When we are kids we spend a lot of time dreaming about what we want to be when we grow up. We imagine making a living from being astronauts or princesses, cowgirls or firemen, pilots or even joining the circus. But now that you have grown up, what do you want to be? Unless you’re born in Texas, you’ve probably given up on becoming a cowboy or girl, and unless you’re Kate Middleton, you’ve surely thrown away your dream of becoming a princess. These days all you’ll probably want is a stable job, a loving family, perhaps a nice car and a sunny summer holiday.
Well I want to BBQ meat all day long and then come home to a Hooters girl each night. Now that is a dream life, but for one man it isn’t a dream, it’s a reality.
Meet Pete Griffiths, Pitmaster at the renowned Bristol BBQ haunt, Grillstock. Pete is Spartacus and Grillstock is his arena; each day he slays waves of hungry customers with towering burgers, slow smoked ribs, piles of pulled pork and not to mention all the fixin’s on the side.
Learning his trade from the original Grillstock guys, Jon Finch and Ben Merrington, as well spending time serving up ‘cue at festivals, Pete had a whole heap of prior catering experience before he received his inauguration into the BBQ trade.
“I have been in the restaurant game for about 18 years now,” Pete explained, “Starting as a chef and working my way up to management,” he continued.
His most recent venture before Grillstock wasn’t your run of the mill front of house managerial position however, oh no. It was bringing Hooters to our shores. “Unfortunately the British public didn’t quite grasp the concept and it is sadly no longer in Bristol and Cardiff,” he said, but every cloud, or should I say hooter, has a silver lining.
“During this time, I was fortunate enough to be sent out to the States for my training, and I spent a couple of months touring around soaking in the culture and sampling as many different restaurants as possible,” he said, “But the best thing about Hooters opening in the UK was that I got to marry a Hooters girl!”
With nearly two decades of experience under his belt, Pete was no stranger to working in kitchens, yet he was still blown away by the simplicity of Grillstock when he joined the team.
“Take some good cuts of meat, season them, then slow cook them for 18+ hours,” he said matter of factly about the Grillstock ethos and the Pitmaster is completely smitten with the ancient art of BBQ-ing.
“I absolutely love the culture of BBQ cooking,” he spoke about his job, in much the same way that a chubby child would speak of a mug of clotted cream. “It’s all in the preparation and timing, and feeds on our primeval urgers,” he passionately continued, “Tending to a big joint of meat over an open fire… admittedly with a cold beer in hand!”
Despite the simple method of preparing and cooking the meat, it has been a steep learning curve for Pete, who admits he is constantly learning and fine tuning the processes.
“Our biggest challenge when we first opened Grillstock was actually meeting the demand,” he said, “When something takes 18 hours to cook, if you run out of it, it’s not like you can just bang it in the microwave.” This means that their smoker, named Joleen, is running 24/7 to satisfy the hoards of customers.
As well as the challenges, Pete admits the worst part, if only for his wife, is smelling like a fire pit day in, day out, but if anything he should bottle and market the scent, as nothing smells finer than a smoky BBQ diner!
Pete also recently attended an afternoon BBQ at the in-laws and had to stand by and watch as his proud and slightly stubborn Father-in-law destroyed it. “A few years ago, I would have known no different and thought it perfectly acceptable… blackened chicken wings and sausages burnt on the outside and slightly frozen in the middle!”
Smokey smells and bad BBQs at the in-laws aside, the best thing however is seeing the positive reaction someone has when they taste the food that he has spent nearly a whole day cooking, which makes all the hard work truly worth it!