Grilling with Rich Meets the BBQ Pros With Pork Barrel BBQ

By: Richard Wachtel
Published: March 10, 2011


We have a great Meet the BBQ Pros this week! We had the great opportunity to meet with Heath Hall from Pork Barrel BBQ.  I hope that you enjoy this week’s Meet the BBQ Pros, if you are interested in participating or would like to sponsor Meet the Pros please send us an e-mail at info@grillingwithrich.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the Meet the Pros RSS feed by clicking here .

So let’s get started and let’s Meet this Week’s BBQ Pro – Heath Hall!

Grilling with Rich: First off thank you for taking the time to come on Grilling with Rich.com Tell us a little about yourself and why you got into the barbecue world?

Pork Barrel BBQ: I’ve lived in Washington, DC for the past ten years, but was born and raised in Missouri and grew up around great Kansas City barbecue.  It didn’t take long for me to develop a fondness for the taste of barbecue and a love for the social aspects that surround the community of barbecue.

My personal adventure in barbecue really developed as a result of having a dad who loved barbecue and could be found cooking on the glut of grills and smokers in our backyard 365 days a year.  I often refer to my dad as the Mailman of BBQ – just like the Mailman with mail delivery; it can be said that “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep Rex Hall from BBQing!”  For us, barbecue was more than a meal; it was a way of life and a chance for our family to engage in a fellowship opportunity.

Grilling with Rich: What inspired you to create your Pork Barrel BBQ rubs and sauces? What is your secret?

Pork Barrel BBQ: There was a point in my life where I was weighing the pros and cons of attending law school or going to culinary school.  Even my passion for food and love of cooking wasn’t strong enough at the time to steer me in the direction of culinary school.  As a result, I ended up in law school.  In the years since I made that fateful decision I’ve often wondered if I’d made the right choice those many years earlier and continued to cook and experiment with food in my kitchen with (or some of them might say on) my family and friends.  I was never able to fully let go of my love of food and dream to someday make a career out of that love.

Late one night in early 2006, Brett Thompson (my Pork Barrel BBQ business partner) and I were working late one night in the U.S. Senate and discussing our dinner options while a heated debate over “Pork Barrel Spending” was occurring on the Senate floor.  We had eaten pizza for several nights in a row and were sure to be starring down at another pizza before the night was over.  We began to talk about how much we missed the great barbecue that could be found on just about any corner back in our home state of Missouri.  What began as a wish that there was a viable barbecue option on Capital Hill ended with the birth of the idea for Pork Barrel BBQ.

Bret Thompson and Heath Hall from Pork Barrel BBQ

Over the next two years the plans for Pork Barrel BBQ were put into place and we began the lengthy process of starting our company at perhaps the worst time in recent memory, the height of the economic crisis, to start a business.  Our secret to success has been threefold: 1) Having a good product; 2) Hard work; and 3) Getting the support and advice of the people who believe in us.  In everything we do we follow the motto, “Reward Lives In The House Of Risk” – if you fail to take any risks you are likely to receive limited reward.

Grilling with Rich: Why do you think that they are so popular in the grilling world? i.e. what really makes your sauce special and also different from other mainstream sauces?

Pork Barrel BBQ: What really sets the Pork Barrel BBQ line of products apart from other mainstream barbecue products is that they weren’t created for retail purposes; they were created to be used in barbecue competitions.  Because our products were created for use on the competition circuit we used only the highest quality all natural ingredients with no preservatives.  We’ve been able to continue this commitment in our retail products at a price that allows us to sell an affordable gourmet and healthy product at a reasonable price.

Our sauces have been listed by a number of publications such as Men’s Health Magazine and Health Magazine as healthy options in the world of bottled BBQ sauces because they are Gluten Free, contain no High Fructose Corn Syrup and contain no MSG.  These attributes are becoming more and more important to the consumer, especially when they can get them in a product that is available at an affordable price.

Grilling with Rich: What style is your sauce molded after?

Pork Barrel BBQ: Our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce and our Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce are Kansas City style sauces, while our newest sauce, Pork Barrel BBQ Mustard BBQ Sauce is a Carolina style.

Grilling with Rich:Why do you like barbecue so much? Why do you think that it has such a broad range and most importantly diverse followership both internationally and also here in America?

