Elite Spotlight: Chris Apple (@whitebullsbbq)
“If you don’t like it, fight me!” Growing up in Philly, Chris Apple AKA @whitebullsbbq became a pitmaster by chance when a smoker was left behind at a friend’s newly purchased home. When his new BBQ spot was hit hard by the pandemic, Chris hit back with his own line of handmade rubs in March 2020, which became a quick success. He sat down with Dalstrong to talk about his latest rub sensations, building an audience, and the late rapper he wishes he could cook for.
Tell me about your background
I grew up in northeast Philly. (If you know, you know.) BBQ is relatively unknown where I’m from. One of my friends bought a house and a smoker was left there, so we started messing around with it. That turned into me enjoying it, and I became obsessed. I started selling BBQ to my friends, went through the process of starting a biz, and got my own spot in 2019.
Tell me about @whitebullsbbq
My signature tri-tip cheesesteak combines Cali and Philly. I’m a Philly boy and I love BBQ. Central Texas Style-BBQ is based on low ‘n slow smoking. Salt, pepper, garlic base. Derrek Allen is a legend with that and a personal hero. Things were going great with that, but then Covid came and I had to either fold or…
Right. So then you pivoted.
I promoted my homemade rubs on Instagram. After Covid I got real and properly launched them, only selling seasoning since March of 2020. It’s taken off.
What’s your favorite new recipe discovery?
YouTube has been the best platform for what I’ve been doing. We live in a time when people are super connected, and we’ve developed two other flavors: Game Over for big game (venison and elk) and Thee Catch (a spinoff of our flagship rub, remixed for seafood). Developing right now. I’ve been hammering down daily on YouTube, overseeing all the rubs.
What’s your best kitchen hack?
Two ways, I’ll break it down. Prepping spare ribs, the membrane is chewy and terrible if left on and cooked. Flip them over, expose the undercarriage, take a paper towel to grip, and pull it back. One of the hardest things to prep in BBQ. I couldn’t get it until I used a paper towel.
BBQ is won and lost in preparation. If you want good BBQ, slow and low, set up to go. You can’t just season it and throw it on for fifteen hours. You’ve got to dry brine it, wrap it in foil. That’ll create osmosis, pull the salt into the protein. It’s a process that people don’t respect. When I just throw something on the smoker it never works out.
When you’re not in the kitchen, where are you?
I drive a ‘99 box Chevy that I’m always working on. I love old-school trucks. I’ve got two daughters who I’m obsessed with (ages 10 and 4). I love them so much, but I rule with an iron fist.
What’s the one spice you secretly hate?
I do not like fennel seed. I’m not going to put it in my Game Over rub. It’s a go-to for big game, but I won’t use it.
What is the kitchen tool(s) you can’t live without?
For starters, my Thermapen MK4. Outside of my cutlery, it’s the most important thing. The Shogun 10” Bullnose Knife, that’s my brisket cutter. And my Kiritsuke Chef Knife. I’m not really a chef, a lot of BBQ people don’t know where they stand. I’m a pitmaster. When it comes to cutlery, I just need a decent paring knife, like the Shadow Black — I’ve used a bunch of different series.
When I’m cutting, the Bull Nose is the winner. The 10” is like a laser, it cuts perfectly every time. You don’t need a ton of cutlery. All around you want something that looks nice but has efficiency. They’re all great, but the Shogun series is the closest to Japanese knives. They’re the most authentic.
Tell me a bit more about your relationship with Dalstrong
What I love about this brand, you guys have a knack for understanding your audience. Some are chefs, but some are BBQ, and you’re putting more energy and emphasis on them. Dalstrong is the only brand where everything is made with craftsmanship, and so personalized. It’s the coolest, most authentic cutlery.
If you want stealthy, Shadow Black. Quantum 1 is flashy and beautiful. There’s something for everyone. I’ve used six or seven different series, and the craftsmanship doesn’t change even with the series. No brand out there that’s as reliable, the blade stays, too. A lot of knife companies put out a lot of products, but the quality isn’t there.
What’s your advice for building an audience?
I spend a lot of time just interacting with my community, just communicating. People actually make fun of me for it. I devote a lot of time to developing relationships. That’s what I respect about Dalstrong, you think about the people first, not the product. You can always tell when a brand takes that step to engage with its audience. There are millions of rubs, but they don’t just want the same thing. There is something for everybody, but the standard doesn’t change.
Who is your cooking hero?
Harry Soo, he’s a BBQ legend who’s kind of a chef, too. He likes to push the boundaries. Who would think to even try what he does? Also, Derrek Allan. People aren’t going to like that, but it’s true to what I know. Derek’s a master of Central Texas BBQ. I’m really not a chef. I just own my truth.
If you could cook a meal for one person, who would it be?
Tupac. I was 6 when he died. He was my first real introduction to rap music as a kid. I could whip him up some mean ribs.
Do you have any advice for chefs just starting out or home cooks who want to up their game?
It’s a relentless labor of love. There will be days where you’ll want to quit. You’ll ruin a $100 piece of meat...it’s a give and take. It’s the opposite of instant gratification, which is everything and everywhere now. You’ve got to have patience, be willing to put in the work. Never give up. We live in such a crowded space, you can get lost in the shuffle. Just keep going.
What would your last meal be?
Brisket. A1 slices of the brisket point. Cherry Dr. Pepper.
Stay Up To Date With Chris Apple (@whitebullsbbq)
Written by Abby SlateBorn and raised in the South, Abby lives by three things: bacon goes in everything, all food can (and should) be deep fried, and hush puppies are religion.