Find a Que joint.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Work Bar and Grill in Deep Ellum.

The on-off again relationship Dallasites have with Deep Ellum is reminiscent to the turbulent Bobby Brown/Whitney Houston train wreck where they couldn't break up because in the end, they really needed each other. Or something like that.

Crowds give false hope by having a great time, then bail when bored. They leave a path of tears and heartbreak, destroying all hopes of Deep Ellum's rise from obscurity which ultimately goes back to emptiness and dilapidation. The relationship with Deep Ellum is on -- for the time being.

Restaurants, bars and other tenants are finding new homes in a neighborhood that has no reason to ever be vacant. The difference with this kick start to Deep Ellum's heart, that may keep the pulse strong, is the emergence of respectable restaurants -- not an oversaturation of seedy bars or dance clubs, which have become destination trips for their customer base.

One such new restaurant, Work Bar and Grill, opened it's doors in April 2013. The restaurant can be viewed as a novelty sports bar with scantily dressed waitresses, which unfortunately are everywhere, but also has an upscale industrial theme.

Owner/Pitmaster Doug Pickering has brought not necessarily a new concept to life, but one which can thrive if it catches the right crowd. He also may have unknowingly made one of the brightest business moves in Dallas for a barbecue restaurant. With the recent news of Pecan Lodge's relocation to Deep Ellum, those meat travelers who arrive at Pecan Lodge then choose not to wait in line will find Work within walking distance.

Without labeling themselves as solely a barbecue restaurant, they do rely heavily on smoked meat. The menu itself is very diverse, catering to other palates with offerings such as buffalo fried oysters, mussels, and bacon wrapped prawns. There are plenty of green options for those who dig that sort of thing.

I planned my visit around their Thursday-night-only rib offering. Due to my reconnaissance, I discovered the ribs were to be ready by 7 pm. Upon my arrival to a steady, but not overly busy crowd, the disappointing news from the waitress was around 8 pm: They were already out of ribs. I would imagine for a one night per week special, there would be a higher quantity smoked if they sell out in an hour. Early bird gets the pork, I suppose.

The Sugar Cookie brisket was ordered with the sides of choosing being the Potato Salad and Purple Haze Ginger Coleslaw. After the discovery the sausage was that of commercial variety (boggles my mind when there are a handful of local meat markets nearby) and for $4 extra, I opted to add protein by ordering the pulled pork.

With a hearty amount of brisket displayed, no time was wasted digging in. The bark was distinctively good and there were several brilliant bites of meat, more often there were bites which caused my jaw to do a bit more work than I would've preferred. On these slices, the thick fat had more of a congealed effect due to incomplete rendering. This could be remedied by a bit more trimming prior to applying the rub. The smoky flavor was exactly what one would expect and with a bit longer in the pit, every slice of meat could've been consistent deliciousness.

What was commendable was the fact theses slices of brisket were served with fat -- not lean and trimmed of all the flavoring that the average Dickey's enthusiast believes to be real Texas barbecue. While the sauce was served on the side with the brisket, the pulled pork was served with just enough on top to complement the meat.

The sides were above average without particularly standing out. Luckily, there are enough options for the next go-around.

Work Bar and Grill is worth a visit. For a restaurant with an identity crisis such as them (video arcades in the corner next to the posh lounge seating and is it a barbecue joint or not?), this is an option for the lover of smoked meat who would like to hang out for while, watch a game on one of their many flatscreen TVs and enjoy the wide selection of booze located at their saloon-style bar.

The only change I would unselfishly like to see made are the Thursday night ribs becoming a menu staple. It's normal to crave ribs during the day while regressing to your youthful days at the local Pocket Change arcade, right!?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Meat Fight...where everyone was a winner.

Judges panel. Photo by Cody Neathery.
Similar to Bo Jackson, Alice Laussade is a skilled dual threat on the field of life. No, she doesn't play football or baseball, but she writes at a comedic elevation rivaling Dallas' sky erection (Reunion Tower), and she can throw one hell of a party -- all for a reputable cause.

Started as a backyard contest among friends, 2012 was the first year Meat Fight was open to the public. It's an event like no other held in town.

With 300 tickets selling out quickly and weighing down the upstairs floor at Sons of Hermann Hall, they were able to raise $20,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. With much appreciation and gratitude toward all involved, Alice had a bigger plan for the following year.

Tiffany Derry. Photography by Cody Neathery.

Hosted at Four Corners Brewery this year, with the same blue print as before, the city’s best chefs came together to cook barbecue -- something none of them typically dabble in at their restaurants.

Usually, you will find Omar Flores piecing together seafood dishes like a puzzle at Driftwood while Tiffany Derry can sculpt elegant American cuisine. Other notable chefs included, Brian Luscher, owner of the Grape, Neighborhood Services Chef Jeff Bekavac, David Uygur of Lucia with Nathan Tate from close by Boulevardier in Bishop Arts, and Café Momentum's Chad Houser, among others.

The twist to the contest was that the best barbecue slingers from across the state would be judging their meat products. After winning "best brisket" in 2012, Slow Bone's Jack Perkins was on the judging panel along with Tim Byres of Smoke, Stephen Joseph of Riverport Barbecue, Dallas' very own barbecue highbrow and Texas Monthly's Barbecue Editor, Daniel Vaughn, Stanley's Famous Pit's Nick Pencis, Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge, and the ZZ Top of barbecue, Lockhart Smokehouse's Will Fleischman.

Matt and Nick Offerman, Daniel Vaughn and Nick Pencis. Photo by Cody Neathery.

Adding to the table of judges was a celebrity of sorts -- the ultimate kick in the pants. Nick Offerman is a man who knows as much about wood as he does growing a voluptuous mustache. He also portrays Ron Swanson on NBC's Parks and Recreation. On the show and in real life, he is the turbulent meat loving, government disapproving, whiskey guzzling craftsman. 

Sporting a noble beard with an uncanny thirst for craft beer and hunger for smoked meat was Nick's brother Matt Offerman, who made the pilgrimage as a second guest judge. After a hearty conversation with Matt, one would discover his love of craft beer comes from being a brewer at Solemn Oath brewery in Illinois.

Team Meatallica's meat things. Photo by Cody Neathery.

With 500 tickets selling out within 5 minutes this year, doors opened at 4 pm for VIP ticket holders and 5 pm for general admission. All in attendance were bamboozled by a cornucopia of cooked animal and yes, there were veggie options for the extra-terrestrials cloaked in human flesh walking amongst the carnivores.

