Masters of the Pit: Gary Notley
August 23, 2011
This week we continue our “Masters of the Pit” series with a one-on-one interview with the California Canuck himself, Gary Notley of Notley Que competition barbecue team.
So, Gary, let’s start with an easy question first. What’s your earliest barbecue or grilling memory?
Growing up in Winnipeg Canada, the only BBQ/Grilling I remember is my mom’s well done burgers, well done steaks, and dry-as-a-bone pork chops. I never knew what real BBQ was and had no idea it even existed until I moved to the USA in ‘94, and did some travelling. My first memory of real BBQ was in South Carolina, and I thought their pulled pork was something to die for. I had no idea what BBQ was until then and I was hooked.
What is your favorite story from the competition circuit?
My first trophy (3rd place KCBS Brisket, 45 teams) that I won on my second contest. It’s my favorite trophy. I also have great memories of doing the “BBQ Pitmasters” season 1 tour. I met a lot of the members from the BBQ Brethren forum, and met some amazing BBQ folks that I hope to meet again soon. And beating Harry Soo on a major TV show was the best part about it. I have hours of stories from the 14,000 miles I drove around the country and topped it off with a BBQ tattoo to commemorate it.
And you mentioned earlier the fact that you grew up North of the border. How do Canadians do ‘que differently and how does your experience up North inform your time at the grill?
When I lived in Canada, BBQ to us was grilling’ steaks, and burgers. There was no “Low and Slow” in Winnipeg at the time. But today Canada has its own circuit, and there are some great teams up there now that love and embrace the American tradition of “Low and Slow” cooking.
Is there really barbecue in California, or is it a myth?
No myth…FACT. There is a huge circuit out here, with lots of top teams who cook some amazing food. Brazen BBQ from San Diego are a great group of guys who cook amazing BBQ…QN4U is another great team who has been around for a long time and have proven there is good BBQ being produced out here. That said, there are a lot of copy cats who take someone’s class and cook exactly like their instructor and I wouldn’t consider that “Cali Que.” When I started BBQ’n in San Diego, I had no mentor… no old family recipe to fall back on. I simply developed a taste and style all my own. I would consider my BBQ California BBQ…it’s a bit spicy (we like our food spicy out here) with a bit of sweet, and I use the high end meats (Kobe beef, Kurobuta pork)…so to me Notley Que is true California Que.
You spend most of your life on tour with some of the greatest bands around – how do you balance your band life with your bbq life?
It is hard. I have been out of the comp circuit for a while now, since I am always on the road. And when I am home I usually need a few weeks to unwind, so I haven’t been BBQing as much. I try and take a Weber grill, and an 18 inch Weber Smoky Mountain on the road, along with a bag of rubs and sauce, and cook for the band and crew a few times a week. It has been a huge success, and I have gained the reputation as being the BBQ guy for the rock and roll world. It’s a nice reputation, and I love introducing authentic BBQ to people who normally wouldn’t ever get to try real BBQ.
Any great memories you’d like to share from your life on the road?
So many. This past weekend, the Foo Fighters played a show in Chicago in front of 85,000 plus people. It was amazing to see that, and hearing that many people sing back almost brought tears to my eyes. Escorting Mr. Stevie Wonder to the stage to sing with Prince is something I never will forget. Bringing Dexter Holland (singer The Offspring) BBQ and cooking for him all the time is fun. But the best memory is got to be when I get to cook for my friends in the band Anthrax. I have been a metal head since I was 12 years old, and Anthrax has been my favorite band. When I cook for them I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe that my favorite band is eating my BBQ and loving it. There are some other stories that I will never forget, but they probably aren’t safe for print. I’ll tell you them over a beer one day.
Since you are living on the road, does this mean that Notley Que is disbanding?
Notley Que will never disband. We are on hiatus. And be warned everyone I am coming back, and I will return as king again.
What do you like to cook when you are home?
Brisket, chicken wings, steak, burgers, and tri tip.
What recipe or cut of meat would you still like to try?
Whole hog by myself. I helped Paul Peterson cook one a couple years back, and learned how to cook hog by the king of hog, Mr. Myron Mixon. I want to throw a party, and do a 200lber and feed everyone I know.
Finally, your son is such important part of your life. Any words of advice for his first entry in to the world of outdoor bbq?
He is 7 now, and loves helping me when I BBQ, and has shown an interest in cooking. He will be at my next comp helping me and my teammate Mike out. I want him to enjoy this competition BBQ thing, and learn that great friends, and lifelong memories can be made. Also that cooking is fun first. I don’t want him to do this if it isn’t fun for him.
By Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Guest Editor