Kenny Callaghan, the Executive Chef and pitmaster of Blue Smoke, was there at the beginning, at the conception of The Big Apple BBQ Block Party. When The Union Square Hospitality Group opened Blue Smoke, they wanted it to be an oasis of barbecue, putting out topnotch versions of the best regional barbecue from around the country. In order to do that, Danny Meyer and his crew had to find the best examples of regional barbecue from around the country and traveled to all corners of the United States for that purpose. Based upon what they found, Meyer had the idea to bring some of the best to New York City to help the City learn about good barbecue and the different styles of it and to promote his new restaurant. Amongst the people and styles they discovered, they brought Mike Mills of the 17th St. Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Il and his pork ribs; Ed Mitchell of The Pit of Raleigh, N.C. and his whole hog N.C. style pulled pork; Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's of Decatur, Al and his pulled pork; Michael Rodriguez of The Salt Lick from Driftwood, Tx and his beef brisket, and of course Kenny Callaghan of NYC's own Blue Smoke with a little bit of everything. Together these five pitmasters along with Danny Meyer, co-founded the Big Apple BBQ in front of Blue Smoke in 2002. Eight years later the list of barbecue pits represented has swelled to 18 (including Rodriguez who had to cancel this year due to a broken leg) with about 60,000 visitors per day!