Owning barbecue

At Pork Summit 2013, chefs demonstrate the concept of "indigenous barbecue," with tasty results.

Stephen Barber, the chef at Farmstead, a St. Helena restaurant affiliated with Long Meadow Ranch, took a stab at Northern California barbecue. His “smoke” came from the wood of the madrone tree, and his ingredients included bronze fennel, which grows in abundance in the area, dried New Mexico chilies and a sauce made with blackberry vinegar, dried figs, blackberries, chilies, honey, sea water and wild onions. He prepared his pork by using a barbecue pit.

John Fink, chef-owner of The Whole Beast in San Francisco, was challenged with trying to replicate barbecue from the mid-Atlantic region in pre-Revolutionary times. Accordingly, he used applewood for his “smoke”, and his barbecue ingredients included applesauce; hare cider; fish peppers, and a gastrique made from apple cider, hard cider and apple juice. His method of cooking involved building a chimney similar to what would have been found in Colonial-era homes.

Taylor Bowen Ricketts, chef-owner of Delta Bistro in Greenwood, Miss., used pecan wood as the “smoke” for her take on Southern barbecue. Ingredients included scuppernong jelly (scuppernong is a variety of muscadine grape), sweet potato butter, pecans and a brine of water, moonshine, honey and sea salt. She prepared her pork in a drum-style barbecue.

Robert Danhi, a chef and instructor who specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine, used a wide variety of ingredients —18 in all—to create a Balinese barbecued pork, which was tied up and roasted rotisserie-style, using mangrove wood, which is indigenous to Indonesia.

It was an interesting—and tasty—exercise, and it made me think. What other types of ubiquitous foods can chefs and operators take and make “their own” through the use of local ingredients, or even long-abandoned cooking methods? It could take the idea of sustainability to a new level.

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