Pork Barrel BBQ: On a strict consumption level I like barbecue because I love the way it tastes!!!  On a deeper, almost spiritual level I love barbecue because it is an art form.  Good barbecue requires you to take large hunks of meat that others view as some of the least desirable cuts of meat and cook them over an open fire (controlled by knowledge and skill) over a long period of time (perhaps 10, 12, 14 or 16 hours) in order to finish with a tender and juicy product with multiple levels of flavor arrived at through the fats in the meat, the dry rubs, marinades, injections and smoke.  The art of barbecue is like an orchestra – if every aspect of the orchestra is in tune and running in tandem you end with a beautiful product fueled by a lot of love!!!

Barbecue is perhaps the most intensely personal food out there.  There is really no one right or wrong way to cook barbecue, but in the end each of us think there is only one right way to cook barbecue – and that way is of course our way, the way we like it!

Because of the intensely personal nature and regional diversity of barbecue the cuisine is allowed to thrive on local ingredients and cooking methods.  In the South barbecue is pork and in Texas it is beef.  In Carolina it is mustard and vinegar, while in Kansas City it is tomato, while in Alabama it is mayo.  In Texas pull out the mesquite, in the Northwest try some alder, and for much of the country it is a mix of oak and hickory.  Simply put, barbecue is allowed to thrive because there is no one right or wrong way to do it, there is no simple checklist of ingredients that must be used, and no single method of cooking that must be implemented – the properties of barbecue lend to its diversity and allowance to adapt to the people cooking it, region it is being cooked in and local available ingredients

Grilling with Rich:Tell us a little about why you decided to open a restaurant here in the Washington D.C. area? Why even a restaurant?

Pork Barrel BBQ: We are proud of the barbecue we cook and felt there was a need in the Washington, DC region for a barbecue joint that produced the quality of barbecue we were fortunate enough to be able to find in virtually any small town in Missouri and every few blocks in Kansas City.  It looks like 2011 is going to be the year for great barbecue in Washington, DC and we are thrilled to be playing a roll in this renaissance period for barbecue in our Nation’s Capital!  Why a restaurant – my house and backyard were becoming too small for everyone that wanted to come to the BBQ’s I was hosting so I figured a restaurant would be a great solution!

Grilling with Rich: What is going to make your restaurant different from other BBQ restaurants here in the  Washington D.C. area and also nationwide?

Pork Barrel BBQ: Washington, DC is such an exciting food city built on the taste buds of a very diverse population.  We’re planning to offer all of our national award winning regional barbecue classics like brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken and at the same time occasionally pull a few nontraditional options out of our hat like smoked venison loin or smoked quail.  For sometime I’ve been developing a line of smoked cocktails that we think will be unique to Pork Barrel BBQ and become a big hit with our customers.

Grilling with Rich:: Why are people going to want to come to eat at your restaurant?

Pork Barrel BBQ: Pork Barrel BBQ will be slow smoking the best barbecue in Washington, DC over oak and hickory using our years of experience and the knowledge we’ve collected over the years in our backyards and from some of the legends of barbecue like Rod Gray, Pat Burke, and Tuffy Stone. We’re also going to have some fun and periodically offer limited time menu items, tasting menus and unique smoked cocktails.

Grilling with Rich:So, I also see that you were involved in the new website: BBQ Backyard – The BBQ Social Network, what inspired you to start this website? How do you find the time to do all this?

Pork Barrel BBQ: We launched BBQ Backyard (www.bbqbackyard.com) in mid-February with Rod Gray of the championship barbecue team Pellet Envy in an effort to create a barbecue community for the backyard beginner to the weathered veteran on the competition circuit.  After a number of years of exploring the barbecue forums and discussion boards we felt it was time to create one that had a platform that had the features people expect in this day of facebook and Twitter.  We’ve had more than 1,000 people sign up in the first three weeks the site has been live and believe it is quickly become the preferred online community for all barbecuers!!!

BBQ Backyard - The BBQ Soical Media Website

We don’t always find the time we need to bring all of our ideas to reality, but in order to bring the best of our ideas to fruition we’ve had to become very good at time management and organization along with partnering with the right folks who can help with the work load and in making the ventures a success.

Grilling with Rich:If you had to give one piece of advice to up and coming startups or individuals who want to start their own sauce companies what would that piece of advice be?

