BBQ

Interview with a Chef: Ottawa Ribfest’s Matt Smith of Gator BBQ

11256042
Nick Smith, left, and his father Matt, of Gator BBQ.
Photo credit: MORGAN MODJESKI / THE STARPHOENIX

 

For over 30 years, Gator BBQ has been delivering mouth-watering chicken, pulled pork and ribs to the hungry crowds of Rib Fests all across North America. Touring Canada and the Northern United States, the Smith family of Port Dover continue to win countless awards and events with their signature southern BBQ cuisine. On the eve of Ottawa Ribfest, I caught up with Matt Smith to discuss his humble BBQ beginnings, his secret for achieving great tasting barbecue and if he ever gets tired of being around so much BBQ!

How did you get involved in the BBQ business?
By accident mostly. I used to be part of the carnival circuit for Conklin Shows and eventually crossed paths with a fella who ran these Ribfests. I started my own team and its grown from there—must be 20 years at least. We were there at the very start!

Tell me about the BBQ process. Boil or bake? Smoker? Hardwood or gas?
Always smoked. Ribs, pork and chicken are done in our smoker (Southern Pride) for various times depending on the meat. Although the fuel is propane, there’s a wood oven that heats the smoker and pumps the heated smoke throughout. (more…)

Event: Ottawa Ribfest

Ottawa Ribfest is back in town. While your there check out Camp 31. Camp 31 BBQ was established by Larry Murphy in Alabama in 1986. They offer Southern style Bar-B-Que and their meat is slow cooked over hickory logs.

There are 17 ‘Ribbers’ to choose from along Sparks Street. Ribfest runs from 11 am-10 pm Friday and Saturday, and 11 am to 7 pm Sunday. Admission is free.

Camp 31 chicken and ribs

Camp 31 chicken and ribs

Camp 31 chicken and ribs

Camp 31 chicken and ribs

Where there’s smoke, there’s great barbeque

I found a shrine to serious barbeque. A place that pays homage to the Southern US “Barbeque Belt.” A restaurant that upholds the sanctity and authenticity of barbeque and one that will charm even the most hardened BBQ regionalists. A place called Fatboys Southern Smokehouse Bar-B-Que.

The aroma of hickory hangs in the air, a clear indication that this establishment takes the art of grilling meat very seriously. Many a restaurant prattle on about being the best at this or that. But I do declare that these folks’ crowning glory are its Memphis-style dry rub smoked ribs. Moist, crisp and meaty. Smokey, juicy and gnaw-able. Succulent and quite pleasingly finger-licking tasty. The dry rub of paprika, black pepper, cayenne and brown sugar create complex flavours. The wood burning oven allows the smoke to penetrate the tender meat and gives them that faint taste of caramel and hickory. Sublime. These ribs are bound for stardom. While idyllic on their own, you can also slather them with some of Fatboys’ homemade sauces: Memphis Mustard, Tennessee Sweet or Hillbilly Heat.

If you don’t fancy ribs there are plenty of other offerings to be had. Carolina catfish, Memphis BBQ spaghetti, beef brisket, a smoked burger, a pulled-pork sandwich, the “American Thanksgiving” platter and some smoked bacon mac’n cheese, to name but a few.

Traditionalists may rankle at the thought of real authentic BBQ in the nation’s capital, but they would be wise not to dismiss Fatboy’s dedication to celebrating the art of barbeque in all its glory. As their website states, the “Snow Belt unites with the BBQ Belt, which is why all 13 Southern states flags fly proudly outside Fatboys Southern Smokehouse.” I would go so far as to say that they are not only upholding the BBQ heritage of the South, they are building their own BBQ legacy north of the border with great success!

Why you should always spiral-cut your wiener (a.k.a BBQ #6)

I have a buddy that’s the coolest guy around. He’s also hilarious and extra kind. He and his wife both. And my buddy just happens to be a pro with the BBQ. You see, he owns a Weber so you know he’s serious. I am lucky enough to score an invite now and again to partake in his grilling extravaganzas. Yes, I am blessed.