Three teams slugged it out for idol-like trophies of gold spray painted animals. Team Notorious P.I.G. anchored by Derry took home awards for best ribs, sausage and fish while Luscher's band, Meatallica, carried the best brisket award back to their kitchen. Scrappy team, Cool Arrows, led by fearless leader and rib diver, Houser, unfortunately wound up empty handed -- but seemingly had a fun time doing so.

Bacon donuts from Hypnotic Donuts.Photograph by Cody Neathery.

With the first annual 'Uncle Benjamin's Meatvember Beard Pageant' (which I made to the second round before a woeful dismissal) and live auction concluded, Laussade and husband Mike, made an announcement, followed by a raucous cheer from the crowd.

The total raised by Meat Fight for this year was $50,000, thus pulverizing last year's amount. And therefore, more than doubling her vision whilst raising the awareness of the fight against Multiple Sclerosis. Although being stalked by a woman convinced I was a reporter who had calmed Lady Gaga during an interview on Good Morning Texas, I give this two beefy thumbs up for a great night and an even better reason to break meat.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Texas Monthly BBQ Fest by way of Hutchin's BBQ.

It’s fairly safe to claim the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival held every November in Austin is the Christmas of smoked meat. Only the best barbecue joints in the world (which so happen to ALL lie within Texas’ borders) receive invites and tickets sell out within minutes of being electronically released. For those who are technologically challenged, a walk up option was available with food not necessarily being guaranteed.

Every ticket purchaser should leave fat from the food and happy from the food and beer. If one did not waddle away 10 lbs. heavier while in an intense state of transcendent happiness combined with an overwhelming sense of contentment – you clearly screwed up somehow.

Photo by Cody Neathery.

Five of the 21 restaurants in attendance were from Dallas-Ft. Worth or the surrounding area, with all serving stellar cuts of brisket, ribs and sausage. The line-up included Dallas’ Pecan Lodge and Lockhart Smokehouse, Ft. Worth’s Cousin’s BBQ, McKinney’s Hutchin’s BBQ, and Stanley’s Famous Pit out of Tyler. Unfortunately several other local nominees didn’t attend but from previous year’s festivals – this was a strong showing and something for north Texas to celebrate.

As a man who often gets pulled into conversations relating to the best barbecue around, one would be surprised the amount of locals who still have not tried Pecan Lodge even though they have heard the buzz surrounding them. Most don’t even know its location. Let that sink in for a bit. We’re talking about the #2 joint in the world. Dallas, wake up. It’s located in your backyard. To the mayor of Dallas – wake up because you could potentially lose them. Asinine right!?

Imagine being the owner of a top ranked joint in Texas located roughly 30 miles north of Dallas but receiving not much more recognition than what was published from Texas Monthly back in May. Not a mere mention of congratulations from its hometown that was itself, listed as Money Magazine’s number 5 town in America as a ‘Best Place to Live.’ That being said, don’t you think their hometown would have a greater appreciation and respect for a national list?

Hello McKinney, Texas – have you met what is one of the best barbecue restaurants in Texas – or in the world? If not, Hutchin’s BBQ rests conveniently near your much publicized historic square which draws thousands of tourists annually. That seems to me that there is some missed opportunity in this equation or maybe someone in the tourism department has become complacent.

Dustin Blackwell - Hutchin's BBQ. Photo by Cody Neathery.

Arriving Saturday afternoon in Austin, the ultimate barbecue camp was constructed in the backyard-style parking lot where Pitmaster John Lewis churns out some of the most admirable protein from a food trailer known as La Barbecue. An abundance of fold out chairs, unwavering amount of beer and the congregation of new and old friends alike, you couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a Saturday.

Adding to the mystique of the soft smoke billowing out of the smokestacks and next door to La Barbecue, is a small single room store geared toward the religion of Santeria. Walking myself over with child-like curiosity or maybe spiritually guided by whiskey – there inside were shelves of religious statues, candles and bottles of magical potion. Ironically enough, some find barbecue to be a religious experience with hints of superstition and luck but the real magic begins at the hands of the pitmasters.

Hutchin's BBQ rib. Photo by Cody Neathery.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of attending the fourth annual Texas Monthly BBQ Fest as a guest of Hutchin’s BBQ. Tim Hutchin and long-time best friend, Dustin Blackwell, have turned this restaurant, established in 1978, into a barbecue mecca. The consistency they brought to the Fest bested some of the state’s more highly rated barbecue joints and it showed by the constant demand from the public.

You’re always going to have an understandably or baffling (however waiting three hours rubs you) long line for the usual suspects like Franklin Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, and Snow’s BBQ, but the line for Hutchin’s was one of the most unrivaled in length between all attendees.

Understandably or baffling long lines for Franklin and Snow's. Photo by Cody Neathery.

When pointed out, Hutchins and Blackwell both quit cutting for a brief moment, visually taking in the line which had formed in front of them. Even Tim’s father and restaurant namesake, Roy Hutchins, who initially started Roy’s Smokehouse in Princeton, was present to see this achievement. There was a realization of the work and determination that their family had put into this restaurant, even overcoming a recent fire in 2012 which Tim and Dustin both claimed to be one of the “darkest moments of our lives.”

While usually overshadowed by the local favorites of Pecan Lodge and Lockhart Smokehouse, it’s refreshing to see the little guy shine on such a monumental stage like the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. With Tim Hutchins, the quality of his brisket and ribs were on the forefront of his mind as he carefully tried to pick the best cut for each customer. Not often does one witness this consideration and humble gratitude.

Tim Hutchins - Hutchin's BBQ. Photo by Cody Neathery.

Sure Blackwell may have torn a chunk of flesh from his leg on the side of a trailer thus resulting in a gaping wound that John Lewis wanted to seal with hot coal while I readily stood by with a bottle of moonshine ready to flush out any bacteria. Of course the night was elevated with the arrival of the Stanley's Famous Pit crew when shots were appearing left and right which may have had something to do with us temporarily having no clue where we were early Sunday morning. As expected the next day was a grind, but experiences such as these make stories worth telling.

In hindsight, all the superstitions and luck charms could be tossed to the side. Mostly all it takes are years of preparation to meet one opportunity. And it all begins at the hands of a pitmaster.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Back Forty Smokehouse

Not many ghost towns exist in the suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth. But if you stumble upon Smithfield, you may have just found yourself one. Congratulations on this minor victory. 

