Barbecue Bros AV Club: The Chef Show S1E8 – “Hot Luck” (Netflix)

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Monk: In the first of two episodes with Aaron Franklin, “The Chef Show” guys learned the basics of trimming, rubbing, and serving a brisket. Now, Favreau and Choi stick around to serve a variation of Choi’s famous short ribs at Franklin’s Hot Luck festival.

But before that, they are chatting over a ridiculous looking platter of meat at Franklin Barbecue and discussing the the “left vs right” theory of brisket. In short, the majority of cows are “rightys” (like humans) and get up from a lying position on their right side. So the theory goes, pitmasters always will want a left brisket from their distributors and thus they are harder to find. Franklin, however, doesn’t lend any credence to this theory and calls BS, even though he notes that he just so happens to have a lot of left briskets at his restaurant. Favreau jokes that he and the rest of the regular joes out there must get all the right briskets for their backyard then. They also discuss stick burners and Franklin’s approach to temperate versus feel. As with any of these conversations, its fascinating to get insight into Franklin’s mind.

Then, the conversation shifts to the Hot Luck Festival, which Aaron created to be the “anti-food-festival festival” for chefs and cooks. This was filmed ahead of the very first one in 2017, and Franklin explains his approach in inviting friends and cooks that he admires. Essentially, he wants each chef to cook what they would cook for their friends, “even if that’s just hot dogs.” Roy Choi is cooking his famous Kalbi short ribs with the tweak that he will be starting them off in the smoker, which isn’t normally the case for Korean short ribs (but which Franklin is very into). Then, Favreau joins Choi in the kitchen to begin prep.

Choi begins game planning what prep can be done today (sauce, kimchi) versus what would need to be done tomorrow (smoking and grilling of the ribs). With just one Vitamix blender (as opposed to a big immersion blender that could be submerged into the big pot), the process isn’t as efficient as it could be but you can see where Choi is adjusting the scaled-up recipe based on instinct and tasting along the way. I wonder if Favreau knew exactly what he signed up when he volunteered to assist Roy in the kitchen.

Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn makes a brief cameo as Favreau and Choi are heading to the smokehouse to check out their smoker for the following day. He will make another appearance later in the episode.

The final piece of prep for the day is marinating the beef short ribs in the Kalbi sauce they just made; Favreau looks exhausted by the end of it.

After a quick diversion to a deconstructed s’more from Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar (and the custom-made flame apparatus create by Franklin for the festival), it’s finally the day of the festival and time to get down to business. Favreau is once again put to work loading the smoker with the short ribs and 5 hours later, they are done with the initial smoke part of the process. Choi serves a sample rib to fellow Angeleno Adam Perry Lang of APL, who is in town for the festival and approves.

Choi shows Favreau how to finish the ribs on the grill and then heads out to the festival to begin serving. Favreau sends platters of finished ribs out to Choi who slices them and puts them in a bowl with rice and the kimchi they prepared yesterday.

Hot Luck looks awesome, and you get a little sense of the other dishes and chefs/cooks there, including the aforementioned Daniel Vaughn’s smoked NY strip taco.

This episode was a little more process-oriented than the previous episode, mainly because of Choi’s participation in Hot Luck. I’ve gotta say, it was funny to see Favreau working so hard though I must sympathize because that looked to be extremely hot conditions at the festival considering it was May in Austin.

While these two episodes are my only exposure to “The Chef Show” to date, I may go back and check out the other, non-barbecue episodes. Favreau and Choi have an easy going camaraderie between them and the episodes are a good length at 30 minutes or less each. Season 1 was broken into two “volumes” that both premiered in 2019 so I will be curious to see how much more of this show (if any) there will be since Favreau is now helming “The Mandolorian” on Disney+ and Choi is surely busy with his own ventures. In any case, these two episodes are a welcome insight into the mind of Aaron Franklin that you wouldn’t be able to get by watching old episodes of “BBQ Pitmasters.”

