Meet Chris Apple
How did you get started in the industry?
Chris: Um my buddy bought a house and there was a smoker there. We googled it. ‘Wow, it’s a smoker.’ He did a brisket on it and I fell in love with barbecue. I bought a smoker the next day. And I never stopped barbecuing and that was 9 years ago.
Who inspired you to get into BBQ-ing?
Chris: Ah there’s – so a guy name Harry Soo. He’s actually from Texas and he does a lot of super intricate recipes that not many other people would do um and he inspired me to do a brisket style tri-tip which I kind of took that and created a cheesesteak from it. And that’s what really went crazy because I was tying California, Texas, and Philly together in one recipe. That’s really what made me famous and what put me in a restaurant setting.
What are some of the biggest lessons since you’ve started White Bull BBQ?
Chris: Um barbeque and life both require patience and that’s something I lacked before I found barbecue. I’m an inner-city kid like I grew up in a rough neighborhood and like I lost a lot of friends because we get bored and we do dumb things [LAUGH] so to speak. Barbecue kind of gave me a lane to like sit down and treat life more like chess, and kind of like think out my next move more, keep me out of trouble, keep me on a good path. It taught me patience essentially because a brisket takes twelve hours. So like you-you can't do that fast. So it really taught me to take my time with things. I was impatient before I found barbeque, so that’s the facts. I love barbeque, like barbeque brought me here, you know what I mean? I would just be stuck in Philly, probably like trying to rap or something ‘cause that’s what everyone does there.
What are some of your culinary influences?
Chris: I’m an Italian kid from-from like North Philly and South Philly we have like the Italian market which is like past Young Avenue, so if I’m not barbecuing like my influences from a young age was like my grandmother making like sauce from scratch. We actually called it ‘gravy,’ we don’t call it ‘sauce’ like that’s how Italian I am. So like a lot of my like influences in cooking, in general, was Italian traditional – traditional Italian food like lasagna, I mean Gemelli pasta, like a whole bunch of different Italian things. We did the seven fishes on, you know, what was seven fish - on New Year’s. All that type of stuff, like just deep-rooted Italian traditional stuff.
What are some of your best memories when barbecuing?
Chris: Um... that’s a really good question, actually. I don’t know. There’s, just, like a thousand. You know what? I’ll say this, when I first came to LA, I did a pop-up in San Bernardino and I was selling a tri-tip cheesesteak. And that was the first time that I got to sell food since my restaurant shut down. Probably like six months after, was during the pandemic and I went there with him – Ray – and we were like, we pulled up and were like ‘this is the hood! Like this is a swap-meet! Like, what the f-’ So, I’ll just say for the interview's sake, like it was a little...trying when we got there. I didn’t know what to expect, and then before you knew it, I was telling people online that I was going to be there and when you looked up every time, the line was getting longer. Needless to say, we sold out in 45 minutes of the 5-hour event. I had never been to California in my life, so that really changed my life right there, it was super memorable for me. It was like a benchmark of like ‘okay you’re not just some dude from Philly that barbecues. Now you're doing sellouts in LA across the country.” So yeah, that was definitely the one for sure.
What can you tell us is the most daring thing you’ve done while barbecuing?
Chris: Um, stuffing as many briskets as possible in one smoker and constantly having to move them back and forth because, you know, there are hot spots and stuff. Like, literally every hour you’d take a 15 lbs brisket and move it like Tetris. Literally in the smoker, because you’re trying to crank out the maximum amount of meat on a smaller smoker - were like big but not big enough. So yeah, I’ve definitely – I would say I’ve over-stacked or just like stuffed my smoker and try to get the best yield out of it. That’s daring because you could have a crazy fire ‘cause there's so much grease.
Alright, something fun. Out of all the rubs that you’ve created, what is your go-to rub?
Chris: The Rub For Beef. That’s why it has the name, The Rub. I actually created that with a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge, his name is Tim Walker. If he’s reading this, that’s great. Shout out to Tim. But, I would bring him brisket every week. So I’d make a brisket Sunday and I was creating that rub – this is way before the restaurant and all that – and I would bring him a slice of brisket in a piece of foil and put it in his toaster oven on his desk. And I would be like ‘yo Tim, when you get in on Monday morning’ – I’d text him like ‘yo it's Monday morning’ – it’s 5 in the morning – I’m like ‘yo when you get in at 7, there's a piece of brisket in the foil for you, like let me know what you think of the taste. Like, be a snob. Like judge it like you're judging a competition’ – ‘cause that’s what he does. And it took like 8 weeks and he came back, and he was, you know – For a couple of weeks, he’s like ‘ugh, it’s too ashy’ or ‘ugh there's not enough salt’ or ‘it’s too much pepper.’ And then finally came to me like the eighth time and was like ‘look I don’t know what you did or how you did it, but that’s the rub right there,’ and then literally, I never changed the name. I was like ‘that’s it.’ And that really changed everything because that started me doing briskets even long before selling food. So like it’s still the same formula, it was then when he said it was The Rub, so that’s definitely the one. That one is my baby. I love them all, but that’s the one.
What are some of your favorite things to grill?
Chris: Brisket, ribs, pork butt, tri-tip... um, wings for sure. Wings are so versatile. Definitely put that in there. ‘Cause even on there like, you can add so many different flavors to wings. If you like chicken, you can do sweet chicken.
If you had your own show, which celebrities would you bring on and why?
Chris: Is this like any celebrity? Ah, that’s good. Definitely 50 Cent, ‘cause he’s wild. He would do or say some wild shit. Um, that’s a good question, like there’s a lot of celebrities that will be good for this type of stuff. I don’t know, I’m not like a super celebrity person. Drake, of course. No, but Drake. Mike Tyson. 50 Cent.
If you’re not barbecuing, what is your favorite place to go for barbecue?
Chris: Favorite place to go for barbecue? Can I have like no answer? [LAUGHTER] Yeah... no um, I’ll say Terry’s Black Barbecue in Texas. Yeah – Actually, I’m lying. Derek’s Allan’s Texas Barbecue in Fort Worth. Yeah, that’s my buddy. He only makes wagyu. You ever have wagyu?“He only makes wagyu. This dude is like uh – it’s amazing. Like it's so rich and ridiculous. Derek Allan’s Barbecue. Austin, TX, Fort Worth. It’s like the same town – No! Dallas, Fort Worth.
Alright, last question. What’s next on the horizon for White Bull’s BBQ?
Chris: So, we’re officially expanding into retail now. Like we have Ace Hardware and hopefully Barbeques Galore at some point. That’s really going to catapult us into becoming something that nobody’s ever really seen. We’re going to do things on YouTube that you wouldn’t really see with barbecue. Like really make it the first barbecue lifestyle brand that appeals to like millennials and even like the urban side of things. Like how many people come from Philly and barbecue or even a city like Philly? And eventually, that’s all going to lead me to make a school for inner-city kids that barbecue because I think that barbecue really like does something for kids that grow up in such a fast-paced environment, that like I just want to bring that to other people and do like what it did for me. So, like take my retail money and grow the brand and then eventually start a barbecue school. Like start it in Philly and then maybe make it nationwide. That’s something nobody has ever done, to my knowledge. So that’s definitely the goal.