Having been established before 1870 and never growing over the population of 400, Smithfield was annexed – though I would like to imagine a bitter feud – rather peacefully as a part of North Richland Hills in 1958. What you will find remaining along the main street are a small handful of the original buildings and Smithfield Cemetery, sans victims of my imaginary bitter feud. 

Photo by Cody Neathery

Housed in a rebuilt feed store that was destroyed by a fire in 1929 is the Back Forty Smokehouse. Opened this past May 2013, it has quickly become a popular destination as a live music venue. What may be overlooked by the chords from an acoustic guitar is the surprisingly good barbecue.

Arriving shortly after opening, I was able to take my time exploring the sizeable menu while asking questions pertaining to the food. A good rule of thumb is to catch a barbecue restaurant as close to opening as possible to ensure the meat’s freshness and that there is no shortage of protein. Too many times the customer will arrive late afternoon and complain about both – unfortunately on Yelp because Americans have nothing better to do than bitch. Unless your soft serve ice cream is commendable enough to garner a 4 star review.

Photo by Cody Neathery

A quick conversation with Pitmaster Mark Payne taught me that he is of the same Payne family who started the longtime Ft. Worth favorite, Cousin’s BBQ, which has now appeared twice on the Texas Monthly top 50 list. He emphasized (without needing to explain in depth) that he has no ties to Cousin’s anymore and is 100% Back Forty Smokehouse.

After learning on and using a Bewley smoker for 30 years, Mark now uses the Southern Pride smoker that was previously installed by the former tenant of the building. After tasting the Hickory smoked brisket – I believe his technique has transitioned from an all wood to gas assisted smoker quite successfully. The bark presented a nice pop from the well-balanced rub and rendered fat.

Photo by Cody Neathery

The ribs, smoked with White Post Oak, were well above average in flavor but had a bit of a dry texture reminiscent of being exposed to open air. Anticipation is good but don’t allow it to take away from the proper presentation. Rounding out the Texas trifecta was the Jalapeno sausage. It's shipped from Miiller’s Smokehouse which has its own history being located in the serene Hill Country town of Llano, Texas.

Both the coleslaw and potato salad were found to be average and by that I mean good enough for me to eat. Whether they’re homemade or not, I didn’t ask. I would like to believe they were made in house but I would also like to believe that Elvis didn’t die on a toilet.

Photo by Cody Neathery

With a spacious outdoor patio, complete with an additional bar and TVs, it would be quite easy to locate oneself here to get away from the city for a few beers and a good time. For those who reside in the mid-cities suburbs and inside the Ft. Worth city limits, this is a great option in the region’s growing barbecue scene and for die-hard Meatheads. If Mark Payne continues smoking this noteworthy barbecue, he may be joining his family on the next Texas Monthly top 50 list.

And hey, they're open on Sundays too. So if you're like me and need something to take the edge off after sitting for an hour and half in church, there ya' go.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Camp Craig Allen's 7th Annual Amateur Cook-off.

This past weekend at the Bass Pro Shops in Grapevine, Texas, 48 teams braved the great monsoon of 2013 for charity Camp Craig Allen's 7th annual Amateur BBQ Cook-off. Participates included some new amateur teams like The Catalina Swinemixers and Scruffy Duffies' owner, Jerry Elliott's team, Ribs for Your Pleasure, to returning and not-so-amateur teams like Tim's Tailgate and Meat Meisters -- who were the charity sponsored team.

Camp Craig Allen was started by Dawn Cruzan in memory of her late brother, Craig, who suffered from Muscular Dystrophy. His dream was to build a camp for both disabled children and adults which would be a completely barrier-free facility full of activities without obstacles while providing personal growth and education. The mission is simple: "Camp Craig Allen is dedicated to the “overlooked” physically disabled children and physically disabled adults of North Texas. We will encourage self-awareness, positive influence, and independence in therapeutic and educational programs in an accessible environment that promotes abilities and talents of those with the most physical challenges."

(Catalina Swinemixers team members enjoying the fruits of their labor)
Teams assembled all day Friday and immediately fired up the smokers -- filling the air with robust hints of smoke and meat. Friday night was a Dallas Margarita Society sponsored party for $25 per ticket that included live music, a barbecue meal, and a casino tent. The following Saturday, the general public was able to purchase tickets for $10 which provided live music, contests, games and food samples provided by each team. To help increase fundraising, a silent auction was held over the weekend.

(Award winning brisket - photo by Cody Neathery)

Not only was I able to participate in an amateur team -- I had the privilege to judge the Bloody Mary and dessert categories. As a very reluctant fan of Bloody Mary's, I felt I had the upper hand as a judge. There would be no error deciding between a pungent mix and one that would immediately convert my taste buds to the greatness of this concoction. Now I understand why Willie Nelson penned a song about them.

The reward ceremony was held Saturday evening after the crowds had dispersed. The anticipation was high for every team waiting for a call. After months of planning, cooking, and hard work that go into such a competition, we walked away with three top 10 calls. A special thanks to Ye Ole Meat Market and Hirsch's Meats in Plano, Texas for their food contributions.

(Pork belly - photo by Cody Neathery)

While winning as an amateur team was fine and dandy, knowing that cooking for a greater cause outweighed that notion. During the event, disabled children and adults were visiting with each team to show their appreciation. Being able to interact and get to know the members and beneficiaries of Camp Craig Allen was the true reward.

With more local sponsorship coming from ESPN-Dallas and WFAA-Channel 8, and all those involved, the charity BBQ competition raised nearly $100,000 for Camp Craig Allen. Next year's charity cook-off will take place at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Texas size BBQ lunch with Trace Arnold of 3 Stacks Smoke and Tap House.

After receiving an invitation for a Texas size barbecue lunch at 3 Stacks Smoke and Tap House, there wasn't one thought of turning it down. It was an event for local food lovers to help ( in Pitmaster Trace Arnold's words ) spread the gospel of great Texas barbecue. Because of course, "once you've had the best, you won't go back to the rest."

Trace Arnold is also the creator of a massive 18-wheel smoker known as "The Ultimate Smoker and Grill," which is sponsored by the History Channel. Winding down from his recent Cross Country Cook-off, he is ready to focus his efforts at the Frisco located restaurant.

I had the pleasure of working with Trace when he volunteered his services in West, TX following the fertilizer plant tragedy. During this event, a physician from Boston had pizza delivered to the local hospitals to feed their staff who were working tirelessly around the clock. In return, Trace flew up to Boston with coolers full of ribs to repay the generosity to the Massachusetts General Hospital which was the main hub for treating the Boston Marathon bombing victims. Human spirit at it's finest.

