BBQ: secret’s in the sauce, wood smoking chips
A new kind of barbecue made its debut this spring in Homer, one where even the wood chips used to smoke racks of ribs and whole chickens are chopped and mixed by hand.
But don’t try to get Tim Whitehead to reveal the secret mix in his wood chips.
“That’s top secret. I’m never going to let it go,” Whitehead said. “I chop my own wood and the mixture changes according to the meat.”
It changes for the baked beans, too, a side dish close to Whitehead’s heart. “I take a lot of pride in my beans. I’m known for my beans.”
Tim Whitehead opened Loumar's BBQ at the base of the Homer Spit, a new business that offers a unique style of BBQ.
Every detail at Loumar’s barbecue bakes down to a savory story, even the origination of the recipes honed over time and across country from Texas to Alaska.
Whitehead practiced and perfected the recipes that came with Dwight Davis of Kenai who brought it from a family barbecue business in Texas. The family catered for the George Bush family when the senior was a governor all the way to the time when the junior became president. Davis and Son’s BBQ in Kenai, kitty-corner from the Kenai Visitors Center, sold Whitehead the recipes along with the business equipment.
“They are great recipes. They used to cook for 200, 300, 400 people at a time,” Whitehead said.
By working with Davis, Whitehead got hands-on time with an expert. Then, Davis broke his hand and Whitehead was able to perform most all the work for him. “That’s when I really learned a lot, about the techniques, the textures,” Whitehead said.
Now open at the base of the Homer Spit’s Lighthouse Village, Loumar’s BBQ was born from an idea that began four or five years ago. He wanted to make a switch from working as a licensed appliance technician, but didn’t want to leave Homer. Whitehead came to Alaska in 1985. He moved to the Kenai Peninsula in 1989 then to Homer in 2007.
But restaurants and owning his own business has been in his blood a long time. In central New Jersey where Whitehead was born and raised, he washed dishes and later bull-cooked at Italian and Hungarian restaurants. In the Soldotna area, he owned a bakery where the Moose is Loose is now located. He had owned the Kenai Ice Co., previous to that. The name Loumar’s came from a favorite family restaurant in New Jersey.
Whitehead’s BBQ launched last summer in a drive-up near the present location. As he shut down in the fall, he had an eye on an empty building that was being used for storage after serving an artist for a brief period. Lighthouse owner Doug Meeker offered to let Whitehead take the shed.
“Doug gave me the keys to the building on Jan. 1. I built this dining room, the kitchen and the bathroom – the view, I worked real carefully on that,” Whitehead said. “See all those stubs out there from the trees I cut down? Now you can really see the view.”
He opened on March 9. Large windows look out on Mariner Beach, where soon the Kachemak Bay Shorebird enthusiasts will be scoping for sight of the millions of birds that land to bulk up before heading north. Inside, four tables can accommodate a total of about 18 sit-down customers. Outside, picnic tables can seat more.
A regular following keeps showing up for the barbecue. Whitehead figures that’s the most important gage he has for calculating his success. “There must be 30 or 40 restaurants here in Homer, and when someone comes into my restaurant, that means they chose me,” Whitehead says. “I take that seriously and I have an obligation to give them the very best quality.”
During the week, Whitehead is a one-man band but Saturdays find a special waiter helping out, Whitehead’s 11-year-old son, Shane, wearing a bright beanie hat.
“He’s my business partner. I was asking one day, I said, ‘Shane, should we add French fries and hamburgers to the menu?’ He said, ‘No, Dad. This is a barbecue and we’re staying with it.’”
In the job change he gave himself, Whitehead finds he doesn’t make as much money as an appliance repairmen. But with the trade off came other benefits including more quality time with his partnering son. He also likes the interaction with customers and filling them up with ribs, chicken, briskets, coleslaw, corn bread and beans. People will find among the standard fare the unusual on his menu: a baked potato smothered in barbecued beef, and chile-covered french fries.
“I am happy. I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Whitehead said, heading back into his kitchen.
It’s time to check his brisket for tenderness.
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Posted by Newsroom
on Apr 24th, 2013 and filed under More News
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