The best barbecue comes at the hands of pit masters, right? Not necessarily. Long before Coy Webb opened Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que with his wife, Rachael, he cut his chops as a chef, graduating from the Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale and working in professional kitchens for nearly two decades. Why would a trained chef open a barbecue joint? And what difference does it make to have a chef at the helm?
For Webb, the pull to barbecue was almost magnetic. It was the food he loved as a child, the food he grew up cooking, with woods culled from his family’s property in Plainview, Texas. “There’s a complex simplicity about barbecue,” he says. “If you don’t understand it, you can ruin things really fast.” By ruining things, he doesn’t mean gussying them up with pretentious plating, adding trendy ingredients where they don’t belong, or anything else you worry a chef might do to ‘cue. Yes, he does use smoked Gouda on the Real McCoy sandwich, but it’s a genius reversal of worlds, tantamount to the occasional use of Pop Rocks in fine dining.
For Webb, ruining things means overpowering meats with sauces, smoking meats over woods that are too strong, or letting them smoke for so long that they become bitter or taste like liquid smoke. That’s why he smokes his meats over lighter pecan and oak, not hickory, and why he puts sauces – scratch-made, of course — on the side. “On the fine dining side, you learn about the balance of flavors,” he says, which is why rubs have a handful of ingredients, not scores, why coffee is added to the cowboy beans, and why sweetness isn’t the first thing you taste in any of his dishes – aside from caramelized banana pudding, which is made from scratch, as is nearly everything else served in the restaurant.
That includes the jalapeno-cheddar sausage, which can be harder to come by than a table at this no-frills restaurant on South Downing Street. “What I do on my day off is make sausage,” Webb says.
Spoken like a true chef.