Although "Woodstock Wine & Deli" is typically closed on Sundays, on September 29 more than two dozen people were seated at its tables indoors, and the parking lot was filled with smokers and portable barbecue grills.
"Today, we have 33 'certified barbecue judge' candidates going through a day-long training; and outside, there are more than 20 pit masters; all of them barbecue cooks of varying degrees of experience," said Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association Training Chair Pat Maddock of "Maddog's BBQ".
Inside, the budding barbecue judges were learning from their peers, certified judges, how to rank each barbecue sample – ranging from "2" for "inedible", to "9" for "excellent" – in three categories: Appearance, taste, and tenderness.
"And, these cooks have varying goals and desires which bring them here today," Maddock told THE BEE. "Some of them want to improve their backyard barbecue skills; others want to learn to be competition cooks; and we also have competition cooks who come to this class to pick up extra tips and techniques.
"I chose instructors who are willing to share their secrets; by and large, the 'winningest' barbecue cooks are happy to help others along," Maddock said. "My attitude is, I'll help coach and mentor you – all the way up to fourth-place! – and then you're on your own."
Maddock Best BBQ Tip: "If you look'n, you ain't cook'n!" He added that every time a cook opens the pit, heat and smoke escape, resulting in a longer cook and tougher meat.
Grand Champion BBQ Pitmaster mentors
Many of the cooks and judges were delighted to see Champion Pitmaster Harry Soo, of "Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ", arrive at the Woodstock event from his headquarters in Diamond Bar, California, near Los Angeles.
Although he didn't start entering barbecue competitions until 2008, in 2010 Soo and his team defeated all the teams in the first season of the "BBQ Pitmasters" cable TV show – including two BBQ World Champions – In the winner-take-all "Rib Throwdown" in Texas.
"We came here to hang with our friends, including Portland's Gregg Fujino, who is again hosting these classes right here at his store," Soo said, pausing from his coaching duties. "The barbecue community is like a bunch of Gypsies, attending events all over the country, hanging out with each other on weekends; and we have some really good friends in the Pacific Northwest."
By day, Soo said, he is an "IT guy" who builds data centers for living; but, on weekends, "I am a 'weekend warrior', cooking barbecue."
Having won more than 100 first-place awards around the world, and three dozen grand championships, from Hawai'i to Canada and even in London, and having een featured on television, he's stepping back from competition, Soo told THE BEE, to spend time teaching and mentoring.
"In my opinion this is the only true, born-in-America food," Soo grinned. "There is something magical and Neanderthal about barbecuing; there's something within you, when you see the smoke and the fire and the meat together, that just makes you excited!"
He continued: "America 'stole' foods from other nations – the hotdog, the hamburger, noodles, pizza, and even French fries – but we are the only culture in the world that cooks meat, above ground, for 10 to 15 hours; and that makes us unique."
Soo's Best BBQ Tips
"It's not about the pit, it's about the cook! So don't worry about your equipment; it's all about your skill as a Pitmaster," Soo's counseled. "The thing to remember is, when barbecue is ready, it's ready – don't rush and hurry. It's not like heating a microwaved burrito – it's a bit of an art form!"
For more information about the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association, go online – www.pnwba.com – or just stop by Woodstock Wine and Deli on Woodstock Boulevard and chat with Gregg Fujino.
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