Pork Barrel BBQ: My advice would be to love what you are doing, because it is going to take most of your waking hours to take it from an idea to a successful business.  If you are doing it with a business partner or two make sure they are people that you can trust, because you’ll be spending as much time with them as you spend with your family and they will become your support structure and pick up the ball if you drop it.  Finally, seek out advice from those who have walked the same path before you.  You might not need to reinvent the wheel and may learn some valuable lessons!!

Grilling with Rich: What was the first competition that you entered in? And what was it like for you?

Pork Barrel BBQ: I entered my first barbecue competition with my dad in the mid-1990’s.  The competition took place at the local library in Jefferson City, Missouri and only had one category – chicken.  We didn’t end up winning a trophy, but I do remember the thrill of the competition and chance to spend an afternoon with my dad and others who loved barbecue.  It would be more than ten years before I fired up a smoker at a competition, but that first competition left me wanting more which is what eventually lead me back to the sport in 2009.

Grilling with Rich: If you had to pick your signature dish what would it be and why?

Pork Barrel BBQ: My signature dish would be brisket.  It is my favorite to eat, what I’ve probably cooked more of in my life and what I like to cook when I’m smoking something for someone for the first time.  It was a thrill last year when our brisket took fourth place in the beef category at Memphis in May!!

Grilling with Rich: What was your proudest moment? What was your least favorite moment?

Pork Barrel BBQ: My proudest moment was last November when Men’s Health Magazine named Pork Barrel BBQ’s Original BBQ Sauce as the Best BBQ Sauce in the Nation and One of the 125 Best Foods for Men. My least favorite moment of barbecue has to be arriving home from a contest knowing that I’ve got to clean the smokers and store all the equipment.

Men's Health Magazine - Pork Barrel BBQ

Men's Health Magazine - Pork Barrel BBQ

Grilling with Rich:Tell us something that the public does not know about you that you would want to share with Grilling with Rich fans?

Pork Barrel BBQ: In high school I was on a state championship chess team and competed in two National High School Chess Championships.

Grilling with Rich:Can you give us a sneak peak on something that you are working on, but no one knows about yet?

Pork Barrel BBQ: I’m always in the kitchen working on new products.  Currently I’m working on a Spicy version of our Original BBQ Sauce and a Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce.  Also working on a number of other products that we’re not quite ready to announce just yet.

Well, we hope that when you are ready to announce your next new great product you will do it here on Grilling with Rich.com . One last question before our time is out what do you think of Grilling with Rich.com?

Pork Barrel BBQ: We’re big fans of GrillingwithRich.com!  In our opinion there can’t be too many great sites out there spreading the gospel of barbecue and Rich has done a great job of getting some of the best barbecue has to offer to contribute to his site!

A little about Grilling with Rich: Grilling with Rich.com is the leading barbecue news websites on the internet. It follows an average guy named Rich and his quest to learn about as much as possible about the amazing world of Grilling and Barbecue. At Grilling with Rich we focus on great grilling and barbecue tips and also some great grilling adventures. Don’t forget to follow Grilling with Rich on Twitter and you can also be a friend of us on Facebook

A little about the Meet the Pros Series: Here at Grilling with Rich every Thursday we interview the best of the best in the barbecue world, some of the pros that we have already meet: Myron MixonSteven Raichlen and some BBQ competition teams such as Whiskey Bent BBQBossman BBQ just to name a few. You can subscribe to the Meet the Pros RSS feed by clicking here

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Richard Wachtel

Richard Wachtel

Editor and Chef and Founder at Grilling with Rich
Born and raised in Long Island, New York Richard Wachtel has developed a passion for all things about barbecue and grilling and sharing this love with the world through social media, digital marketing and blogging about his cooking adventures on his website www.GrillingWithRich.com. Richard has interviewed the top names in barbecue and grilling such as four-time BBQ Grand World Champion Chris Lilly, and other world class pitmasters such as Myron Mixon, Melissa Cookston, and Tuffy Stone... just to name a few. In addition, GrillingwithRich.com has become a BBQ authority for media outlets and has been citied in many online publications such as: Yahoo News, Freinds Eat.com and USA Today’s Men’s Health. Rich lives just outside the nation's capital in Virginia with his wife, and #1 tastetester - his beagle, Cooper.
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