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On a Wednesday

Short interviews with people. On Wednesdays. Read why →



Red Hook

2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16

What are you doing today?

Today is my first day of learning how to be a pit… person, pit rat, pit professional. It’s a long road. I’ve been with Hometown [Bar-B-Que] since the beginning and I’ve been doing carving for them. It’s been a great experience. I’ve been a cook for a while now, about three years. It’s been seven months at Hometown. Now we’re at the point where we need more people cooking and I’m next in line to learn the sacred art, as it were. It’s pretty awesome. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to in a lot of ways. Partly because it’s a different part of my personality I get to embrace. I’ve been talking to people a lot, I’ve been outgoing. I’m willing to pull part of that back, there are other ways I can do that. But the restaurant is an interesting place; the barbeque community is an interesting set of people. Honestly, the really interesting customers are the ones who are making barbeque at home. Those are the guys who are coming in and they really want to know everything about what you’re doing because they want to do it themselves.

Ernie is actually a pretty avid fan of the stuff we’re doing. It’s cool to see the stuff that he’s doing compared to the stuff that we’re doing. That’s one of the best parts about barbeque, it’s collaborative. There’s no hiding any secrets, there’s no pretension even, at least not in the circles that I’ve been running in. You just see a lot of really great people who are into the food they’re making.

Why is that?

There’s something really friendly about barbecue. I could see some people who are willing to keep it away. But Billy, our pitmaster said, if someone wants a recipe, just give it to them.

You don’t see that as competition?

Definitely not. No matter what I tell you about brisket, you are probably going to take a long time before you learn how to do it the right way. The recipe is literally just salt and pepper. It’s more about the technique. The shape that the fire is right now is reflective of what it was an hour ago. You have to know how much you’re adding and why you’re adding it. If you’re going to dampen the box, you have to understand why you’re doing it.

So, the whole idea with the fire is that every fifteen minutes or so, if you’re not keeping on top of it, you’re going to have a drop in temperature. You have to be constantly adding wood.The nature of it is that it’s a very hot fire and it burns the wood quickly, but it has a very clean smoke. That’s one of the big things about barbeque, you want a clean fire. To keep a clean fire, you need to keep feeding it. You have to know when to feed the beast, when to hold off. In a lot of ways it looks and feels like just hanging out by the smoker all day. It’s very different from much of the cooking I’ve done.

What's your favorite part of the day?

Usually at the end of the day. I tend to be pretty nocturnal. I really enjoy getting out late and a long walk home. Just that exertion, that cool down. I’m done doing what I’m doing for today and now I’m just enjoying a little bit of peace. I like going home and seeing my roommate. It’s a funny thing. We’re pretty close and just hanging out with him, even if we’re not talking to each other, is still pretty excellent.

What are you doing tomorrow?

I actually have no fucking clue. I might be here with this guy at two in the morning to do a lunch cook for tomorrow. I may be here doing that, or I may be in the back of the kitchen tomorrow night. I really have no idea.