Meet Beth Kanupp, the Pitmaster behind the Real Deal Rib Sandwich. She started her BBQ journey here at Sonny’s BBQ as a 16-year-old server. With her hard work and dedication, she worked her way up to becoming a Pitmaster, and she’s been spreading the spirit of BBQ ever since. Beth is one of the kindest, welcoming women in BBQ out there. Which is why we’re so excited to share this special Q&A with you.
How long have you been a Certified Pitmaster?
I became a Certified Pitmaster in 2013. I was a big part of the original Pitmaster program and had the opportunity to teach portions of the program for many years.
What is your earliest memory of BBQ?
I started with Sonny’s when I was 16, so BBQ has always been a big part of my life. For me, the people are just as important as the food. My earliest memory is feeling like I was around family every time I went to work, I became friends with so many amazing guests and fellow team members over the years. I keep in touch with one of my regular guests from way back in the day when I was a server. I got to watch their daughter grow up from about 6 years old to being in her mid-20s now! Crazy to think back that far.
What is your favorite BBQ sauce to slather up some ribs?
I always go for the Sweet BBQ sauce – I mean is there anything better? I do add some ingredients to make the sauce my own.
What are your BBQ influences?
I always tend to look up to the women in BBQ, since it seems to be a bit of an anomaly. I love Diva Q, she is no nonsense and obviously very passionate about BBQ. Also love Deborah and Mary Jones of Jones Bar-B-Q’s story they are the epitome of the work ethic, passion, and dedication it takes to be amazing Pitmasters.
Can you share some of your rib smoking secrets?
If I share, they won’t be secrets! I would say the biggest thing is knowing your smoker. It’s like if I am cooking something in the oven, I know exactly what I am going to get every time. It’s not so much the same with smokers. There is not one recipe to follow and get the same thing in every different smoker, there are approximations for sure. You need to know where the hot spots are, how much does the weather affect it, how closely do you need to watch it, and so on. Practice is so important if you are trying to get that perfect rib. Also don’t, be afraid to experiment with things. The sky really is the limit, it’s all about have fun!
What other types of roles do you do for Sonny’s?
I have done every job in the restaurant at one time or another, as well as all levels of management. At this point in my career, I oversee the Learning & Development of all Sonny’s BBQ team members. I get to create training courses and lead classes on everything from day-to-day operations, Pitmaster, and even Leadership Development. I am so thankful for the ability to share my passion with others.
Tell us about your proudest rib cookoff.
This is my favorite story to tell! When we first kicked off the Pitmaster program, we also started doing internal competitions. I was already working in the office at this point, so I was competing against a bunch of amazing Pitmasters, from all over the company that are doing their craft all day every day, while I just get to play on the weekends. The first year we all had a blast, good natured teasing and talking smack, as it comes with any competition when you are up against friends. Well, everyone kept teasing me about sitting behind a desk and being the office girl, we had a blast that day. Fast forward to year two of our competitions and I decided to totally own the office girl thing. I turned an old file cabinet into a smoker, and the team’s name was the Paper Pushers. It was the most fun I can remember having in a long time, but the best part was that after a whole day of people telling me I was nuts for smoking out of a file cabinet for a competition. I ended up taking first place in one of the categories!
Any advice for a fellow woman Pitmaster out there?
My advice would be the same to women Pitmasters, as to any woman in a mostly male dominated industry, just be you! Do not try to be more one thing or less another because you want to try to fit in to the way things are today. We all bring our own unique amazingness to the table and you should never dull your shine for anyone or anything. Also practice, practice, practice, the wins are so much sweeter when no one expects it from you!