Along with other local food writers or the overly saturated term "foodies", we gathered at one of the community tables located parallel to the bar which offers 30 craft beers on tap - the majority of them being locally owned. The majority of them which my weekend spending habits help maintain their brewing operations.

As we sat there, he educated us with his barbecue gospel in the form of three rules. And like a preacher, I was scolded for paying more attention to the food than his word. It's the ADD folks.
RULE #1: NEVER put sauce on your ribs. Good ribs don't need sauce. And if the ribs are great, then it's just a crime.

RULE #2: If you come to 3 Stacks and love what they serve, it is your duty to go out and bring a friend or a coworker back with you to share the knowledge.

RULE #3: If you ever eat anything you don't 100% love, find Trace Arnold or anyone who works at 3 Stacks and let them know so they can fix the problem and make it right.
First to bat were the brisket and zesty sausage pizzas, both of which include fresh jalapenos, red onion, and 6 cheese blend over their house BBQ sauce. Topped with fresh hand-torn cilantro. I would have to say they were both admirable but let's cut to the chase, where's the barbecue?
Next we were entertained with the entire appetizer and side menu. I shuttered at the thought of being bloated before one pull of meat from a rib was ever taken but as a lover of stuffed peppers, I couldn't resist the Jalapeno Fire Crackers. As described by the menu, "Fresh jalapeno halves stuffed with our slow smoked brisket. Cheese, cilantro, and red onion. Wrapped in bacon, oven roasted, and then topped with our plum chipotle glaze. Served with a side of zesty waffle fries and our avocado ranch dipping sauce for a spicy, cool combination." Skip the dressing folks - these are good naked.

Among the plethora of sides, the tangy cilantro coleslaw, Nena's cold potato salad and 6 cheese mac and cheese were the my personal winners. Opinions vary as we did have one vegetarian among us. Unfortunately, I'm not up to par with her level of agriculture knowledge to maintain an intelligent discussion about grass and peaches.
I began to get jittery in my chair as my ADD started to kick in again, but two massive platters of smoked protein appeared and calmed this self-diagnosed characteristic of mine. I was nearly knocked over by the mad rush of "foodies" b-lining it with Apple products in hand to photograph this heavenly descent of meat.
After all the commotion and dust settled, we feasted. Served were slices of jalapeno sausage, meaty ribs, smoked turkey and brisket. One thing I was kitten-facing about was the brisket. It was lean, trimmed and resting woefully on the platter. Trace then asked if we needed anything - yes please sir - fatty brisket. If you ask, you shall receive and two bountiful plates of burnt ends and savory moist brisket appeared. Ok, now we're as happy as a camel on hump day. All protein had an uncanny smoke flavoring which is appreciated by a meat enthusiast like myself.
Just when we were starting to believe the food assault comparable to D-Day was coming to an end and we were ready to raise a white flag of surrender, desserts from everywhere propelled themselves onto the table. Why must I continue to be bludgeoned with such good food? To keep it short, the Texas Pecan Pie Ya'll and Banana Pudding were Grandma quality stuff. That's a pretty good measurement tool in my world. Don't leave without trying them.

I would have to give it to Trace and Cynthia Smoot for a successful lunch to educate customers on the difference between good barbecue and great barbecue. In his words, "people are addicted to bad barbecue because they haven't had great barbecue." Well said Trace, and you're among many kickass Texas Pitmasters who are winning us over - one smoked meat at a time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The State of Mobile BBQ

The words risk and failure are almost synonymous with new businesses while ambition, ingenuity, and hard work are all characteristics that form what we know as an entrepreneur. Ironically enough, an entrepreneur is defined as a "person who takes risks."
The owners of barbecue restaurants are in every sense defining the entrepreneurial spirit. For them, they work 12 plus hours daily. They rely on support from their families, friends and of course - the equally hard working employees who stand by them. And they build their business from the shell of a former propane tank.

I thought about the backgrounds and beginnings of a few Pitmasters I have had the pleasure to learn from. Each background was unique in its own regard. Bennie Washington of Whup's Boomerang Bar-B-Que was a former truck driver for Pepsi, Jack Perkins of The Slow Bone was once a school teacher, and like Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge, a former corporate consultant. While some Pitmasters had the privilege of growing up within the industry, others had to take a knife, a chunk of wood and carve out their creation. 

The rise of mobile barbecue has been noted through the success of the Fourton’s with catering and from Aaron Franklin who worked for John Mueller out of a trailer in Austin. Justin and Aaron now have a building and well John...he still enjoys the trailer park life. This is a phenomenon currently occurring in Austin with upstarts like Scotty's BBQ off Rainey Street and Micklethwait Craft Meats, smartly located in close proximity to Franklin Barbecue on 11th.

Pitmasters remind me of modern day cattle drive cooks. Their passion and dedication could have been found in the late-1800s along the cattle trails feeding the men at night beside the campfire. They were generally the most respected member of the team having medical supplies as well as medical care knowledge. They maintained nourishment and health.

Quite frequently overlooked is the art of catering or it's equivalent from cattle drive days simply called "chuck wagon cooking." Many barbecue restaurants begin with catering only, such as Pecan Lodge and Cattleack BBQ - both located in Dallas - while Joseph’s Riverport of Jefferson, TX, began as a storefront with catering on the side. With this in mind, I wanted to gain a better feel of the pros and cons, differences and similarities, and the ease or difficulties that come with the mobile side of barbecue. The best way to find out is by asking those live it day in and day out.

Cody Neathery: Since you’ve done catering previously and currently, what's the first thought that goes through your mind when a customer calls for your services?

Justin Fourton: The first couple of years, catering was what helped us survive before word of mouth had started to bring a decent amount of people down to the restaurant. So typically, the first thought that came to mind was “Sweet, this means will be able to pay our electricity bill next week.”

Todd David: The first thing that goes through my mind is "Do I already have a golf game that day?" Next we start looking at what their event is and how our barbecue and catering will assist in making that a special event. The old, "WOW," factor.

CN: Imagining the level of perfection you want to deliver when someone asks you to serve food at a wedding or retirement party - what are some preparations involved with catering, such as using a smoker you don’t cook with on a daily basis?

JF: A successful catering job goes way beyond just whether or not the food was good. The logistics involved for producing an event and staffing it well are very important. Making sure you’ve taken the time to plan things out in detail and having good people onsite is critical. We use Lurlene (our trailer pit) for offsite catering; I’ve never cooked for clients on a pit that wasn’t ours. I think it would be very stressful to cook on a pit you were unfamiliar with.

