How did you become a barbecue chef?
I started out in the meat business and started entering competitions around the mid to late 90s. Our team has won three British championships, and I’ve been to eight world finals. Now we travel the world running cookery classes and and demonstrations – we’ve been to 33 countries in the past three years and won about 140 industry awards. I’ve just finished doing a road show for the British Pig Executive, and we also cater for events. Barbecuing is my life.
Have you ever cooked for anyone famous?
In 2006 I was asked to do a barbecue at Balmoral for the Queen’s 80th birthday party. I didn’t actually get to see her, we were just too busy working. We met lots of celebrities, such as Katherine Jenkins and Terry Wogan, but I spent my time just making sure that all our stuff was good. We’ve also cooked for lots of footballers and actors. On the top of my hit list is a barbecue for Rod Stewart in his back garden! That’s my ambition.
What’s your favourite barbecue dish?
Cherrywood flavoured smoked ribs.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Rib-eye steak. I just love it, the tenderness with a bit of a bite to it, the flavour, the fat – that’s where all the flavour is. Just simple, with salt and pepper. I love a good steak.
You’ve travelled a lot – where’s the best place you’ve eaten?
One of my favourite places was a fish restaurant in Dubai. It was like a huge fishmongers, where you just chose whatever you wanted from the counter and told them how you wanted it to be cooked. You could have it grilled, you could have it on the barbecue, you could have it poached, and you paid for it by weight. I loved it in there.
What’s the most common mistake people make when barbecuing at home?
There are a couple. One of them is buying instant light charcoal, which is a nightmare. It taints the food with fuel if it’s not burnt off properly, and by the time all the fuel is burnt off the coal’s just about burnt out and you need to put some more on. And you need to cook with the lid down. People seem to think the lid is there to stop the rain getting in when you’ve finished cooking. I’ve got a little saying: ‘If you’re looking, you’re not cooking.’ Would you put a chicken in the oven and leave the door open and go out for the day? No, you wouldn’t, so you shouldn’t do the same with a BBQ. Cook with the lid down and just have confidence that it’s going to be fine.
What’s your barbecue like at home?
I think I’ve got around 30! We’ve got a couple of gas barbecues, but I tend to use natural lumpwood charcoal most of the time. I don’t mind gas, I’m not a total purist in that way. I just love cooking over a live fire.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever put on a barbecue?
We were doing some demonstrations in Canada about a month ago and I cooked a leg of beef which weighed over a hundred pounds. I also cooked four alligators which were wrapped in bacon. In Estonia we cooked bear, moose and snake. That’s the beauty of travelling round the world: you get to see all sorts of things and pick up new ideas and different ways of cooking.
What advice would you give to someone barbecuing at home?
Spray your food with apple juice as it’s cooking. That will keep the food moist and it will start caramelising with the natural sugars. Delicious (and easy).
We think of barbecues as a summer event, do you barbecue all year?
We do it all the time!