BBQ Class in Hilo, Hawaii, November 17, 2012
“The sound of the surf is like a soothing balm to the soul.” These words by Skip Sims summed up what it was like at my November 17 class in the Big Island in Hawaii. Skip and is wife Ilze were my hosts at their beautiful ocean-front home in Ninole about 20 miles from Hilo. I spent an idyllic couple of nights amid the sound of chirping birds, chattering insects, and the crashing of the surf over a hundred feet below their clifftop Shangri-La.
Skip was one of the barbecue judges at the Hawaii State BBQ Championship which I cooked in on Independence Day July 4th in 2012. That contest was a very special win for Slap Yo Daddy because it was the 7th grand championship that qualified SYD for the prestigious 2012 Jack Daniels Invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I cooked the Jack in late October and had an amazing time so it was time to go back to Hawaii to return the favor and spread BBQ happiness through the islands.
After I had won that contest, Rick Frederick, the contest organizer, and I talked about conducting a barbecue class for Hawaiian pitmasters. As soon as word got out to the Hawaiian barbecue community that SYD was coming, the class filled up. Several locals offered to host the class at their homes and since it rains a lot in Hilo, Skip’s home was a good choice since he had a huge covered car porch. We could comfortably seat the entire class underneath as well as the smokers.
Because I would be flying in to teach, many students helped to obtain needed meats, ingredients, paper goods, and grocery items. It was not easy to find certain meats in the islands so extra kudos go to John Penner for making several 50-mile trips to Costco to hunt down all the meats especially the baby-back ribs. Thanks to Beverly Molfino for locating the pork butts. Thanks to the rest of the students who helped bring the items needed for the class.
I flew in on Friday from LAX and Skip picked me up from Hilo airport. After a quick stop at Safeway for some groceries, we were off the Skip’s home in Ninole, 20 miles from Hilo. Skip’s wife Ilze was already fixing dinner and after settling into the guest room overlooking the ocean, I did an equipment check with my gear list to ensure all the necessary class items were accounted for. John Penner and David Davenport arrived before dinnertime after a 2 hour drive from the Kona side of the Big Island.
John Penner of 1-2-BarB-Que team provided two WSM-22 and Rick Frederick provided a third WSM-22. Rick’s WSM was the same one he loaned me to win the Hawaii State Championship. David Daveport of Big I Que provided a Weber Kettle and Skip provided his gas grill and we were all set. David even built me a Stoker fan adapter to fit the WSM-22 since the one I brought on the plane was sized for the WSM-18. He found a cute dog bowl with paw prints embossed in the dish and did a little MacGyver tweak using a drill and hole-cutter to make it fit. Many thanks also to David for his special honey from his own bees. Many thanks for the Kona coffee from John Penner which, I’m told, is so good that it’s flown to New York to be served in Forbes offices in Manhattan.
John, David, and I were treated to a wonderful Indian-style dinner by Ilze who cooked seafood curry with scallops, fish, and shrimp. The curry was accompanied by steamed rice, lime chutney, spicy slaw, crushed peanuts, coconut flakes, and sliced bananas. It was delicious!
Over dinner, we learned more about our hosts and how Skip left his New York advertising executive job, sold his Manhattan house (yes, he owned a house in Manhattan!) and belongings, and bought a sailboat and sailed away from New York. His travels took him to the Caribbean where he met Ilze and it was love at first sight. Ilze was born in landlocked Johannesburg and she knew she wanted to sail the oceans since she was a child. Fate connected them on their life journey together.
They proceeded to sail around the world the next 10 years and covered the globe several times with 94,000 miles in their log. Skip and Ilze has also visited Penang, the tropical island in Malaysia where I was born. They crossed the Malaysian Straits six times over the years and developed a love for Malaysian street food. By amazing coincidence, their favorite Malaysian street food was spicy wok-fried noodles and this was also my favorite dish. When their sailing wanderlust and long days at sea abated, they sailed to Seattle and sold their boat. They were headed to settle in New Zealand when they fortuitously ran into this property in Ninole fell in love with it. Skip said the sound of the surf crashing on the rocks below reminded them of being on their former 50-foot sailboat.
Everyone was very helpful and accommodating even though my class ran into overtime. It’s always more challenging to teach in a new environment with borrowed equipment and new equipment layout. Further I was losing my voice as I was recovering from a cold as I had been on the road every weekend criss-crossing America and now the Pacific Ocean the past two months. During the class, there were times when I could not hear myself teach over the sound of the pouring rain. Luckily, the sturdy car porch kept everyone dry and we let the squalls pass before continuing.
With the help of my students, we successfully cooked and served 15 items in class just like in my Diamond Bar classes. It was a milestone moment for me to be able to finally serve my signature Seared Ahi Tuna with Maui Onion dish in Hawaii. I had created this dish in the 1980’s to remind me of my wonderful trips to Hawaii while employed by Singapore Airlines. After 30 years, I’m happy that my travels have taken me back to Hawaii to share my dish, which was picked up on the Internet and featured in a Hawaii magazine.
The class wound down about 3 pm. Everyone ate until they were sleepy and took a lot of food home. We cleaned up and packed all the equipment away. I was very grateful for everyone’s hospitality and glad I made new Hawaiian friends. It seemed that everyone had a memorable time and want me back next year! A big thank you goes from the bottom of my heart to my Hawaiian friends. An extra big thanks goes to Skip and Ilze Sims for their hospitality and for opening up their beautiful home to conduct the class. Thanks everyone for helping send part of net class proceeds to Operation Homefront and Save The Children charities. Mahalo Nui Loa. Aloha until I see everyone again.