Invitation to First Annual Harry Soo Groovin BBQ Backyard Cookoff 2013



<Completed. See Contest Blog

You are personally invited on Saturday, December 14, 2013, to attend the 1ST Annual Harry Soo Groovin Backyard Cook-off benefiting Michelle’s Place, a Breast Cancer Resource Center at the Maurice Car’rie Winery in Temecula, located on the I-15 between San Diego and Los Angeles. Over 20 teams will compete to dazzle panels of Certified Barbecue Judges (CBJs) with chicken, ribs, and tri-tip entries served in contest-style Styrofoam boxes and garnish.

By way of background, it was a gorgeous sunny Saturday in March 2008 when I stumbled into the March Madness Backyarder contest in Orange County in Southern California. I was curious to learn more about competition barbecue after visiting the California BBQ Association website.

A couple of months earlier, I was cajoled by fellow employees in my Bucket List group at work to complete a stretch goal they wrote down for me which was cook a barbecue contest after one of my project managers saw the movie The Bucket List. So I thought I’d visit an actual barbecue contest to get a feel of things. I arrived and promptly met several of the teams and they were all super friendly. The officials in charge, Kelly and Kathleen McIntosh, saw me and gave me a pencil and a scoring sheet and sat me down to judge the barbecue entries in this non-sanctioned mock contest . . .  and the rest, as they say, is history.

Roll forward 6 years later in 2013 and I now have over 1,000+ students whom I have personally passed on my barbecue knowledge in small hands-on classes a dozen or so at a time.  I’ve taught in US, Canada, England, and Hawaii, and even had students from Thailand, Korea, Netherlands, Australia, and Africa! Many alumni have bugged me over the years for a backyard contest so they could feel the thrill of competition before they jumped into a real contest. My students even formed their own SYD Facebook alumni page!

In October 2013, Ira Pupko of Hog Heaven BBQ, Temecula, one my alumni, met a gracious winery owner Maurice Van Roekel who allowed us to use the large parking lot at her Maurice Car’rie Winery to host the 1st Annual Harry Soo Groovin BBQ Backyard Cookoff 2013.

Although I have zero experience hosting BBQ cookoffs, I do have 6 years of experience hanging out in the barbecue community of judges, teams, organizers, hosts, officials, and volunteers.

I’m a big “concept” person and before I take on any project, I always ask myself why I’m doing it before deciding what, when, where, and how to do it. As part of my risk management strategy (after all I’m a project manager), I recruited an organizing committee of folks who have much more experience than me including a veteran barbecue organizer Ben Lobenstein, veteran judge Donna Fong (my fiancé), Jerry Aguilar (alumni), Mimi (webmaster), and Ira Pupko (alumni and 2013 ROY candidate).  Volunteers from Michelle’s Place would also be helping out.  We were able to assemble over 20 CBJs and a half dozen seasoned pitmaster friends to act as mentors

I decided to approach the 1st Annual cookoff using a David Letterman Top Gripes about barbecue contests and decided to use that gripe list as a checklist to ensure the event would go smoothly. So the common complaints I hear about competition barbecue over the years is as follows:

  1. It costs too much to enter a barbecue contest
  2. Why are there no “minor league” contests where I can practice for a nominal fee?
  3. $350 registration fee to pay is too much!  My wife will never allow me to enter contests!
  4. Cooking brisket and pork butt takes too long and is too difficult.
  5. Why don’t we have tri tip which is the official barbecue for California?
  6. The public and visitors can smell and see barbecue but there is no way they can sample
  7. When there are barbecue tastings for the public, it’s not the same quality as what the judges taste
  8. There is no place for the public to sit and relax
  9. Host needs are not taken care of
  10. Do you help with charity with these contests?
  11. No one explains what’s going on and level and frequency of communications with the teams, judges, and volunteers is poor
  12. There is no one to mentor new teams
  13. I don’t know much about BBQ contest rules
  14. How do I make a box with garnish?
  15. I like to barbecue and want to ask questions but there is no one to talk to as the teams are too busy
  16. Will my backyard barbecue be judged by expert judges like CBJ’s? (Certified BBQ judges)
  17. Can I get feedback for my entries from the judges in addition to scores on my appearance, taste, and tenderness?


So with the help of my organizing committee, we are hosting our very first Groovin’ Backyarder this Saturday. This event will make best efforts to address the gripes outlined above.  I’ll follow up with a blog about how the event went and post pictures.

Come by to see us this Saturday, December 14, 2013! Free BBQ samples to all my friends.