Remember the barbeque summer we briefly enjoyed a few weeks back? Well, as chance would have it, that coincided with a generous invite to the GLC from Budweiser to their “Ultimate Summer BBQ”. The night promised chilled beer and some burger flipping by the one and only Neil “Smokehouse” Rankin, at hipster mecca, the Dalston Roof Gardens. So, we donned our lumberjack shirts, skinny jeans and costume beards and headed eastwards.
Needless to say, the burgers were exquisite and the beer was crisp but our real goal was to get some face time with the man himself. So, we fought our way through the thick artisan smoke, Bud-wielding beautiful people and cornered Neil for an exclusive GLC interview, where we discovered Neil likes horse (yes, horse, rather than horses) but is not so sure about superfoods. Here it is:
GLC: Neil, as a chef who has pioneered high end barbeque cooking, do you have any easy tips that our readers could use in their own back yard barbeques, to wow their mates/ wives/ girlfriends/ parish vicar?
Neil: Try cooking directly on the coals. It looks and tastes great. Make sure you use decent coals and when they are just turning white with not too much ash, throw a large steak straight on. Turn it a few times brushing off the hot coals. It cooks faster and if done right shouldn’t burn.
GLC: I understand you’re a physicist by education. With that in mind, how much of your cooking would you say is science vs art?
Neil: Science creeps its way into lots of creative cooking, it’s what makes it possible but it’s not an intentional process and neither is art. I just try to make tasty food people desire and hopefully enjoy.
GLC: Which country does barbeque best? US? South Africa? Korea? Somewhere else? Where do you pull most influence from?
Neil: I’d say ‘The Americas’ and include South America too. Texas is way ahead of anyone for that slow and low smoking thing but the direct grilling and whole animal stuff is all South America.
GLC: How important is provenance and sourcing and how far have we come in Britain since the horsemeat scandal?
Neil: I’m not too sure I ever saw anything wrong with horse meat apart from misleading people. Horse meat tastes great. Provenience and sourcing is fundamental to what I do but we can’t all survive on grass fed beef and vegetables with low yields.
GLC: Let’s imagine there is a version of “Desert Island Discs” called “Desert Island Meats”, where you have to choose 8 cuts of meat to feed yourself with on the desert island. At the end of the show, Kirsty Young forces you to choose one cut above all. Which is it??
Neil: Dexter Rib of beef without a doubt.
GLC: I read your guardian blog earlier this year about restaurants obsessing over food trends and forgetting what people actually want to eat. What would you say has been the most nefarious food trend of recent times? And what would your “last-meal request” be?
Neil: Superfoods probably. That’s the one that should get in the sea for sure. Most of that stuff goes straight through you without touching the sides. It’s fascinating to me that with all our education and all this information to hand that there is still more profit to be made in Snake oil than ever before.