Earlier in June, the 17th Street pit crew at the 13th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.
And here’s our expanded crew with the addition of extra volunteers — Shane Linn of Townsend Spice, Mike Mrva, Adam Wood, David Bogan, Woody Tunnicliffe, Phillip Heern, me, Mike, Lawson Linn, Tracy Heern, Laurie Neef, Colin Wilkinson, Diana Gremillion, Erik Hernandez, John Hulslander, and Mike Humes. This group operates like a well-oiled machine and they totally rocked it.
The event kicks off with a group photo of the pit masters and a rib-bon cutting ceremony. 17 of the country’s finest barbecue restaurants are represented here.
Tim Love, of The Woodshed Smokehouse in Ft. Worth, and one of the new owners of the Block Party, acted as master of ceremonies.
We bring the power in the form of five Ole Hickory Pits.
Townsend Spice is a huge supporter …
… as is Royal Oak Charcoal.
Mike and Phillip orchestrate the cooking schedule.
We’re cooking non-stop from the moment our equipment is set up and the meat is delivered.
We smoke thousands of racks of ribs.
Ribs are lightly sauced and sprinkled with Magic Dust® one final time.
And then cut into three-bone portions.
This area operates like a finely tuned machine, churning out hundreds of plates each hour.
The conference was held the day after the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, and I had the pleasure of meeting and welcoming fellow speaker Banjo Harris Plane of Attica, in Melbourne, Australia, and his girlfriend, Meira Harel, head sommelier at Lake House, and introducing them to American-style barbecue.
After helping break down and pack up our Block Party space, I raced to clean up for dinner and fellowship with the other speakers. Unfortunately, I missed most of that evening, but when I walked in the door, I was greeted with cheers and hugs. Each speaker was presented with a gift chosen to commemorate the occasion. Knowing my crazy travel schedule and love of leather, Will and Anthony presented me with an exquisite Ghurka duffle bag, perfectly matched to a pair of my Lucchese boots, complete with a brass tag inscribed with one of my daddy’s favorite quotations.
The warmest welcome. When I finally arrived at the NoMad Hotel, a handwritten note, accompanied by champagne, fruit, and cookies was waiting for me. …
… in the most serene, well-appointed room.
The calm before the storm. Fuel for the day and a chance to once again review my notes.
Before heading to the venue, I instagrammed my Monday mantra, a photo of the sign we displayed at 17th Street that day, in honor of the Welcome Conference theme.
Outside the green room. A meeting of the minds prior to go-time. Special thanks to Kevin Lind and the lovely people who ran the green room. I will remember the conversation and kindness forever.
The conference was held at the Times Center, and the room was buzzing with energy and filled with hospitality professionals from all over the country. The pineapple, a time-honored symbol of hospitality, decorated many of the spaces, including the stage.
Will Guidara and Anthony Rudolf kicked off the morning, telling the story of how they grew from rivals to friends, and how they came up with the idea for the conference.
The theme of the 2nd annual event was “Being Right,” and the 12 speakers each spoke eloquently and emphatically about what that means and what that looks like in our worlds. None of us knew how the others would interpret that theme, and yet our messages overlapped and seamlessly wove together.
My dad introduced me and brought both me and the audience to tears.
My talk was titled “Recognizing Right,” and I opened with the major influences in my life who made being right a mantra in our family: My grandmother, Mama Faye, who was the matriarch and a guiding force in our family, followed by my aunt, Jeanette Hudgins, the strongest female figure in my life …
… and of course, my daddy. NO PRESSURE.
Here’s the actual video:
This was a powerhouse group and I can’t say enough about those with whom I was fortunate to spend time and get to know. Budding new friendships are the biggest bonus when participating in a program like this. I also met attendees from the midwest and south, people who felt a kinship with me because of a similar background and/or upbringing. The stories shared, and the questions, compliments, and conversation, were an unexpected and treasured gift.
This day was a modern version of an old-fashioned tent revival for believers in hospitality. From access and the power of saying “yes” to memorable moments and the time wasted being right, these powerful messages resonated and left a lasting impression on everyone in the room. All of the videos of the presentations are available on this link, and if you’re in the business, or if you ever need a dose of inspiration, I highly recommend watching these one or two at a time. Each video is about 20 minutes in length.
An event of this magnitude takes a village to orchestrate. This ace team, headed by Aaron Ginsberg, worked the magic behind the scenes.
And I have to give a special shout out to Chase Bank, one of the gracious event sponsors. They totally get it.
That evening, the speakers and other guests attended a reception previewing Anthony Rudolf’s new Journee headquarters.