New Barbecue Secrets

Long-anticipated barbecue restaurant finally close to opening — and its chef is getting all-star help

Long-anticipated barbecue restaurant Killen's finally close to opening

2 Ronnie Killen Killen's BBQ rendering August 2013
This drawing of Killen's BBQ shows the bell tower that will be the restaurant's signature design feature. Killen's BBQ/Facebook
Ronnie Killen Killen's Barbecue construction August 2013
Soon work will begin to remodel this space. Photo by Kimberly Park
Ronnie Killen Randy Rucker barbecue team
Teddy Lopez, Randy Rucker, Ben Rabbani and Gabe Medina will join Killen for the Smoke@ICC competition in New York next month. Photos by Kimberly Park/Collage by Naomi Galvez
Ronnie Killen's barbecue team July 2013 barbecue
Killen will serve his barbecue on butcher's paper to recreate part of the experience of eating at his restaurant. Photo by Kimberly Park
2 Ronnie Killen Killen's BBQ rendering August 2013
Ronnie Killen Killen's Barbecue construction August 2013
Ronnie Killen Randy Rucker barbecue team
Ronnie Killen's barbecue team July 2013 barbecue

It's been a busy summer for chef Ronnie Killen, and his schedule for the fall doesn't show any signs of slowing down. 

First, Killen's BBQ is finally starting to take shape as a permanent restaurant, which is welcome news to anyone who's been driving down to Pearland and standing outside for an hour or more to sample some of the chef's smoked meats. From drawings Killen shared on his Facebook page, the new look of the former Pearland ISD cafeteria space he's taking over is coming together.

The exterior will feature a tall bell tower that Killen says will actually be functional, although he's still debating whether or not to let guests ring the bell (please, no).

 The exterior will feature a tall bell tower that Killen says will actually be functional, although he's still debating whether or not to let guests ring the bell. 

Inside, the restaurant will utilize reverse flow brick pits. Killen is fairly certain his will be the only restaurant in Texas to combine the old school construction with new school thinking about the best model for airflow. Although the City of Pearland has required Killen to enclose the smoke room fully, he promises that it will be accessible to diners to satisfy anyone who doesn't feel as though a trip to a barbecue restaurant is complete unless one leaves smelling of smoke. 

Construction will begin as soon as the city authorities give their stamp of approval. Expect the restaurant to be fully operational in October or November.

Meanwhile, Killen's preparing to travel to New York City to compete in the 8th Annual Starchefs.com International Chef Conference Smoke@ICC competition on Sept. 28.

"I'm not going up there to lose," Killen says of the competition that will pit him against meat masters such as San Antonio chef Jason Dady and a team from San Francisco's highly regarded 4505 Meats.

That's why he's assembled an all-star roster of chefs to join him, including long time right hand man Teddy Lopez, former Bootsie's Heritage Cafe chef Randy Rucker and Soma Sushi's Gabe Medina. Although Rucker isn't known as a barbecue expert, Killen says he's a "a good chef with a good head on his shoulders" who'll be able to lend expertise in sauce work and plating to wow the judges. Medina will serve his Texas Ramen in the Asian category; it's a dish that won the People's Choice award at the Second Annual Go Pig or Go Home competition in April. 

As for the rest of the menu, Killen says he'll serve house-made sausage, beef ribs, pork ribs and chicken for the Regional category, brisket for People's Choice and a twist on his recent James Beard House menu for the New American category. Killen says he requested the rules be amended to allow for more time than the initial three and a half hours to allow him to prepare the beef rib. As he says, "it's good. I don't care who you are." 

In order to serve briskets that are freshly prepared, as opposed to smoked in Houston, cryovaced and flown to New York, he'll utilize smokers at Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue

"(Pastry chef) Rebecca Masson sent me a link, 'Hey, you gotta do this, because you're definitely going to win,' " Killen recalls. While Killen won't make any promises, he does say that "I'm looking forward to it. I think it'll be a lot of fun."