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

Nick Smith, left, and his father Matt, of Gator BBQ.


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…)

Get their minds off of work: Day 1

Job cuts at work are imminent. My employees have to write a report which in affect will determine if they keep their jobs. It’s a terrible, terrible time. And to top it all off, I’m not allowed to help them write said report. I decided to assist them in another way. I made lunch for them the entire week.

First up for day 1: Fried chicken and coleslaw. I’m a southern boy at heart and I’ve tried dozens of fried chicken recipes over the years. Leah Chase is the gold standard. But this Bon Appétit recipe that I used to feed my employees is smack yo momma good. It’s pretty simple. Cut up a whole chicken, cover the pieces with a dry rub of spices, leave it in the fridge overnight. Dip the chicken pieces in buttermilk, then in flour, then fry it all up in peanut oil for ten minutes. Perfect fried chicken guaranteed.

Bon Appétit’s Perfect Fried Chicken

The coleslaw was pretty interesting. I spotted this recipe while watching an episode of Bobby Flay’s BBQ Addiction. I got a puzzled look from the Loblaws produce guy when I inquired about the location of the jicima. Luckily a cool dude at my neighbourhood Farm Boy knew exactly what I was talking about and led me to the stack of jicimas near the potatoes pile. Appropriate, since jicima tastes like a cross between a potato and an apple. Regardless, it was the key ingredient to this impressive coleslaw. Thanks Farm Boy Montreal Road!

Bobby Flay’s Jicima Coleslaw