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The Pit – Durham, NC

Name: The Pit Durham
Date: 3/10/14
Address: 321 W. Geer St., Durham, NC 27701
Order: Lexington style outside brown, eastern style chopped pork, beef brisket, beef short ribs, corn bread, red slaw, fried okra (link to menu)
Price: $117.64 (for four people, including drinks)

Speedy: Upon finding out that Raleigh favorite The Pit was opening a new restaurant in Durham, I started looking for excuses to check it out, as I’ve had nothing but solid experiences in several trips to The Pit. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the new Pit quite lives up to the standard.

Monk: Although the rating for The Pit in Raleigh isn’t quite up there with our highest rankings, we did have a great time there a few years back and thus I was jealous of Speedy’s trip.

Speedy: Walking in, the atmosphere is more upscale than most barbecue joints, but overall is similar to the Raleigh version. It is a bit more closed off, and our group was seated in a large dining room, which was completely separated from the bar area. Overall, the atmosphere is fine, but it doesn’t scream “barbecue” at all.

The first thing I noticed about the menu is that it is somewhat different than The Pit in downtown Raleigh. Many menu items are the same, but The Pit Durham focuses on more “family style” ordering. Also, The Pit Durham did not have the BBQ soul rolls on the menu, which was a huge disappointment as these BBQ style egg rolls might be my favorite appetizer on Earth. Our group skipped all the appetizers and ordered an assortment of meats, sides, and cornbread.

Monk: No soul rolls?!? For shame!

Speedy: When the meat arrived, we received fairly large portions of our four meats. The menu advises that these are large enough for two people, which is probably about right; however, our group was totally prepared to sacrifice our stomachs (more on that later…) to over-indulge on smoked barbecue delicacies.

My personal favorite meat was the eastern chopped pork, as I found it to be tender with just the right amount of vinegary goodness. The Lexington style pork was fine, but just didn’t hold a candle to the real stuff you get in Lexington. Strangely enough, the rest of my group (who all grew up in Eastern NC) did not think much of the Eastern style but really liked the Lexington style. To me, that really just means that you can find much better versions of either style elsewhere. I remember all of the pork being better at the Raleigh version.

Monk: Funny how that worked out…

Speedy: The brisket, I thought, was pretty good and very similar to the Raleigh version. I’ve definitely had better and as my brisket palate is becoming more refined, I’m starting to learn what great brisket is. This was not great brisket, but it’s also really easy to get horrible brisket, and this certainly isn’t that either. I would probably order this again on a subsequent trip.

As for the short rib, this order was not my idea. For some reason, short rib seems to have become the most “mainstream” of all the traditional barbecue goods, as it can be found on menus of many high end restaurants. I’m not sure I understand why. I get that the meat can be cooked such that it’s super tender, but I don’t think it holds the smoky flavor in as well as some other meats. I’ll personally take pork ribs ten time out of ten when it comes to any type of rib. All that being said, this was a pretty decent version of short rib – it’s just not something I would tend to order at any barbecue joint. So take that into account when you consider my rating – similar to “degree of difficulty” on a gymnastics routine – I’m not sure there could ever be a short rib that would earn five hogs.

Monk: I’ll be honest here, I had to look up what a short rib was. I don’t think I’ve ever had one, unless I still just don’t know what it is.

Speedy: I was a little disappointed in the sides. The hush puppies and fried okra were strong, but the barbecue slaw lacked the necessary tang and was just so-so. The corn bread was kind of bad. It looked like banana bread and just didn’t taste quite right.

Monk: Being that the Durham location of The Pit just opened last November, do you think they could still be working out the kinks any? Or maybe the slight differences in the menus between the two may just mean that Durham won’t ever be quite as good.

Speedy: The issues I had with the food didn’t really seem to have much to do with it being new. The service was fine. It just seemed like the operators made a conscious decision to make The Pit Durham different from The Pit Raleigh. In my opinion, the changes were not for the better.

Overall, I thought the meal was good, but not as good as my experiences at The Pit Raleigh. I will say that starting about three hours later, my stomach was in bad shape for about two days. I think this is likely due to my extreme over-indulgence, and it wouldn’t stop me from a return trip, but I do think it probably has affected my perception, and thus my rating. I had high expectations going in, and was left wanting a little more (in terms of quality – I had eaten plenty of food).

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Eastern Pork – 3.5 hogs
Lexington Outside Brown – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Short Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 Hogs
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