Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Now We Know The Secret

Stopped in for lunch at an old favorite, the Whole Hog Cafe over in North Little Rock. And as we were finishing up eating the half chicken dinners, embarrassingly coating ourselves in viscous sauce, Rich came over to the table and asked if we had time for a quick tour. And you well know that there was no way that I would pass that up.

So, through the faux grocery store screen door and behind the front counter we ducked and into the organized chaos that every restaurant knows as the "lunch rush." As I dodged between cooks and dishwashers, the first thing that struck me was just how clean this place is. And we're talking about during one of the busiest parts of their day. I've worked in restaurants, been in quite a few kitchens, and you can believe me that if your shoes don't make that "squishy" noise as you walk through, those floors are clean.

Nobody seemed stressed out, all had a smile for us as we obviously impeded their progress for getting the orders out. It was then that we were confronted with the mothers of all smokers. Two behemoths with doors you could drive an Escalade through. Shiny stainless steel and concrete, I caught my breath thinking, "this ain't no barbecue grill like I ever seen." And it's not.

As Rich swung open the first pair of doors, we could see racks of chickens and ribs on a Ferris Wheel ride around the heat and smoke of an open flame. "There's no secrets here," Rich offered, as he rattled off the amazing schedule of what meat goes into what smoker and for how long and what time. "People are always amazed that I'm willing to show them everything, but I figure if they want to spend the kind of time and money that I have getting something like this going, let them knock themselves out."

I knew I always liked that place, but seeing such a well run behind-the-scenes just renews my enthusiasm. Sadly, my little black barrel grill at home will never look the same to me again.