The Last Word with Michael Duffy, chief cook (pitmaster in America), Smokin’ Yankees BBQ Belfast
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS ROLE?
Although I have been BBQing since I was 12 years old myself and my good friend Conor Dawson formed Smokin’ Yankees BBQ as a competition BBQ team around 2014 in order to take our passion for outdoor cooking to the next level, the upcoming KCBS competition Celtic Smoke at Dalriada is the newest level and something I’ve been dreaming of doing for years.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY?
During a day of competitive BBQ or catering for the masses, the one thing that is consistent is smoke and fire. Competition BBQ can be long hard work (18-hour cooks), much like catering, which culminates in a few hours of absolute panic and stress as we try and make sure our turn ins are perfect when it comes to taste, tenderness and appearance. Competitions usually mean three days of no sleep, dirty faces and the ultimate feeling of wellbeing when you hand your work product to the judges and crack open a well-deserved cold beer. Why not come to Celtic Smoke at Dalriada and see for yourself, or get a few friends together and join in. There’ll be plenty of help to keep you right.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
My first job ever was collecting glasses in my GAA club at around 14 years old; I think I earned about £10 a night. Probably £1:50 an hour.
FAVOURITE TV SHOW: Game of Thrones
FAVOURITE FILM: It’s a Wonderful Life
ALBUM CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
FAVOURITE BAND: Madness
LAST BOOK READ: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
FAVOURITE FOOD: Easy, it’s gotta be BBQ… either pork belly or nice bleu ribeye.
FAVOURITE RESTAURANT: The Waffle House
LAST HOTEL YOU STAYED AT: A very dodgy hotel/hostel in East London
LAST BAR/NIGHTCLUB YOU VISITED: I have five kids… I can’t get out for a shovel of coal!
FAVOURITE PLACE IN WORLD:
Outside of Ireland, it’s gotta be Seeley Lake, Montana, USA
INDOOR CONCERT OR FESTIVAL:
Florida, best family holiday spot on earth, hands down. Something for everyone.
FAVOURITE HOT DRINK: A nice cup o’ Joe; can’t beat a good sweet and creamy cup of coffee.
FAVOURITE SOFT DRINK: Code Red Mountain Dew in the US, Club Orange here.
BEER OR CIDER: Gotta be beer, gotta be real ale, preferably a nice proper stout.
WHITE OR RED WINE: Neither, but I am partial to the odd pint of port.
WHISKEY OR BRANDY:
Whiskey every time
GIN OR VODKA: Neither thanks, I’ll have a whiskey.
COCKTAILS OR BUBBLY: Cocktails; if you’re buying, I’ll have a margarita with no salt please.
WHAT FOUR PEOPLE WOULD YOU INVITE TO A DINNER PARTY? Babe Ruth (likes a beer, seems great craic and will be able to talk baseball all night), Michael Collins (I love history and I always think you should start with your own, Collins was such an influential character in our recent history), Stephen Fry (such an intelligent articulate person I could listen to him talk all night) and Jesus (because he’s Jesus and we wouldn’t run out of wine).
ONE ITEM YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT? For BBQ, it’s gotta be a thermapen so that I can tell the internal temperature of meat; there’s nothing worse than overcooked dry meat. In everyday life, it’s gotta be my smartphone so I can watch every Yankee game and talk BBQ.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE?
I’d like to think somebody suave and attractive like Brad Pitt but in fairness I’d probably get John Candy… and I’d be happy with that.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL JOB? My ideal job would be to own and run my own brewery baseball smokehouse, great beer, live baseball and clinker BBQ.
Slowly, slowly catchy monkey.
INSPIRATION IN YOUR LIFE?
Gotta be my wife and kids, they keep my feet on the ground, my eye on the prize and heart full to the brim.
THE MOST IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON YOU’VE LEARNT?
Try not to ruin the present because you focus too much on the past or obsess about the future, learn to invest in your life, love and experiences and share them with those who matter to you.