Alabama barbecue received worldwide attention recently thanks to a video titled “North Koreans Try American BBQ” on youtube.
The video, featuring Huntsville’s LawLers Barbecue, hit a million views in only 32 hours and surpassed 2 million views in 4 days.
The video created by Christopher Lewis, an executive producer, director and editor at Digitalsoju TV, hit No. 2 on the trending section of youtube. The video featured North Korean refugees now living in South Korea trying American barbecue for the first time.
Lewis, who had barbecue fans on his staff from Alabama and Kansas City, tried to recruit from the top barbecue regions in the country, making a list of the best barbecue restaurants that bottled their sauces, and asking them to send different style barbecue sauces.
He asked LawLers based both on his staff’s recommendations and because it had been judged the barbecue sauce winner for north Alabama, during the Alabama Tourism Department’s Year of Barbecue.
“These places are all already very successful,” Lewis said. “They didn’t need to even be in this video, but they wanted to represent their region.”
While several major Alabama barbecue restaurants declined to participate, Jim Kelley, a managing partner with LawLers, liked the concept of “World peace through BBQ” and the idea of getting Alabama barbecue worldwide respect.
“The project name ‘World Peace Through BBQ’ seemed reason enough to do it,” Kelley said Tuesday. “And the fact that it was going to feature North Korean defectors in a video shot in South Korea struck a chord with me. Because my daddy was a Korean veteran, and was there at the (battle of) Chosin Reservoir, this held special meaning.
“He and so many brave men and women, Americans, North Koreans, South Koreans, and others fought and died over the 38th parallel in a war that nobody has really yet won. And I can only believe that he, and others like him, would like nothing more than to see peace come to a unified Korea, and for all to share in the precious freedom (we have) in the South.”
Lawlers sent three sauces: red barbecue sauce (previously a north Alabama sauce of the year), the white sauce, and a new sauce they’re coming out with called “the Tickled Pink Sauce.” The Tickled Pink Sauce is a more tart and tangier version of the white sauce.
“All three Alabama sauces were a hit,” Lewis said, especially the red sauce which he said the show’s host and one of the North Korean refugees both picked as their favorite.
Perhaps surprisingly, Lewis said both the North Koreans and the production staff unanimously agreed the Tickled Pink Sauce was better than the white sauce.
Kelley said he knew sending the sauces was a risk “because they might not like them at all.” The risk was even greater with the pink sauce because LawLers hadn’t finished developing it, and it was a work in progress.
But LawLers finally sent all three sauces after Lewis convinced Kelley that sending their Tickled Pink Sauce, might be a good way to introduce it to the world.
“So we did, and crazy enough – they loved it,” Kelley said. “Who would have guessed? And now we don’t even have Tickled Pink Sauce officially in production, yet we are getting orders and calls for it.
Besides more than two million views, the video has received coverage from “The Huffington Post,” “Foodbeast,” “The Voice of America,” “The Philip Defranco Show” and media outlets throughout North Carolina and Texas.
Kelley expects the video will ultimately receive somewhere between 5 million and 10 million views, which he jokes should help show people around the world that Alabama has more than football and tornadoes.
Although he is proud that the video is bringing LawLers worldwide attention, he said what is important isn’t what the video says about barbecue sauces, but about people.
It’s about “the opportunity to help show the world, that when we all get together at a table of good food, in a peaceful setting, with our only differences being what style “bbq sauce” we prefer, we are really a whole lot more alike than we are different,” he said.
“Perhaps those North Korean defectors, in their childlike amazement and genuine humility, remind us of the many simple things we in America and so much of the world, take for granted. They did me. If that can start a conversation around the globe that draws us all to the table together, we just did a good thing. Anthony Bourdain said it first, ‘Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.’”
The barbecue was prepared by Sweet Oak in Wonju Korea by its pitmaster/owner Gus Flores, who also came up with the idea of the video. Flores is a classically-trained chef who has learned how to barbecue from celebrity pitmasters Harry Soo (winner of “BBQ Pitmasters” season one), Myron Mixon (four-time barbecue World Champion) and the late Konrad Haskins (BBQ Institute, Texas). He is also an officially certified barbecue judge through the Kansas City Barbecue Society.