Friday, April 20, 2012

Interview with Rob Bechtold of NOLA Smokehouse

In celebration of NOLA Smokehouse’s inaugural pop-up at the Avenue Pub starting on Sunday, April 22 from 11am to 11pm, I reached out to the owner to find out a little bit about what makes him and his business tick.  

The Bechtolds
Rob Bechtold, the man with a smoked meat mission, is the pitmaster, delivery boy, and driving force behind a new NOLA BBQ pop-up/delivery service called NOLA Smokehouse. Rob and his wife Emily started working out of their home to create delicious BBQ and sides to deliver all over the 504 after their first venture, a bricks and mortar restaurant called Smokin’ Buddha’s BBQ in Metairie, closed down after a brief run.  Even in that brief run, Bechtold’s food had already gotten excellent word of mouth that kept growing after he changed his business model under the auspices of NOLA Smokehouse.

Love of food has been a driving force in Rob’s life starting from the time he was a small child back in Georgia, sitting in his Great-Grandmother Ruby Gibson’s lap snapping beans. He was by her side pickling, canning, and baking, and got his love and respect of food from his culinary hero, a sharecropper who understood that no matter how tough life is, if you have food and family, you have love. Rob moved to New Orleans from Georgia when he was eight years old, and grew up in Chalmette. He stayed here because of the food culture, working in restaurants and leaving his position as Executive Sous Chef at KPaul’s to follow his dream of cooking his own food for people.

He decided on BBQ because “BBQs remind me of family and large gatherings when I was a kid. The smell of chicken cooking over hot coals still makes me drool. Slow cooked family goodness - I’m all about it. Friends and family kept saying sell this stuff and make a fortune...still waiting!”

Q: What do you envision as the future of NOLA Smokehouse?
A: With every inch of my soul I would love to have a restaurant in the best culinary city in the world. A future of cooking honest, farm fresh food for the people in the 504 has been a lifetime dream. After 25 years for helping other chefs in this city be successful, it’s my turn.

What are your thoughts on the burgeoning BBQ movement in New Orleans?  Why now?  What do you think of your competitors/colleagues? Do you think there is enough room for all these new BBQ places to thrive?
Big question...A lot of Chefs left NOLA after the storm and brought back some different cuisine that they were exposed to I believe. Getting national coverage by The Joint and others has been great. Its good honest food that you can’t fake. Those that do will not last now that people see real BBQ with smoke and love. Some of my competitors/colleagues do BBQ right and I support those guys. Those that don’t are not on my radar.

What is your favorite non-BBQ restaurant?
I LOVE Sushi any and all

How would you describe your perfect meal?
Friends and family in the backyard ice chest full, smoker rollin', crawfish in the pot. Perfection

What are your 3 favorite ingredients to cook with?
Salt, Pork, Vinegar

What 3 things can always be found in your fridge/pantry?
Tabasco, Maldon sea salt, pickles

What important lesson have you learned from the 2 incarnations of selling your ‘que?
To be honest with the food and the people will taste it. The quality comes from the craft.

How do you decide on the week's menu?
Farmers markets and what’s on sale and fresh.

What is your favorite / least favorite thing about the food scene in New Orleans?
Favorite - people support good food no matter what!
Least- Fast food apathy. I love some fast food, can I just get some hot fries please?!

Besides your Great-Grandmother Ruby, do you have any culinary heroes?
All the GREAT line cooks out there that work long hard hours for Chefs. With little money and a lot of heart they keep this city fed. They are the true culinary heroes of NOLA.

What dish are you most proud of?

Cooking a whole pig. Its a great way to show respect and eat a majestic animal.

Is there a dish you love that you would not put on your menu?


I, personally, cannot wait to go to my favorite bar in New Orleans and have delicious BBQ. Note: it's a 21 and over establishment only, so if you have young 'uns, you can get your food to go. If you buy BBQ and a beer, you get a dollar off each! If you can't make it out this Sunday, take heart! You can still order delivery going to the NOLA Smokehouse website, and he will be at the Avenue Pub on Sundays for the foreseeable future - except on May 6, because he is doing a BBQ demo at Jazz Fest!

Rob is also Twitter crazy, follow him at @NOLASmokehouse to get all the up to date news. As his business model is nimble, this comes in handy when trying to get you some BBQ.

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