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.
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."
"(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."