|Volume 8, Issue 2||
|Beef brisket with "burnt ends" ready to turn in for judging|
If you’re planning an event that needs catering, or even if you’d just like to have some award-winning authentic, slow-cooked barbecued meat to anchor a family meal, there’s a local catering firm that will be sure to please you and your guests.
John and Laura Roberts have made the transition from being hobbyist BBQ competitors to providing top-notch catering for a variety of events. You may remember that we wrote about them in September 2008, following their participation in the Oregon State Fair BBQ Competition. They won a ribbon at that one, but at the 2009 competition they did way better, placing in the top ten in every category they entered.
One of their first big catering jobs was to provide the delicious barbecue sandwiches and sides for the 2008 Cedar Mill Cider Festival. They came back again in 2009 and have also catered numerous weddings, meetings and family reunions. They offer everything from full-service catering to simply delivering a container of barbecued meat for you to build your meal around.
John Roberts grew up in the catering business. His parents did catering “on the side” and he helped out during his teenage years. In fact, he says that his second date with Laura was helping to deliver and serve food for an event. Barbecue wasn’t part of the menu, but he does remember when his dad brought home the family’s first grill.
So what is barbecue (or BBQ, which is what aficionados call it)? It isn’t the quick, hot type of cooking on a grill. That’s grilling. It IS the slow indirect cooking of meat using some kind of fire, whether charcoal or wood. It’s often done with the less-tender cuts that benefit from the “low and slow” method that breaks down the connective tissue and saturates the meat with flavor and juice. It takes skill and patience and a good quality cooker.
John says that it’s his patience that makes him a great “pitmaster.” He explains, “If you rush it your meat will not be the best it can be. With BBQ it’s done when it’s done!” He also has a good palate. Laura says he can always tell exactly what seasonings are needed to take a dish from good to great.
The Roberts got involved with the world of BBQ when they attended a competition at the Chinook Winds resort. They had watched some competitions on the Food Network and when they found out that one was being held close to their Cedar Mill home, they decided to drive down.
John says, “The first sensation hit us before we crested the hill to drive down into the competition area as we caught the incredible smell of the wood smoke coming from the cookers. We both noticed it at the same time and turned to each other in amazement. We spent the day walking through the competition area, asking questions of the various teams and cooks as we could. Most of them were very friendly, willing to offer information and gave us a very positive experience. We came away from that day with the resolve that somehow we wanted to become more involved with competition BBQ,”
|John, Laura and Carol display their winnings at a local contest|
Then John attended a cooking class (at the Farmington Bales Thriftway) that was being offered by a local BBQ group. During the class he found out about an opportunity to earn certification from the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) to judge professional contests. He jumped at the chance and has judged a number of competitions throughout the Pacific Northwest.
But Laura was anxious to get into competition. “I was happy secluded away in the judge’s tent,” John said, but Laura knew they could win, and she spurred them to enter their first contest. They’ve been entering competitions sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association (pnwba.com) since 2006, and have started traveling further to Kansas City and other national competitions. Visit the PNWBA website for the full story on the various types of BBQ, from North Carolina to Texas, and to see the schedule of competitions in the northwest.
|John checks his ribs in one of his "bullet" grills at the Oregon State Fair contest|
For most of his catering, and at competitions, John uses Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cookers, also called “bullets” because of their appearance. John says, “They have good capacity for a lot of food at once. With the smaller cookers we can pair the best woods to compliment our rubs and sauces for the very best results for each meat we BBQ. When we need more capacity I have a couple of BBQ friends who will rent us their large pits. We hope that one day soon we can purchase our own.” They brought one of these huge cookers (on wheels) to the Cider Festival and the smoke perfumed the air for about a mile around.
He won’t divulge all his secrets, but about his seasonings, he says, “We have developed special rubs for each of the meats that we cook, i.e. beef, pork, and chicken. Each rub is designed to produce at least four levels of taste; each level building and complimenting the flavor of the meat. The better job a cook can do with this layering, the better the scores will be at a competition. For anyone else, it just tastes sooo good!”
When they cater an event, John says, “of course we love to BBQ and incorporate it into our menu whenever we can. But we can provide a more conventional menu if that is what our customer prefers. From beef ribs, to a succulent whole chicken to pork or beef tenderloin, we will help you find the ideal choice for your gathering. Side dishes are always fun—we have a great Kansas City-style BBQ beans recipe that is a big favorite. Our Louisiana Corn Salad took 21st place out of nearly 500 teams at the American Royal BBQ contest in Kansas City last year, and we make our own coleslaw fresh. One of our other dishes that has become popular of late is green beans with caramelized onions and sliced toasted almonds.”
|John slices some ribs at the Oregon State Fair. Things get serious around turn-in time!|
Catering prices begin around $8.95 per person, John says. “We will work with any budget to provide a great meal for our customer. The price is determined by the size of the group, the level of service, and the complexity of the menu. We can also smoke and deliver barbequed meat by the pound.” For smaller events they need a couple of days notice to do an order of BBQ since they often marinate the meat and then cook it for up to 12 hours. For large events more time is required. And take my word for it, get more than you need, because it freezes beautifully. What a treat to bring some pulled pork out when you need to produce a meal fast!
Their most fun catering job came last summer when an acquaintance hired them to cook all the meals for a big family reunion over a weekend in LaPine. All the cooking was done outdoors in BBQ cookers and in Dutch ovens. Their biggest job recently was a wedding for 175, where they provided a buffet-style meal of appetizers and roast-turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings—and half the food had to be gluten-free! Laura’s an expert on that since she has several family members with that dietary restriction.
|Carol serves succulent sandwiches at the 2009 Cedar Mill Cider Festival|
Laura is a fourth-generation Oregonian, which means her family were pioneers in the Florence area. She and John met while attending college in Nampa, Idaho. They have lived in Cedar Mill for 12 years after moving back here from northern Idaho. She often enters her dishes in the “sides” and “everything but” categories at the competitions. Her specialty is desserts.
They would love to open a restaurant some day. John says, “If there are any venture capitalists out there that are big BBQ fans it would be fun to kick around some ideas.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a family BBQ joint in Cedar Mill?
They’ve been members of the Cedar Mill Business Association for about a year, and they provided “sliders” (those little sandwiches) of chopped brisket and pulled pork for the CMBA Holiday Social in December. There were no leftovers.
They’re happy to work with groups on fundraising events and they even donate a portion of their proceeds, as they did at the Cider Festival. Visit their website at burntendsbbq.blogspot.com for more information, or just give them a call at 503-641-6680 to find out how they can make your next event a tasty success.
Published monthly by Cedar Mill Advertising & Design
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291