Stephen Joseph: Keeping the product hot and cold according to the Health Department regulations. The food must meet your personal standards before it ever leaves the facility. Be sure you have everything you need before you leave, including gas for the catering vehicle.

TD: While we have taken our smoker and serving rig to a few events, it is not as popular as you would think. People want the food, plenty of it, with excellent quality, and great service. Since we have a very large commercial truck with temperature controlled compartments, they prefer the food to already be smoked, sliced and ready to serve. It really depends how much the client wants to see the actual smoking verses just having the rig and smoke for aesthetics.

CN: If a catered event falls on a Saturday evening – how do you manage cooking from Friday night to Saturday morning for normal restaurant hours then meeting the demand for the same food quality at an event where the guest attendance can mirror your earlier day’s business?

SJ: Either I or another employee will come in late in the evening or very early the next morning and put the meat on.

TD: Since we only cater - except for our Friday take out - and specialize in catering, the restaurant issue does not come up. If it did, it is easy to cook during the day for a night event verses cooking at night for a lunch event.

JF: You have to stagger the timing of when meat goes on the pit, so that it comes off later in the day, closer to event time.

CN: There must be some tricks of the trade you can tell me that you’ve found to be successful when catering events that are not conveniently close to your restaurant or when something goes wrong.

TD: They won’t be tricks if I tell you. The biggest decision we made in the early days was spend the money for a very sophisticated truck to keep hot things hot, cold things cold and to have enough food for thousands. So traveling from Dallas to west Ft. Worth is not an issue any more. We also always send two trucks in case one breaks down so we are not stranded. Learned that one the hard way.

SJ: If the event is not close to your facility then it is of the utmost importance to know your surroundings. Being in a rural area, you better know where a country store, Dollar Store or a Wal-Mart is located in the event you do forget something.

JF: Duct tape and tin foil are two items that we don’t leave home without!

CN: Knowing that producing high quality barbecue comes from many trials and way more errors, tell me one of the more humorous situations you’ve found yourself in while catering.

JF: We catered a charity event for a group of about 200 people in the middle of a field. It was true farm-to-table cooking…including the grasshoppers that we had to shoo off the table’s right before guests arrived. They had just shredded the field to make room to setup the stage and all the tables. It was a great event, but no one could have anticipated the grasshopper thing. Luckily, all the guests were comfortable with a more “rustic” event!

TD: Not wearing my glasses when prepping a rub for testing of ribs. When everyone ate the ribs, they spoke about how good they were but they were so salty you had to take a drink after every bite. Turns out I had misread the amount and used 3 times the amount of salt. My son still reminds me of that since he was part of the testing. Typical college boy.

CN: Many barbecue restaurants cut their teeth from catering. If you began this way, would you consider that method to be an easier transition – mobile to concrete? There must be some important lessons learned from this that can be shared.

JF: We started this way and I think it’s a great way to do it. You limit your financial exposure in terms of requirements for the space you cook out of, you don’t have to worry about any waste (you know ahead of time exactly how much to prepare) and you can keep your staffing costs pretty low.

TD: I have only done this on a light scale as we now open our kitchen on Fridays only for takeout. So when you cater, many times you are just dropping off the food. It has to be great because there are no employees to sell the company. In the store front, it’s all about personality, great food, and service. Systems that work in one must be modified or redone to work in the other. Personalities of employees that work well in one, may not work well in the other. Holding food at a catering job is tougher I feel than cutting meat right off the smoker as someone orders in the storefront. It’s all about adapting and planning.

CN: If you started out mobile, what were the difficulties faced when moving to a permanent location?

JF: We didn’t have any restaurant experience going into our opening, outside of my illustrious career as a host at Steak ‘n Ale in high school. Let’s just say that we were a bit naïve about the amount of work it takes to run a restaurant. We’re over the hump now, but it’s a tough business to be in. You have to be just as good at running the day to day operations and financial side of the business as you are a cook.

CN: Despite the success, accolades, statewide and national attention received, looking back would you take the same path knowing what you know now?

TD: This is my passion - smoking and serving barbecue. I would have done it earlier in life instead of as a retirement business, however my success in business before the barbecue, allowed me the opportunity to pursue my passion.

JF: If you’d asked me this question at the end of the first year, I would have traded it all back in for my bi-weekly direct deposit from Accenture. Once we got over the difficulties of the first year, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We’ve been extremely blessed and not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer of thanks.

SJ:  I believe that if I had a chance to start over again that I would follow in Jack Perkins’ footsteps - I'm being serious here - and open a hamburger joint that does things the right way. I'd only do classic burgers and fries with consistency, time after time with great customer service.

CN: What are some of the more popular food dishes your customers enjoy?

JF: From a BBQ perspective, I think the burnt ends are definitely a cult favorite. One of my favorite things we do (usually just for events) is our green chile hominy casserole.

TD: The “Que-T-Pie." This is a homemade hand held BBQ Pie. We make our own pastry and stuff it with chopped smoked brisket burnt ends, onions, cheese, and our Special Reserve BBQ sauce.

SJ: Our number one seller has always been the chopped beef sandwich. For catering, the most popular choices are brisket, turkey, and sausage.

CN: Give me your one piece of wisdom for young cooks who want to start their own barbecue trailer, catering service, or storefront.

JF: Don’t quit your day job. Seriously though, start slow and work on your technique. Build the business organically and be very frugal so you don’t end up in a lot of debt. If you have the dream of “being your own boss”, remember that you end up working for an investor or the bank if you take on too much too fast. Adjust your personal cost of living down to the bare minimum before you make the jump to your own business.

TD: Number one, don’t put off dream or your dream will become someone else’s reality. Start at the bottom of a very good independent owned barbecue joint as an employee and learn everything you can to either go out on your own or make yourself so valuable you will take that barbecue joint over as your own.

SJ: Start small and grow into your business at your pace. Don't rush things or you will make mistakes. Stay committed to quality and freshness - never cut corners. Stick to the basic, very simple and most importantly, repeatable recipes. Be the same person every day because employees look for consistency from management. Do your best to treat each employee fairly and equally. Communicate clearly to your crew. Always remember that no matter how many awards or write-ups that your restaurant has received, the most important thing is the customer at your counter right now. Do your best to make them happy.

CN: Lastly, name a favorite movie, band, and more importantly, food other than barbecue.

