Tyler Harp is throwing his own barbecue festival in July

Tyler Harp of Harp Barbecue has done a lot to help lead a new generation of pitmasters in KC since bursting onto the local scene in 2019, claiming our crown as the best ‘cue in the city later that year.

Now, he’s doing his own festival. It’ll be on Saturday, July 17, at the Uptown Pavilion in Independence, “a couple of blocks from where I grew up,” he says.

Look for tickets to go on sale next Wednesday at 10 am and to be priced somewhere north of $100 and south of $200, depending on how the beer license situation shakes out. All fourteen participating cue chefs will be cooking one of their specialties. The ticket sales benefit charity.

“It really to me it was almost a mistake, to be one-hundred-percent honest,” Harp says. “Basically one night I got a little heavy into the Jim Beam and texted like ten people, asking them about coming, and like five or six of them have said yes. So then it was like, ‘oh, man, now I have to coordinate something serious.’ It got a little bigger than I was intending, but to be honest it was just a natural, organic thing.”

Among those included are a bunch of names you’ll know if you’ve followed our coverage of the new generation of local pitmasters, which some writers in town have taken to calling “craft barbecue:” Caramelo tortillas, Fox & Fire BBQ, Chef J and Burn Theory.

All those pits are relative newcomers, and all maintain limited hours so they can serve fresh-cooked meat that’s carefully trimmed and generally served in a minimalist style.

“It’s a way for us to shine a light on them and use some of what we’ve gotten to reflect on other people,” Harp says. “I think the needle is moving in Kansas City. Everybody at this festival has the same vision of wanting to move barbecue forward in the right direction.”

Among the pits from around the country coming out are JQ’s Tex-Mex BBQ owed Harp a visit to KC because of a lost bet involving a game between the Chiefs and Texans and Lousiana’s Bad Wolf BBQ. All do things the same way as Harp. It’s part of a generational shift away from an industry dominated by “secrets” and specialty smoker-ovens that stay at temperature with the touch of a button to the open-sharing of techniques that tend to be time-consuming.

“What we do is hard work,” he says. “When you cook using just wood, when you’re using the offset smokers, when you’re hand-making sausages and developing recipes—I know how hard this is, and I know how hard I’m willing to work, and if someone else wants to work this hard let’s help each other out. For us, there aren’t a lot of secrets because it’s just hard work. When you take the work out of it there are a lot more secrets.”

You can buy tickets here.


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