TLC BBQ Pitmasters Episode #4 – American Royal Invitational

Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ at the American Royal Invitational

The 7 teams on the BBQ Pitmasters TV show were scattered throughout the massive American Royal contest site in Kansas City so we couldn’t spend much time hanging out. We found two other California teams cooking in the Invitational: Smoking Yankees and Ric’s Righteous Ribs; as well as Larry Hill and Neil Strawder who were there cooking with the Fast Eddie and BBQ Brethren teams respectively.

There were 124 teams in the Saturday Invitational which was the largest Best-of-the-Best teams contest in the world as only teams who won a Grand Championship the previous 12 months were invited. There was a total of almost 500 teams there, combined, for the Sunday Open. The Open was a huge party fest as many teams hosted lavishly produced corporate parties. For example, our super-nice next door neighbor Terry hosted a 200+ person party Friday night with a live band much like many dozens of parties in full swing.

Chris Juencke and Harry Soo B-Day Party in Kansas City
Birthday Boys!

On Thursday night, I treated Chris Juencke, his Dad Fred, and our three-person team to dinner at Gates BBQ, a well-known Kansas-style BBQ institution. We shared a combo platter with Mac w Pickle Juice, Beans, and Roasted Potatoes. The spare ribs were a little salty. The turkey and ham were good, and the brisket was outstanding – sliced thin and very flavorful. The sauce was not sweet and had a good tang and kick.

Our spot #890 was at the end of one of the BBQ alleys and luckily, we were able to barricade ourselves behind bales of hay to keep the very drunk public out. We had our share of excitement Friday evening outside our booth with: two women arguing and almost coming to blows; two men fighting with one having his head kicked and the kaka beat out of him (they were supposedly friends); a young attractive stupid-drunk woman who was lost and disoriented whom Gary and Chris helped out as good Samaritans; our producer and camera crew were showered with rum and coke by irate mean drunks during an on-the-fly (OTF) interview with me for the show, a 32 year old guy wanting to pawn his foxy 22 year old girlfriend for “favors”, and someone tried to jack my minivan by testing to see if the doors were unlocked (I was sleeping inside). And hot babes showing up after midnight with the line, ”so-and-so team sent us to you because you have the best ribs so could we have a taste?” Of course, silly me being a first time Royal competitor didn’t realize that the hungry drunks were out to get fed and would show you their rack for a taste of yours! The other teams told me later that they cook ribs just to get flashed! Next time, I’ll cook ribs and get my camera ready!

Harry, Gary, Mark

The weather was beautiful and a little chilly when we had the Friday potluck dinner (Spanish Paella, steaks, spaghetti, vegetables) with the Juencke family of the Smoking Yankees team from Stockton: Chris, Bekah, Scottie, and Megan. Chris’ Dad Fred surprised the heck out of everyone by jumping out of Ric Gilbert’s car as none of the Juencke family expected him to make the trip after his recent successful cancer surgery. It was moments like this hanging out with close friends that is the essence of the American Royal experience. To win an award is nice but the real magic at a BBQ contest is the right-here-and-how spending time with great friends.

Our good buddy Kyle from dressed to impress

The overnight cook went normally. I opted to guess the Kansas flavor envelope again and tried to cook it sweet. Our results were respectable as we came in 51st of 124 teams (89th chicken; 72nd ribs; 53rd pork; 21st brisket). Nothing to write home about but we did finish ahead of 70+ GC teams in the process. We’ve been struggling trying to obtain contest quality meat while on the road. The butts flown in from our sponsor T&H Meats and Sausage from San Marcos were great but the chicken, ribs, and brisket we obtained from a local specialty butcher was not really contest quality.  A big shoutout goes to Tuffy Stone of Cool Smoke.  Awesome 3rd place overall finish among the 124 GC teams who showed up for this legendary throwdown.  We completed our first Royal Invitational tired but happy.