TD: Movie - The Outlaw Josey Wales, one of Clint’s best.

JF: Band - I don’t have favorite band, but love listening KNON’s blues show and old country music, mix in a little Grateful Dead and the occasional Kid Rock song and that’s pretty much how I roll.

SJ: Food other than barbecue - A good ol' greasy burger and fries.

America was built by average men and women who had big dreams. From the hands of the individuals involved, we as country have thrived on the allure of success. We usually aspire to start businesses not because it's easy or because everyone else is, but because there is a spark of interest within that we wish to at least, take a passive or rather flirtatious look at.

For those who move forth with an aggressive approach, success - more often than not - will eventually come. It may not be today or tomorrow but it will come with patience. Success doesn't necessarily mean driving a Mercedes Benz or skiing every winter; Success is defined by what we want it to be. 

As Bob Dylan once said, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” I believe these aforementioned cooks would agree.

Friday, August 30, 2013

FM Smoke House

It's no secret that Texas barbecue is the cat's meow these days. With the renaissance being centered on Austin and Dallas, you can even find the Texas style being replicated at Brisket Town and Hill Country Barbecue and Market located in New York. Riding the coat tail from Daniel Vaughn being the nation's first ever Barbecue Editor for Texas Monthly which corresponded with Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list issue - smoked meat is hot and it doesn't look to be cooling off anytime soon.

We’ve also seen a recent rise in the Dallas/Ft. Worth region of newly opened barbecue restaurants from owner's that have other restaurants. Jack Perkins of Maple & Motor Burger fame chipped in his two cents with The Slow Bone earlier in the spring while Kenny Bower's from the beloved "Kenny's" chains put his hand in the pot with Kenny's Smokehouse opening at the Shops at Legacy in January of this year. It only made sense for the owners of Plano's The Holy Grail Pub to take a swing at the local barbecue scene.

Brian and Christi Rudolph found success at the forefront of local bars celebrating the craft beer movement when they opened The Holy Grail Pub in 2009. Since then, they've done barbecues at the pub ever so often with brisket, ribs, pulled pork and other smoked meat being offered. When the decision was made to take the occasional barbecue to the next level - the corporate-oriented location of Irving was a savvy business move on their behalf since there is minimal barbecue competition within reach.

After reading some decent reviews from local food critics but hearing some dismal reviews from others who enjoy smoked meat, FM Smoke House has been on my local list since their conception. They’ve now been open six months and I reckon this to be enough time for the kinks to be worked out; service wise and more importantly, food wise.

I arrived at this former Bennigan’s location before the lunch crowd with anticipation for freshness sake. After taking a gander at the menu, they, like their sister restaurant The Holy Grail Pub, have a strong craft beer list and even more impressive whiskey selection. As far as the food goes, it’s a healthy compilation of rural southern cuisine. With a refreshing choice of sandwiches and main dishes like chicken fried steak and brisket Frito pie, they never stray from the smoky roots provided by an Ole Hickory gas-assisted smoker.

My decision fell upon the three meat plate with two sides. Unfortunately they do not smoke pork ribs so I settled on the pulled pork option. It appeared as if all meat was served with sauce on top so I requested it on the side. I asked about the cut of brisket that is served with lean being the answer so I had my order amended for moist. The corn-meal fried okra and tri-color coleslaw were the meat companions I ordered from the attractive list of sides.

When served, the brisket was rather lean, dry and trimmed of all crust which my server quickly corrected with bark lined fatty brisket. I took a bite of the brisket and found a delectable mix of a pecan and hickory smoked flavor but the underdone chewy texture was a disappointment. My experience with the pulled pork offered even less smoke and the same dry character. You will often find this poor quality due to fat not being rendered thoroughly in the meat. The highlight of the plate was the house made spicy sausage, although loosely packed with a soft casing. The okra and coleslaw were riding a train of blandness that salt and pepper could’ve easily fixed.

As with any topic, food related or not, there will always been an abundance of personal opinions. Because everyone doesn't always appreciate fatty goodness where the best flavor is, you have customers who prefer lean as opposed to those who recognize the significance of moist meat. Since consistency is the name of the game in barbecue – experiences vary as well just like personal palates.

By the time I left, a steady lunch crowd made up of the white collar type were arriving. With the choice restaurant location, they have it locked in for lunch and with a substantial drink list, they probably capitalize on happy hour crowd as well. With that being said - it's too bad the smoked meat doesn’t take precedence.

Friday, August 16, 2013

DFWBBQ events from Summer to Fall.

Does the summer heat have you down? Catch the barbecue wave with these upcoming events that will help you transition from the sultry summer months into the crisp fall season. Heck, you may even pick up on some cooking tips to impress your friends right in time for college football Saturdays.

* What's better on Labor Day weekend than watching others labor over a smoker? Hit up the Bedford Blues & BBQ Labor Day Weekend Festival. With a $5 General Admission charge, you will get to attend this festival which was recently featured on the Travel Channel's BBQ Crawl. Also included is a musical lineup consisting of Jimmie Vaughn, John Mayall, Josh Weathers, and blues legend Buddy Guy. For $10 more -- you can try 10 samples and have 2 votes. You may even run into Danielle "Diva Q" Dimovski, hostess of BBQ Crawl.

* On Saturday, September 21st -- find the hitch in your giddy-up at the Boots, Beer, and BBQ fundraiser at Eddie Deen's Ranch in downtown Dallas. This is the 15th Annual Auction and Gala benefiting the Easter Seals. For $75 per person, you can bid on items for the silent auction, boot scoot to live country music, and loosen your belt buckle from all the BBQ you just consumed.

* If you partied at Jimmy Buffet's concert this year then you may find a similar party Friday night, September 27th at Camp Craig Allen's 7th Annual Amateur BBQ cook-off benefit. Happening at Bass Pro Shop in Grapevine, a $25 ticket will get you into the kick off party full of margaritas from the Dallas Margarita Society, casino tents, live music and a BBQ buffet. The following Saturday is the family friendly BBQ cook-off with 45 teams competing. Tickets are $10 donations per person at the door. Sample food from the team sites while delighting in a cash bar, eating contests, kid's area, live music and wheelchair sports! All donations benefit disabled youth, adults, and veterans!

* Oak Cliff dwellers and Dallasites alike -- the Blues, Bandits, and BBQ shindig is conveniently located for you in Davis Park. The competition's name is derived from famous past residents of Oak Cliff. Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughn and of course Bonnie and Clyde to be exact. Dates have yet be released but this will be the 4th Annual event. Previous years have included local craft beer tents, cooking demonstrations, kid's area, live music and of course BBQ. Stay tuned!

