds of different rubs and I try to be, I make my own as well, but I always like to try other people's concoctions and blends to see how they are. And then I compare them to what I do. You know, there's some that I, I just, you know, I, I've tried that. I just like, I can't believe people buy this, but you know, and it's all personal taste as well, but I'm the same way. I like to experiment and try new things and I'll try other people's rubs as well just to kind of see, you know, what other people are doing.
Harry Soo: Yeah. I always teach people who want to start a rub business that I always follow, offer them this advice that really the fact of the matter is, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you think about your seasonings, you still have to cook it. You have to take it to a contest and then you have to determine, I have 24 strangers, eat your food, beat a hundred teams to first place. Then you know that what you have is something tangible that you can give to someone else to replicate the same results. So I always tell people, if you want to start a rub seasoning, go ahead and blend it the best you can. Cook it, take it to a contest and see how well he does. If he reaches first place, then you know you have a winner because you know, I, there are many, many thousands of seasonings out there. Everybody claims there's to be good, but at the end of the day, right, I would say that the crit street credibility of yours easily is important. And you know how well it does in double-blind context I think is, is the gold standard that determines whether it's good or it's bad.
Darrin - F & W : Exactly. Yeah. When you've got people that don't know you don't care about, you are tasting it and you know, those are the ones that are going to tell you the truth about it, right?
Harry Soo: Yeah. The idea is that the rock in the raw form means nothing. So many rubs may taste good raw, but after cooked for 14 hours, it tastes different. So what I am telling you is that when I cooked and I blend an engineer, my formulas for my rub, I don't just taste it raw. I actually cook the brisket six times and tweak the recipe six times. So each brisket takes 14 hours to cook. So I've invested right a hundred hours sometimes to just tune one aspect of the spice. So I'm like OCD when you go to bed at night, right. And you dream about your vacation. I go to dream, I go to bed and dream about the 27 shades of color on my chicken. That's how OCD I am.
Darrin - F & W : That's funny. I've watched some of your you know, chicken trimming videos and stuff like that and you're very meticulous and you're a good teacher. But you know, that's one of the things I, I don't see myself ever being able to go to a barbecue competition. And because I, I don't have the patience for some of the details it takes. Like, like I watched you do the chicken thigh trimming and just the amount of detail you go into with the skin scraping the fat off, you know, trimming the, the, the skin perfect. And putting it back on. I mean, I don't think I could do that, but I can see where, where it's one of the better things. So it's,
Harry Soo: Yes, absolutely. And I always tell people that's what it takes to win first place USA to beat 7,000 professional teams to first place. Now what I, what I tried to do on my channel is I take competition techniques and I adapt it so that you can create the same thing at home with us all, much difficult. That's why it took me like nine chicken videos too, to show you all the tricks I have because I show you the black belts. I also show you the white belt, so I'm busy teaching you, hey, you don't have to do all this crazy shit stuff. You just do it this way and you will get 90% of the results. The other 10% fall a la La leave it the people who are competing, you can get 90% of the competition chicken by just following some of these basic steps. Or I introduce these fundamental series on my channel 10 briskets, fundamentals seven hot and fast fundamentals because I want to kind of pass on this knowledge to people so that you do not have to go through the crazy lengths that we do as competitors. You can get 90 80% of that mileage by just following some basic steps.
Darrin - F & W : Yeah, and that's a, that's one of the, another thing I love about your youtube channel. It's not just about tradition and myths and you know the people that, you know, you've got to rub mustard on your pork butt to make the rub stick. You know, that's not true. I know it's not true, but people will act and there's nothing wrong with it, but it's, you know, it's not like you have to use mustard. That's the only thing that will you use water. It will make your rubs stick to the pork butt just as well.
Harry Soo: Yeah. The Internet has something called GOT's so GOT's in my book or I, I've identified each species on the Internet just like we are known as homo-sapiens, right? We are homo-sapiens, we are upright human beings. There is a species on the Internet called got got sense or guidance of tradition. So people who wake up in the morning and who serve the Internet all day long, who do not cook by consider themselves regarding our tradition because they watch 1000 videos and they read 1000 podcasts and blog and they consider themselves experts. So I have a rule. Any student whom I teach understands Harry's three to one rule. Harry three to one rule is very simple. For every three hours of cooking barbecue you are allowed and permitted to watch one hour of online videos. That's the rule because a lot of people who ask questions and you know I get thousands of questions, right? I answer every single one of them and I can tell you a lot of people ask me questions. They don't cook, they are keyboard cooks, so I always admonish them to say hey, get off your keyboard. Go Out and light your pit and cook some food and then for every three hours later go back and surf for an hour. That's the ratio. I think that will allow you to develop your skill sets. You cannot keep watching videos or tiger woods swing his club. You've got to go out to the range and swing 10,000 times in order to understand what he's trying to teach you. So when I tried to teach, right, people argue with me over how much water to put into apple cider so they can spray the pork. You know? I know that they're not really cooking, they're just GOT's.
