2010 Starr Pass BBQ Classic, Tucson, Arizona

Benny was ill with the stomach flu, so I cooked the KCBS-sanctioned Starr Pass BBQ Classic in Tucson, Arizona, on October 30, 2010, with my friend Wesley Saiki.  Wesley had cooked with me at the Stagecoach contest in Indio, CA, the past couple of years.  Slap Yo Daddy BBQ seems to be on a roll, and we won this contest handily by a 12-point margin (2nd Brisket, 3rd Pork, 4th Ribs, 9th Chicken) against the 2nd place team amid 34 teams so our luck seems to be holding.  I’m as surprised as everyone because this is our 10th GC for 2010 and our third bung for Jack 2011.  Amazingly, for this week, we’re also #4 overall in America amid 4,500 teams and just one point shy of 3rd place.

Gorgeous JW Marriott Hotel where contest was held
Sweeping panoramic view of Tucson’s twinkling lights at nighttime

We were treated to a change of pace and scenery as the contest was held at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa.  This was a gorgeous resort nestled up against the Tucson Mountain Park framed by giant Saguaro cactus.   Instead of competing in a dusty dirt field with no water or electricity and porta-potties, we were treated to the facilities of a world class hotel.

Giant Saguro cactus growing right next to contestants
Popup canopies dot the hotel lot like mushrooms after rain

The Friday cooks meeting was held in the convention center and a buffet dinner was provided courtesy of the hotel.  Since it was Halloween, many booths were scarily decorated to vie for the $600 prize money and there was also a costume contest.

Full Halloween regalia
Spooky insides of the booth
Lots of creepy characters prowled the BBQ event
Captain Morgan’s Girl
Costume finalists. Of course, BBQ Barbie (far left) won!

Since I was conducting a Saturday BBQ class for this contest, Chris Brown, Executive Chef and contest host of the JW Marriott arranged for us to have a room.   It was really nice to have a shower and have a fluffy down bed to sink into after the 8-hour drive from Los Angeles.

Big tub to soak away your fatigue!
My weakness is 700 count sheets and soft pillows

Of course, as head cook, I let my assistant enjoy the room while I roughed it out sleeping in my van so I could keep an eye on the WSMs during the long-haul cook on Friday night.  During dinner, I had the fortunate coincidence to sit beside a fellow competitor who was instrumental in us winning this contest.  Why?  He was wearing a big watch so I asked him what kind of watch it was.  He told me he was a hot-air balloonist, and his watch could tell the altitude.  He told me his watch was showing 2,800 feet.  The light bulb in my head come on immediately!

For those who cook at altitude would have realized that cooking at 2,800 feet affects your cook duration as there is less oxygen the higher up you go.  I called Benny at home, and he went on the Internet to help me calculate the extension in cooking duration due to the high altitude.  I adjusted our cook time and started at 8 pm instead of our usual 11 pm to compensate.   About 1 hour into the cook, I realized my WSMs could not reach the desired 250-degree temperature and would not get above 210 degrees with the Stoker-powered fan running full bore.   Wes and I tried several ways to get the temp up including opening the door and vents.  Nothing worked that could hold the temperature consistently at 250.  For example, we kept the door open, and it would rise to 250. When we closed the door, it dropped back to 210. So to solve the altitude problem, we tried hooking up our second blower and temp probe.  This trick worked and within minutes, we were at our normal cooking range of 250.

Notice the second Stoker fan in the back of the WSM
We ran two CPUs instead of the usual one CPU in this contest

During Saturday morning, I did my free clinic on how to make our Slap Yo Daddy Lazyman presentation box with 1 head of lettuce and 3 heads of parsley for less than $4.00.  We’ve taught this easy technique to dozens of teams and top national teams like Johnny Trigg of Smokin Triggers and Jamie Greer of Jambo Pits use our technique today.  It was great to see so many new teams trying their hand at competing.

Slap You Daddy Lazyman Box Class
Lots of new teams and fellow competitors came to learn
4 boxes done in 20 mins for less than $4.00

After the brisket turn-on, I conducted a free rib cooking class for the contest public at 3 pm.  I was honored to cook with Chef Javier Castro of the JW Marriott who helped me prepare a case of baby backs for the class.   I showed the audience how to prepare our SYD rub and how to cook the ribs to perfection.  The class was treated to cooked ribs and my very popular Asian-inspired Coleslaw with fresh herbs.  It was a treat to have Javier hand pick fresh herbs from the hotel’s organic herb garden to use for the demo.  The 40+ who showed up enjoyed themselves and the class generated a lot of goodwill for the hotel and for the BBQ contest.  Wesley and I were also able to distribute 60+ pork samples to the security staff, kitchen staff, and front desk staff at the JW Marriott to spread BBQ happiness.

Harry with Chef Javier Castro

We really had fun at this event and look forward to coming back next year.  We were treated like rock stars by the hotel staff.  Our every need was taken care of in a first-class way.  Thanks go to Chris Brown, Executive Chef, for being our host and organizer, Mike Reiman and Tom Duncan for putting the event together, all the judges, Merl, Carol, Kelly, and Kathleen for officiating, and all the helpers and hotel staff.   Congrats to all the teams who walked and took part.

We’d like to thank our terrific Sponsors:  Rocks BBQ System for our Stoker temperature control system, T&H Meat and Sausages for our meat products, TheSlabs.com for our rub products, Cajun Bandit for our Weber stainless replacement doors, Smokin Guns for our rubs, and Butcher BBQ for our injections.

GC with 2nd Brisket, 3rd Pork, 4th Ribs, 9th Chicken