Quite originally, he spiral-cuts the hot dogs. You heard me. Check out this video. The spiral-cut improves the wiener-eating experience by increasing the surface area of the frankfurter, thus resulting in a better grilled wiener and an extra tasty hot dog.

My hands are a bit shaky so the image below appears blurry. But there’s no mistaking that the hot dog was delicious.

The burgers looked like steaks on the grill and were juicy and delectable. The salad and the corn was just the right touch to finish off this meal. My friends really take care of me when I come over. I was stuffed. Oh, and if you haven’t already noticed, I like ketchup.

It’s late September and this might be the end of BBQ season for me. Unless I get a few more invites. Here’s hoping!

"Birthday Month" – BBQ #5

My family knows how much I dig birthdays. Lucky for me they’re always willing to do it up big. This year’s celebration included gourmet burgers, salads and make your own sundaes. Sweet! My family is pretty fly. I’m a very lucky guy. Check out the party pics below.

Baseball balloon. Coolest thing ever.
Choice of drinks. And no, I didn’t go for the Skinnygirl cocktail.
Spectacular salad
Burger toppings: Guacamole, sun-dried tomatoes and aioli.
More burger toppings: Bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms.
Burger and salad. A great combo.
“Make your own sundae” toppings
Sundae in a waffle bowl.

"Birthday Month" – BBQ #4

It’s been a long while since my last barbecue. Some pals of mine threw together the most fancy pants BBQ I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Salad, vichyssoise, steak, potatoes, fennel and my favourite pie in the world, coconut cream.

You’ll notice the absence of a shot of the vichyssoise. I’m a photography dunce. I’m working on getting better so I ask for your patience. [As an aside, if you have tips for taking better pictures with an iPhone, send them my way. I would be eternally grateful.] Suffice it to say, the vichyssoise pic didn’t turn out and I was not going to subject you to the blurry mess. Although I have to say that the salad shot ain’t bad, no?

Thank you kind friends for throwing me a beautiful birthday BBQ. I appreciate you and all of the time you put into this great meal. You guys are brilliant!

A colourful and delicious summer salad
Dinner by candlelight. Steak, potatoes, fennel and wine. Mmmm.
My favourite pie, coconut cream

Father’s Day BBQ

I’m often sullen on Father’s Day. My dad passed away a few years ago now and even though I miss him every single day, this day in particular is more difficult. When my niece invited me over to her house for a BBQ to spend some time with the family, I was happy to oblige. Family time is always nice. Family time plus a BBQ meal is a no brainer. Grilled vegetables, a big ole steak, some time with the kinfolk and sharing memories about my dad made for a very good day.

The cooking beast
Flowers from my mom’s garden
Hot off the grill

The final product

Get their minds off of work: Day 4

I had layed out the weekly menu on Monday so my employees were anticipating this day all week: Rib Day. “Make sure you don’t miss rib day” was my daily mantra to them. I think everyone can agree that ribs make most everyone happy. And my ribs, correction, Bon Appétit’s ribs, are amaaaaaazing. I had made them many times over and those tasters had unoffically voted them “best ribs ever.” So easy, so good. Salt and pepper the ribs, wrap them in foil, throw them in the oven for two hours, slather them with a reduced cherry cola sauce, 5 minutes on the BBQ or indoor grill and you have pure deliciousness.

Bon Appétit’s cherry cola ribs

So with rib day, our week came to an end. I work a four-day work week and on Friday they would have to endure a week’s worth of leftovers. I didn’t hear any complaintsmy people were ever so grateful.  I am happy that we got to spend some time together during this tough time at work. Oh, and the loved the ribs, btw. I knew they would!

Street meat

During my time in Boston, I had full well intended to sample the many food trucks that line the streets. But it’s raining. ALL THE TIME. I did manage to try the BBQ Smith truck. It was parked near the library just outside the Copley T station as I was running for one thing to the next. Within minutes I had my hands on a Slawwhich. Smoked chicken with BBQ sauce, slaw and garlic pickles on a soft roll. The piled high smoked chicken was flavourful, the sauce was tangy and the pickles and coleslaw added a nice crisp touch. This sandwich was very reasonable priced at $6.