Darrin - F & W : That's true. I mean, but you find that in every cooking style method. I mean, I find it in the sous vide groups as well, where it's, it's the same type of stuff where, you know, the people that don't actually do any cooking, they just sit there and they've read five other Facebook groups. They've looked at the blogs and podcasts, and that's, they're just parroting what they've heard or seen or read. They don't really cook, they're not really knowledgable
Harry Soo: And then they argue with you. They argue with you. With passion and sometimes, right. You know, I need to be kind of like rude, but a lot of these people are kind of really rude. Like, are you okay? People who are on the internet may not know who Harry Soo is and I'm okay with that. I don't need to have any kind of notoriety. I just like to cook and teach people what I do. And I started, this is what I did. And he t he was good enough for first place USA. So, you know, you may not like it. It's cool, do it your way, you know, I don't want to mess with your 30 year tradition and then you've been a pitmaster for 30 years. Do what you're doing. But I'm just showing you what I do. You don't have to follow me. You know, they condemn me to hell. You know what they say? Wow, you did that? That's blasphemy, It's like what?
Darrin - F & W : Right, exactly. And that's, that's my thing is if you want to cook it a different way, that's more, you're more than welcome to. But don't try to trash what I'm doing. Especially if you've never cooked it the way I do. You know? I mean, I get that a lot where people would just go, oh no, you gotta do it this way. It's like you ever tried it my way? Probably not. So don't tell me that I'm doing it wrong because it's the results that count and how I like it cause it still boils down to personnel preference.
Harry Soo: You know, Darrin, you, whenever you have that, you can remember what I said and you can chalk it up to GOT"s that's another GOT out there.
Darrin - F & W : Yup, that's right. I'm going to use that. Well Harry, I've kept you or we've been almost at an hour here and we could probably talk for another couple hours, but I know you've got a plane to catch and I'm very appreciative and glad that you are able to make it on the podcast today. Is there anything else you want to talk about before we say goodbye?
Harry Soo: I want to again emphasize the message that the rainbow of barbecue is a culture of what do you call inclusiveness, not exclusiveness. So I want to pass a reminder to all your listeners that really when you cook barbecue and somebody comes up to you and tells you that they boiled their rips resist, that reads that brain that's telling you to say something unkind to the person. What you should really be saying is that, wow, you boil your ribs and you say that you have the best ribs in the world. You should ask that person, what do you do with the Ri? Because if the person tells you that I'm spreading love with my boiled rip, you should just say, let me have some.
Darrin - F & W : That's right. And it's not just, you know, barbecue, it's cooking in general. Cooking in general is something that we as humans do that, you know, we enjoy. We, we do it to provide for our families to let you know, do things that they love. You know, it's, it's all about, you know, bringing happiness to other people. So I really love that message. So,
Harry Soo: Yeah. So I would like to shout out to all your listeners and to you Darrin anytime you want to chat you can just grab me anywhere. I, I pretty much, ah, and I'm Skype and Microsoft teams all day long in my day job. So I talked to an hours called living. So if you just want to chat about, you know, life wisdom, barbecue, wisdom, cooking wisdom, more than happy to join your podcast. And thank you so much for, for inviting me onto your podcast.
Darrin - F & W : Well, I'm hoping that I'm going to be able to have a chance to meet you if you're going to be at the HPB show next year in a New Orleans cause I'm hoping that we can meet, you know, with Troy and Justin and maybe some of the other guys that you got. You guys got the meetup in Dallas this year, which looked like it was a great time. And Greg, I did get a chance to meet Greg a couple of weeks ago out in California. I was out in San Diego for work and I got to have dinner with Greg Mirvich. So that was, that was great. Didn't have time to get up to Los Angeles or anything, but but hopefully we can meet sometime here soon. It was really great having you and I appreciate it and thanks again for coming on, Harry. Thanks again.
Harry Soo: All Right Darren. Appreciate it. Catch you next time.
Darrin - F & W Wow, that was a great episode. Thanks for joining us. Thanks Harry for being here. Thanks everybody for following the fire and water cooking podcast. Make sure you follow us on Facebook, on our page and our group. Follow us on Youtube. I'm the fire and water cooking channel, Twitter, Instagram, all that. I'll also put a link to Harry Sue's youtube channel down below in the description. Make sure you check out Harry's wealth of knowledge on his youtube channel as well. Thanks again guys, and I'll see you on the next episode.