Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chef Paul Kirk Visits Smokin' Pete's BBQ!

As I ran out the door on Friday to pick up my son from preschool, I realized I was sans cell phone. "I can go without it for a few hours," I thought, and burned rubber to get to the school on time. Little did I know that 10 minutes after I left, the crew at our restaurant would begin calling me saying that chef Paul Kirk, aka, the Baron of Barbecue, would be coming in for lunch and wanted to meet with me.

While he and Bob Lyon, Paul's friend, co-writer and barbecue long-timer, ate lunch with my husband, I blissfully lollygagged with my son: we slurped watermelon in the sun and stopped off at the Pilling's pond duck pond. When we returned home I heard the message. Eek! I called. He was still at the restaurant, but long finished with lunch. I packed both kids in the car as fast as I could, with spit up and coffee stains on my shirt, and zoomed down to the restaurant. Though clearly a big oof on my part, they were gracious about my extreme tardiness and gave both kudos and critique of their lunch (meats were moist, the chili "sucked", though in my defense that wasn't chili, it was stew, mislabeled). I of course forgot the camera and one of chef Paul's many books for him to sign. No worries, they invited me to be a judge the next day at Kirk's School of Pit Masters Barbecue Class held at Central Market.

This time I took some photos, chatted with Kirk some more and brought my book to sign. We sat down at about 4pm to judge the "entries" from the students who began the class at 6am. I judged 12 entries of pork and chicken with 5 other judges, and then the other 6 judges rated ribs and brisket. Before each turn-in, Kirk gave a demo to his students about slicing and presenting each category. One of my co-judges was Leslie Kelly, former PI food critic now exploring whether to switch sides and join the kitchen ranks since the PI (sadly) ended. It was fun to meet a critic now in a new role. She's writing a book, blogging and apprenticing with the Tom Douglas family of restaurants.

As soon as I left I remembered her review! The Texas Toast review. Though she said lovely nice things about our food, I of course lost sleep over her one little gripe that neither did we serve up her pulled pork plate with bread, but the counter staffer didn't know what Texas Toast was when asked. That killed me when it came out because not only did I have a case of TT on hand - thick sliced white bread - but I got dinged in a review because my just-out-of-high-school counter person wasn't in the know about white bread. (No matter how much training I can give, most kids fresh out of high school are just leaving the nacho-cheese-sauce-phase of life and haven't yet awakened, culinarily speaking).

May I set the record straight, Leslie? We do know what Texas Toast is, usually have some stashed in the freezer, and well, frankly think our Essential Bakery bread is better. Folks ate their barbecue with white bread because it was cheap and available, not because it was necessarily good. You may respectfully disagree. How 'bout the rest of y'all? White bread with your barbecue or some of the better breads we now can get?


  1. I am a fan of plain old white bread with BBQ!

  2. Julie... I can't wait to come by for some Texas T!!
    Thanks for setting the record straight... this is the frustration shared by owners and diners alike, when important details are brushed aside in the rush of the moment or by a staffer who doesn't have a clue. But it only makes food lovers appreciate your efforts when they come out the way they're meant to.
    See you soon!!

  3. white bread with bbq, it's about the sop of the love not the bread this time.

  4. Hey Julie!
    If you're going ol'school than stick with TT or crappy white bread, because that's a classic interpretation. If you're trying something new and think that a new bread will communicate your style better to your customers well then, girl, screw 'em...do your thang!!

  5. Thank you, Lynnae, for your bravery on the white bread issue, allowing for something new. It's not as if we're serving up pulled pork with a rustic Italian wholegrain loaf - just good, fresh baked organic white bread with a little chew to it so it doesn't turn to a gluey paste when it touches a little sauce. You know what I'm saying?

  6. Since I don't have any Southern forebearers to roll in their graves, I'll admit here that I've always disliked the cheap bread that is served with 'cue. Here at home I'll bake up my own rolls. They're still soft sandwich bread, but they have real flavor and hold together. TT is a much better option than many I've been served.