* Have you ever wanted to watch Dallas' top chefs go head-to-head in an all BBQ cook-off? Then Meat Fight may tickle your fancy. Last year's 1st annual event at Sons of Hermann Hall helped rake in a whopping $20,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year's Meat Fight occuring at Four Corners Brewery, plans on exceeding that amount given the bigger event space allowing more tickets for sale. Mark your calendars for November 17th and I promise you'll have one hell of a good time. Tickets go on sale soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A meat lover's experience at The Fan's Inaugural Sausage Fest.

When one hears the title Sausage Fest, connotations and innuendos instantly flood our small human minds. When I heard about a food themed Sausage Fest sponsored by 105.3 the Fan being held in downtown Dallas - I started salivating. Then immature one liners flooded my small human mind.

Imagine walking through a Willy Wonka's sausage version of his Chocolate Factory full of brats, knacks, Andouille, and jalapeno sausage. This is what barbecue enthusiasts like me get thrilled about. The potential to learn about the craft and try new meats. The fact there would be a sausage race where meat is held strategically between one's legs, bobbing for sausages and the crowning of Miss Sausage Fest, a mature crowd of 21 years old and up was the rule. My very own Sausage Factory.

While it's publicly known that 105.3 the Fan is a sports radio station steadily declining in ratings, throwing an event like this could shore up attention for them. Also the fact that they were utilizing Dallas' downtown for an event is commendable. While their intentions may have been to cheer on BBQ, sports, and all things men, the event itself may have been a bit flaccid.

On the surface it seemed promising and full of entertainment. I was plugging it left and right on Twitter and after convincing friends it had nothing to do with Oak Lawn, I managed to assemble a group of average meat lovers to attend. Think about it - Main Street garden with live music, food and can't find too many people who would disagree that this wouldn't be good times. Even Chicago, Vancouver and of course Elgin, Texas all have their own respective celebratory gatherings in honor of our spicy, greasy, oblong shaped pals.

What I expected and what I experienced are two completely different stories. Were there scantily clad women, beer, and music? Well of course. Was there sausage? Yep. But the shortcoming was the amount of sausage one would expect from a "Sausage Fest." A total of five vendors were on site with one of the vendor's products purchasable at Wal-Mart.

Even my companions, who again are far less interested in sausage than I, were slightly finicky about the event - or lack thereof. Forget the sun beating down upon us - we wanted meat. Forget the $6 12 oz. cans of beer - we came hungry and carnivorous in every sense of the word.

The major disappointing factor was the infamous Dallas legend, Jimmy's Food Store, not in attendance. How about the delicious handmade sausage from Texas Monthly Top 4 Pecan Lodge or the legendary Kreuz sausage imported from Lockhart, Texas to Bishop Arts District's own Lockhart Smokehouse? Did anyone invite them to the event? Or the many other local meat purveyors such as Kuby's Sausage House and Rudolph's, what about them?

3 Stacks Smoke and Tap House and Hard 8 BBQ were the only notable barbecue joints in attendance which both served pretty admirable protein. The Texas Andouille from Hard 8 BBQ was exceptionally spicy and issued a great snap to it. The thing is, I could've gone to each one of these establishments and spent the amount I did on a full meal and their in-house sausage any day of the week.

Yes - I get it, there was innuendo visibly present and the novelty wasn't lost on me. The fest actually drew an evenly mixed male and female crowd despite it being geared towards the male population. My point is you can have all the PG-13 humor you want and still hit the mark celebrating the festival's namesake. Beside not having local Dallas businesses, missed were the opportunities to taste sausage from different cultures. Do a quick search and you will quickly find different German and Italian sausage, central Texas pork and beef sausage, East Texas hot links, Louisiana Andouille, and a variety of other styles. Another opportunity missed was an exhibit showing the hard work which goes into hand making sausage.

Did they deliver what they intended? Depends on who you ask. Food obviously wasn't The Fan's number one priority for this and I recognize that in hindsight. However they could've given the general public of North Texas a genuine look at what you would normally drive hours to experience. Many of whom eat the product but have never learned of it's origin.

To me, there's a certain nostalgia about maneuvering a bun and brat into your mouth at a baseball game. As a lover of sausage - next year, beef up the festival some more. If you're going to throw a party for sausage in Dallas - toss in some nostalgia and give the local meat markets a chance! Authentic meat markets are a rarity these days and their attendance wouldn't go unappreciated. This event could've uniquely stood out more but at least it has something to build upon. Hopefully The Fan will still be around to have a 2nd Annual. By the way, fair warning - don't type "Sausage Fest" into your preferred search engine.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Metzler's Food & Beverage

2 Stars

Hanging in front of this established Denton convenience store is a faded navy blue banner reading "Voted Best in Denton 2008". What you'll also notice is the advertisement of alcohol and furthermore that they serve smoked meat with sausage from Fischer's Market in Muenster, TX.

They've been around since 1947 and have been serving the "finest bar-b-q" since then as their drinking cup states. Noticeably on their menu is a heavy German influence and using Fischer's sausages, I wanted this place to be something worth telling people about. Other than the broad alcohol selection, my hopes would soon be dashed.     - - - - - -

First thing I noticed when I arrived before noon was an absolute lack of smoke outside and inside, where the smoker was actually located. By now I know what this entails. Day old meat. From a small shop like this, I'd expect it could go either way. On one hand with their history, I would've thought fresh BBQ daily if they were popular at lunch. On the other hand, if they don't sell a comparable volume of BBQ, they probably won't trash leftovers as this isn't cost effective. Neither is serving current and potential customers lackluster quality because they will eventually stop coming.

I ordered the three meat plate with German potato salad and slaw. Thinking to myself that sauce may be used as a mask, I luckily caught the waitress in enough time for her to scurry back to the kitchen to relay my request of no sauce. I went for the rib first which had a faint smoky flavor, came off the bone too easy and was absent of rub. The brisket was dry and I thought I hit hints of Mesquite in the taste but my taste buds were mostly sensitive to a pot roast flavor. Even the fatty piece was underdeveloped from the previous days smoking.

Fischer's smoked sausage is some of my favorite. Growing up with frequent trips to the meat market - it brings back childhood memories of enjoying sliced sausage and smoked cheddar cheese held together by saltine crackers. Sadly enough they did no justice to this pleasant memory by throwing it on the stove top. My childhood innocence has now been robbed. By a stove top. 

