Waking up in your own restaurant surrounded by empty beer cans is a typical start to another long day in the life of a true pitmaster rockstar…at least according to Quan Ut Ut barbecue and craft beer guru Mark Gustafson.
As we arrive Mark sleeps in the employee room. His profession is a difficult one, and one that demands set nap-times, incessant nibbling, and up to five hours of smoking meat per day. Added to these challenges is the struggle to maintain Mark’s celebrity-status belly—which means strict adherence to a barbecue-and-beer-only diet.
A day in the life of a pitmaster rockstar according to Quan Ut Ut barbecue guru Mark Gustafson.
For our first glimpse into a day in the life of a pitmaster rockstar we set our alarms extra early and head out to Quan Ut Ut’s newest location in District 2 as Gustafson takes us through his grueling 5-hour working day.
Start your day with a buzz: Noon – 1PM
In this kitchen the science of smoked meat and craft brews go hand-in-hand. While daily doses of beer in the early afternoon might seem like a bad idea, for Gustafson, it’s simply fuel for the fire. If this pitmaster rockstar had a breakfast menu it will only call for one item—more beer.
Rub one out: 1PM – 2PM
Although barbecue styles are multifarious, for Quan Ut Ut barbecue, the application of a dry rub is the first step to creating a wide range of succulent sexy smoked meat items. Their in-house dry rub is a mixture of onion, garlic, paprika, cayenne, oregano, and a few other secret ingredients. Although the recipe varies depending on the dish, today, Mark cooks his tender chopped pork shoulder platter after the he’s taken the time to rub one out.
“All the meat at Quan Ut Ut is smoked at 105 degrees celsius in our custom-built smokers. For the pork shoulder we apply the dry rub first, then we smoke it for five hours. This process results in lots of downtime as we wait for the meat to cook low and slow,” Mark explains.
Drink more beer, snack, and nap: 2PM – 3PM
“Smoked pork shoulder is a slow process if you want the it tender and tasty,” Mark says. In order to stay focused Mark has fully integrated craft beer sessions and nap time into his workflow to optimize performance.
The importance of naps are muttered off by Mark as he sprawls out across a kitchen counter eating fries and drinking another Ugly But Vain IPA from Quan Ut Ut’s extension and brewery, BiaCraft.
Put on your game face: 3PM – 4PM
By 3PM the racks of pork shoulder are ready to be moved from the smoker and put onto the charcoal grill.
“Roasting the meat for an additional few minutes caramelizes the sugar which creates a bark—or crispy outer finish—before it’s flipped and hit with our homemade barbecue sauces. When the open flame kisses those herbs and spices from the dry rub it creates that smoky flavor,” Mark smiles as he takes down another beer.
Drink til you drop: 4PM – Until late
“For the sides, I would recommend the pink slaw made with red and green cabbage, our lightly-seasoned cajun fries, and Quan Ut Ut’s creamy cheddar-based mac and cheese.
And if you aren’t sure which beer to pair it with, try out the Holy Grail Golden Ale,” Marks says contentedly as his long night of drinking begins.