The Secret Life of a
Opening and operating a successful BBQ joint is the dream of many of us – to spend all day doing what you love on a grand scale, making bank for brisket, and most of all being your own boss. It’s no doubt a beautiful dream, but what we don’t see is all the blood, sweat and tears that go into that bricks’n’mortar joint behind the scenes. In Episode 3 of Season Two of the Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast I was fortunate enough to sit down with HillBilly Wes of Bovine and Swine, the most renowned BBQ joint in Australia. He pulled back the curtain on what goes on at Bovine and Swine and so now I bring you The Secret Life of a BBQ Restaurateur.
Barbecue joints are seldom open 7 days a week. However, that doesn’t mean Wes isn’t there 7 days a week. There is always something to do – even if he’s not cooking. He’s running a business so there’s always paperwork – accounts, bills, marketing, payroll, logistics: the list goes on and on. Fortunately, he has a well-trusted staff member who opens the shop for him. But even so, on service days Wes is there from 5 in the morning to light the fires and start seasoning the meats. From there, Wes cooks throughout the day. But I don’t mean just feeding the fires and periodically checking the temps. Time management is vital, and one of Wes’ tips is that you have to be doing something all the time – making sausages, beans, sauce, pickles, etc.
Once all his food-prep has been done, Wes then sets up for service, which is about where most of us start when we fantasise about running our own BBQ joints. Service is where things really ramp up – customers come and go for hours. BBQ Restaurateur Wes likes to be involved in all aspects of Bovine and Swine – not just slicing and plating, but he also likes to wait the tables and mingle with the customers. Once the last customer has left, then it’s time to clean up and get things ready to start again the next day. Which is usually only 5 hours later!
Then there’s all the stuff that goes on outside of the restaurant. I’m talking about behind-behind the scenes. From what you’ve read above, it’s clear that a BBQ restaurateur has no life outside of their BBQ joint. And this can take its toll. Firstly, with the kind of hours involved, it’s easy to get rundown, resulting in a lower immune system – Wes is regularly fighting off colds and flus. These hours also take a toll on your private life as loved ones often find it difficult to compete with your BBQ joint. And those fat stacks of brisket cash that you’re dreaming about? Not that fat.
So what keeps BBQ Restaurateur Wes at it day in, day out? It’s the people. It’s the snap of their neck as they swivel their heads when they’re walking past and smell that smoke and meat in the air. It’s the look of their face as they have their first bite of fatty brisket. And it’s their kind words as they’re leaving and double-checking tomorrow’s opening times. For him, that makes it all worthwhile.