Before leaving I spoke to the gentlemen at the counter who confirmed that all they use is Mesquite because it's easy to get around here. They thought about and briefly tried Hickory but that's very difficult to come by he said. I can think of a few places that use Hickory with no supply or demand issues.

Like a father who still displays dusty state champion trophies from high school or a former pageant queen desperately clinging to that tiara, sometimes you just have to let go of who you use to be and recognize who you presently are. After that moment, you may have acquired an ability to initiate change. At some point Metzler's may have served remarkable BBQ but with utmost certainty, the old pitmaster isn't overlooking the process which kept them in business for 66 years. There is opportunity here but if they enjoy living in the past while disservicing customers - maybe it's time to take down the misleading faded navy blue banner. Besides, Rudy's is right around the corner.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cafe Momentum and the Pitmaster's Picnic.

What is an "at-risk youth"? Have you ever wondered what puts a pre-teen or young teenager in the "at-risk" category? The adjective form of at-risk reads of "being endangered, as from exposure to disease or from a lack of parental or familial guidance and proper health care," from one source. Merriam-Webster defines the word risk as the "possibility of loss or injury."

Youth is defined as "the time of life when one is young; especially : the period between childhood and maturity".

The period between childhood and maturity. The period where innocence is most fragile resulting in a higher chance of becoming lost. The period where without positive leadership in a desperate environment - a child can become labeled as at-risk.

Most think of at-risk youth as being from a crime-ridden urban dwelling. This is not always so. We rarely view a child living in an upper class neighborhood from far North Dallas as being at-risk. However, they too may lack certain guidance and healthy leadership thus resulting in damaged morals and standards. The painfully lonely and confusing period between childhood and maturity for them does not discriminate between poverty and wealth.

We can do one of two things as a society. Ignore the problem entirely and shake our heads later in disgust or face the problem head on by wreaking havoc on darkness through positive outreach. If we choose the second, we've the opportunity to successfully prevent this downward spiral and assist in their self-worth becoming realized.

Chad Houser chose the latter. As long time Chef at the Oak Lawn restaurant, Parigi, a self-described "neighborhood bistro," Chad made the decision to leave in August 2012 to concentrate full-time on another culinary creation, Café Momentum. Assisting Chad was another Parigi Chef by the name of Janice Provost and from there these two would continue to grow it out of it's stages of infancy.

There was something quite different with this new food venture as it had no storefront and would rely heavily on the ever-so-popular "pop-up" restaurant themed events. It would also involve a group which most would've deemed worthless, disadvantaged and already lost, the Dallas County Youth Village (DCYV) also known as "at-risk youth."

The DCYV are young men between ages 13-17 who are at that pivotal moment, returning to their same environment with one leg to stand on while the vicious cycle continues until they wind back into a juvenile detention center. Unfortunately not all of us had someone taking our hands to show us that there is more to life than a bleak future on the streets. Fortunately there are people who exist, willing to step into that role as a complete stranger and guide, to expose a brighter future.

From this point forward - the term at-risk will be obsolete because there is not one of us who hasn't made mistakes growing up and some, if not most, continue making poor decisions well into our adult lives. The late great Hank Williams sang it best, "So unless you have made no mistakes in your life, Be careful of stones that you throw." We cannot allow ourselves to define them by their past. To be a positive changing factor in someone's life we must not label them as anything other than success.

I first came into contact with Chad previous to an event when I was following Jack Perkins around his new barbecue venture, The Slow Bone, located on Industrial Blvd. It was here that Jack offered his building and parking lot for Café Momentum's latest "pop-up" theme - the Pitmaster's Picnic. Knowing this in advance I reached out to Stephen Joseph of Joseph's Riverport Bar-B-Que in Jefferson, TX to offer my assistance. The final lineup would include The Slow Bone, Stanley's Famous Pit, Pecan Lodge, Lockhart Smokehouse, Louie Mueller's and of course Joseph's Riverport. To keep it short, some of the greatest cooks within the Texas barbecue scene who have some of the biggest hearts.

The day of the event, Sunday July 7th, was met with anticipation. I arrived at The Slow Bone mid-morning to meet Stephen and his Riverport crew after their early morning haul from Jefferson. While waiting out the lunch crowd, talking all things barbecue, and listening to Jack's humorously embellished tirades about whatever came to his mind, the worker's and volunteers of Café Momentum begin to arrive.

While it's clear that Chad is the brains behind the operation, board member Terry Lynn Crenshaw was the mover and shaker for the day. A personal Chef by trade she was omnipresent over the site, instructing the young men of their duties and overseeing the event's step by step process. Mainly she could be found chatting away and laughing. A lot. A true asset to the inner-workings of Café Momentum would be an understatement.

By evening time, the tents were set up with food ready, red and white checkered clothes covering the tables and the crowd's arrival imminent. Before the serving hour, Chad brought the young men around to each pitmaster's table to introduce themselves. Each one had a handshake more firm than the last and carried a well-mannered demeanor with every "Hi, my name is" and "Pleased to meet you sir." The moment I recognized what Chad already had - happened while standing from a location where I could see each pitmaster's area. What I saw were these "young men" interacting with each pitmaster and being engaged. Not ignored.

As evident from the crowd in attendance, Café Momentum has a strong and loyal following. Over half of the crowd were repeat eaters and those fans stayed a bit longer to hear an announcement that had been published a week prior in Dallas Observer's Food Blog "City of Ate."

Understand that the whole time Chad has been conducting these dining events, he still had a bigger vision. This vision included having a brick and mortar where the young men of DCYV would have a positive environment to learn skills and work ethics which would benefit them more than one could imagine. With a grant from the United Way to the tune of $175,000 - Chad's brick and mortar is that much closer to reality. This announcement was met with inspiring cheers and applause from the Café Momentum faithful. It seemed as if they want to see this project all the way through to completion more than Chad. In a sense, they are partners as well and I don't believe anyone would disagree.

Many times I've heard people say "If I had a million dollars I could help a charity". My newly found personal motto is "If you don't help when you have nothing, what's going to change when you have something?" Since Café Momentum's first pop-up in June 2011, some of Dallas' finest restaurants and Chefs in the dining scene have offered their services. This has helped Chad build upon his reputation and credibility while acquiring an evolving belief in his work. Café Momentum still gets by with a little help from some friends but when you put it into perspective, it really does take a village to raise a child.