Big Island Bar-B-Que
Happy Fourth of July everyone. Get out there and celebrate America's birthday.
I found a great article today about another friend of mine in the barbeque world, Rob Richter and Big Island Bar-B-Que. Rob's like the grand daddy of NY competition barbecue. He's been at it for about 3 years. And like any true BBQ Pitmaster, one of the great things about Rob is his hutzpah and bravado. But he has the goods to back it up. Rumor has it that Rob has some big plans up his sleeve for later this year, but I can claim that I knew him when.
Eats & Drinks
New York Press
By Gabriella Gershenson
Big Island Bar-b-que, 718-997-8572.
At a high school graduation party in Hamilton Beach, a waterfront neighborhood bordering Kennedy Airport, it'’s difficult to decide what is more unusual: seeing guests arrive in the backyard via sailboat, or watching Robert Richter tend to a smoking rig.
Richter is a mild fellow who, at 40 years old, could pass for a gawky 31. The self-taught barbecue aficionado from Rego Park is here as the front man for Big Island Bar-b-que, a Queens-based catering business enjoying its inaugural summer, counting this party among its first. This reality aside, Richter, who has garnered 16 awards in only three years as a competitive barbecuer, comes off like a pro: He wears a straw hat, an apron that says "Peace, Love, BBQ" and, like all true cuemasters, seems indifferent to his deepening sunburn.
An urgent holler erupts from the side of the house. "The meat'’s at temperature!" The call to action comes from Barry Stockman, a Hawaiian-shirt-clad member of Richter'’s small but dedicated crew. Stockman is the "time guy," who keeps both eyes on the fire and the meat. The rest of the team includes big brother Michael, the appointed grill guy, and Richter'’s girlfriend, Sheba Besasir.
Richter opens the door of the oblong rig, which is actually a converted propane tank, but looks more like the caboose of a choo-choo train. Inside are several triangular steaks (Santa Maria Tri Tip, a sirloin cut) and close to a dozen splayed chickens. Richter removes one from the oven, and with arms outstretched, proffers the chicken, which drips with clear liquid.
"See what's coming out of that chicken? See the juice? See how juicy it is?" asks Richter in rapid rhetorical succession. "Chicken'’s been on for three hours and 47 minutes," declares Barry as he stops his timer in the manner of a track coach. "Low and slow, low and slow."
"Low and slow" is the mantra –low refers to the temperature at which the meat is cooked, slow to the time taken to cook it. Using this method in a wood-burning rig that cooks with dry, "indirect" heat (meaning the meat is not over a fire but is cooked by the heat and smoke that approach it from a remote flame), the meats, especially cheap, tough cuts, come out incredibly tender and juicy.
"I buy brisket and pork butts for $1 that end up tasting like $16.99 filet mignon," says Richter. His briskets can take 12 to 16 hours to cook, and whole hogs –an option on his menu, –have taken as long as 18 hours. If need be, Richter and his team will take turns stoking the fire and sleeping in four-hour shifts the night before their catering gigs.
With Big Island Bar-b-que, Richter wishes to fill what he sees as a serious barbecue void in New York City. The lightweight presence of New Yorkers on the barbecue competition circuit, plus the want of New York State's own barbecue championship, are evidence that Empire Staters are slow on the slow-cooking uptake. To jumpstart the trend, Richter and fellow enthusiasts plan to hold a day-long cuefest on Ward'’s Island on August 16.
"What you are witnessing is a genesis right here," says Richter. "A barbecue revolution in New York City."
That's a great article, but it has a few mistakes in it. New York has FOUR, count them FOUR, state championships happening this year!
The revolution has started and war declared. With that revolution, there are the upstarts! The battle's begun! The gauntlet's been tossed! Gentlemen, light your fire!