When Rohan Dimmock contacted about how he had seen me on BBQ Pitmasters, I never imagined that I would be teaching three classes at his Sydney barbecue store a few months later. Rohan, together with his business partner Fred own BBQ Smokers, the largest BBQ store in Sydney, Australia.
I’ve been to many BBQ stores in the US so I can personally say it’s one of the biggest, even by US standards. This mega store has a huge variety of smokers, rubs, sauces, woods, and accessories. Smokers from $300 to $30,000 are all on the 8,000 square-foot showroom floor.
I met Rohan several times during his LA stopovers as he travels to the US several times a year to meet with prospective US manufacturers and suppliers. He doesn’t believe in stocking products based just on the Internet and email. Everything in his store such as Gateway drums, Horizon pits, American Barbecue System smokers, rubs, and sources are all carefully curated and handpicked by him after meeting the suppliers. The story of the US persons behind the product is as important as the product itself.
Rohan took my BBQ 101 class in Diamond Bar and told me that Australians would love my zero-to-hero 6-hour BBQ insanity class. I know little about the Aussie barbecue scene besides the campy Shrimp-on-the-Barbie references in movies and the Florida-based chain of Australian themed Outback restaurants. Besides, it had been over 30 years since my 747 pilot days where I had flown to Sydney, so I jumped at his invitation.
Planning for the class and sourcing gear and supplies took several months and we picked the end of September 2016 to conduct three classes. The curriculum would be similar to my Diamond Bar class with minor adjustments to accommodate Australian meats and butchery practices. For example, we got a whole hog shoulder instead of the usual Boston butt, so we used that opportunity to conduct a butchery class to separate the whole shoulder into three cuts: Boston butt, picnic, and shank.
We were fortunate to have two very high-quality meat sponsors, Sun Pork who provided the ribs and shoulders cuts and Cape Grim who supplied all the grass-fed Tasmanian beef. The ribs were similar to the ones in the US as Sun Pork is the Australian supplier for Costco so you may have tasted their pork in the US. Cape Grim provided the 100% grass-fed, free-range, GMO and hormone free brisket, ribeye (Scotch fillets), tri tip, and flat iron (oyster blade).
I brought along my good friend and SYD alumni Steve Botkin to help out since Steve had taken my class several times. I often kid Steve that I’m such a bad instructor that he has to repeat my class. Steve, IT consultant, is a former Space Shuttle engineer and is head cook of his comp team Desperado BBQ. Steve would be my crew chief to guide my two assistants Paul and Joe whom Rohan had recruited to help in the class.
Paul King, all round nice guy, is a trained chef and besides cooking, he’s a cooking instructor at the local New South Wales TAFE trade school.
Joe Chidiac, who was one of the Weber Kettle pioneers in Australia and who’s favorite phase is WTF, was my main Jalapeno Poppers aka Buffalo Turds guy. Joe drives trains in Sydney as his day job.
As requested by fans, I did my rendition of Shrimp on the Barbie. You’re probably aware there’s no such dish in Australia, just like there are no fortune cookies in China. It was a US ad agency invention popularized by Paul Hogan of the Crocodile Dundee fame in the 1980’s.
This wildly successful Australian tourism commercial was used in America to catapult Australia from 78th place to first place dream destination for Americans. When Paul Hogan said he’d put an extra shrimp of the barbie, he said shrimp for the American audience because it’s actually called prawn in Australia. Mmm . . . shrimp with garlic, butter, and lemon juice is always delicious.
In my Diamond Bar class, I teach about 20 items in six hours between 8 am and 2 pm. On my last class in Sydney, Rohan challenged me to set a world record for the number of items cooked, from scratch, in a six-hour class. Not wanting to back down, I said yes, so we went on a crazy journey to drive all over Sydney sourcing ingredients for a 35-item cook.
No animal would be spared including the emu and kangaroo, two animals on the Australian Coat of Arms.
Kangaroo meat was easy to find as most local grocery stores in Sydney carried it, but we had to visit a specialty butcher on Bondi Beach called Sam the Butcher to find emu meat.
Emu is the Australian version of an ostrich and actually farmed in the USA for its meat, feathers, eggs, and oil for health care products. I was surprised to learn that many students had never tasted these local delicacies.
The raw meat is a very dark cherry red and very low in fat so care must be taken not to overcook it. We smoked it until rare and grilled it until rare-medium. After cooking, it looks like beef and the flavor is similar but a little sweeter. If you’re familiar with venison and deer meat, the kangaroo and emu are similar and delicious.
Joe our self-proclaimed Turd Master was our jalapeno and appetizer specialist and he made three variations of Jalapeno Poppers: sausage, peanut butter and jelly, and salami.
Our crew and students also made Sputnicks (dates stuffed with Feta cheese and wrapped in bacon), Korean Kalbi beef ribs, bacon wrapped asparagus, doinks, Croinks (croissants wrapped in bacon), porky crackles (crunchy pork rinds), Lebanese spicy sausages, butterfly lamb roll with walnut blue cheese stuffing, Malaysian Belacan picnic pork, lamp lollipops, beef oyster blade (flat iron), Kransky sausages, and the usual lot of American brisket, pork, ribs, chicken, etc.
When the dust settled, we had Paul Halloran from Clorox.com (owners of the Kingsford brand) count the 35 items and Gavin Leung photographed them for posterity.
Thanks to our sponsor Kingsford Australia, we were not short of cooking fuel.
We also used Iron Bark wood which is native and is similar to American post oak. It’s dense, burns long, has high BTU, and light smoke. Adding some fruit wood like apple, cherry, and peach worked very well in the Horizon stick burner pits we used for the class.
My students spanning the three classes were backyarders, restaurant owners, caterers, food truck owners, and competitors. I reminded my students that they would, in a few years, become the leaders of Australian barbecue so I asked them to take what they learned about American barbecue and make it distinctly their own Australian interpretation of low and slow barbecue. I encouraged them to source local ingredients and use local woods even if they were using American style pits.
Many US fans asked if there was time to see a bit of Sydney and the good news was, we had a day between each of the three classes, so Rohan took us to visit several iconic places like the Opera House, Bondi Beach, Cronulla beach, and the Sydney Harbour. We took the scenic route by riding the commuter boat that, during the work week, would ferry workers and enjoyed a picturesque view cruising the river towards downtown Sydney harbour (or harbor in American speak).
As the trip wound down, the buzz and feedback from the students was that they loved the classes and since there were others who could not get into class, Rohan suggest I come back in February 2017 to do more classes. He also invited me to be the Sensei for his Smoking Joker’s BBQ team at the upcoming American Royal on October 29 so I’m looking forward to that adventure. A huge thanks goes to Rohan, my host, to my three helpers Steve, Paul, and Joe, and lastly to Fred and Rachael who helped run the BBQ Smokers store while were all busy teaching. A big thank you to all the sponsors, especially Cape Grim Beef, Sun Pork Fresh Foods, and Kingsford Clorox Australia. Thank you to all the newly minted Australian pitmasters who will now spread BBQ love all over down under. I can’t wait to be back and remember to live, love, and barbecue