It took Tyler Harp a few years to find his niche, his passion, something that motivates him to get out of bed every day – barbecue.
The 2004 graduate of Truman High School worked in the Kansas City Royals visiting clubhouse and on the team’s ground crew, followed his father and uncle on the competitive barbecue circuit and worked as a server at Hereford House. He says he picked up valuable knowledge at each of those stops.
“In fact,” Harp said, as he prepared a slab of brisket for the smoker, “I learned a lot from (Hall of Fame pitcher) Mariano Rivera and (Fort Osage High School graduate and future Hall of Famer) Albert Pujols when I worked in the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium.”
“There is a reason, a reason most fans never see, that makes players like Mariano Rivera and Albert Pujols the best at what they do – and that’s all the preparation they do on a daily basis. They were the first guys to come into the clubhouse, and they’re watching video and Mariano would go over hitters, and Albert would study his swing – it was pretty fascinating.”
“And I knew I would have to follow the same path, be that dedicated, if I wanted to make it in barbecue. And even though I’ve had some success, there is a long way to go, and I’m hoping it all works out because now is a very exciting time in my life.”
On many Saturdays, barbecue fans begin lining up out into the parking lot of Crane Brewing in Raytown to order his ribs, brisket, pulled pork and sides such as cole slaw, beans and vinegar-infused strawberries.
“It’s crazy how things work out,” Harp said. “I wanted to learn about barbecue, and I learned a lot from my dad and uncle when they were competing with their Silver Bullet Barbecue team back when I was a kid.”
“I learned a lot about the different cuts of meat, how to get started in barbecuing and things like that. But back then, I wasn’t super passionate like I am now.”
“And now,” he says, “I want to make the best barbecue I can possibly make. And I love what I’m doing. My dad and I will get to Crane Brewing really early on a Saturday morning – actually, we start Friday afternoon preparing everything – and then we look up at see that line going all the way into the parking lot on Saturday and know we must be doing something right.”
The brewery has been so successful that Harp’s Barbecue will soon be a permanent restaurant at the Raytown site. And what makes that news even more exciting for Harp is that Crane Brewing is soon going to be a trailhead for the Rock Island Trails, one section of which is open and one is yet to be completed.
“Right now, there is no real foot traffic, because of the brewery’s location in Raytown,” Harp explained. “People know about Crane Brewing and it’s really popular, but people aren’t going to be walking by and notice a restaurant until the trail heads open at that location.”
“And that is going to be huge for the Crane Brewing and hopefully, our restaurant when we open. I can’t really tell you when we’re going to open, but it’s going to be soon. We just want to get the word out so people can be looking for us."
“Now, they can go to our Harp’s Barbecue Facebook page to see if we’re going to be serving on a Saturday ..."
When he’s not preparing barbecue, he’s learning about his craft on trips to Texas, Tennessee and even San Francisco.
“You learn something new everywhere you go,” Harp said. “Whether it’s ribs, brisket or how to smoke a whole hog, this has become my life, my passion and I want folks who eat our barbecue to enjoy it as much as we enjoy making it.”