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Man Fire Food features the inventive ways people cook with fire. From small campfires to creative custom-made grills and smokers, we visit home cooks, pit masters and chefs who are fascinated by fire and food. The smoke signals take host Roger Mooking to Hawaii, wine country in Northern California, New England and the great American South to meet the passionate people who celebrate the building of and cooking over live fire.
One of the great wonders of the barbecue world is smoked pork shoulder. It's a big hunk of meat cooked low and slow until succulent and tender. Roger's favorite way to devour this delicious thing of beauty is in a sandwich. In Grand Rapids, Michigan Roger visits the Pit Stop, a barbecue take-out famous for their unconventional yet scrumptious sandwich called the Green Menace Wrap. Pork chili and pulled pork, cilantro cream and barbecue sauce all get wrapped up in a flour tortilla and then cooked on a griddle until golden brown and crispy. For a classic Southern-style pork sandwich, Roger visits Top Hat Barbecue in Blount Springs, Alabama. This barbecue institution has been serving their best-selling BBQ Pork Sandwich the same exact way for almost 50 years. The smoked pork is chopped, dressed with a little barbecue sauce and then piled in a bun. Top Hat Barbecue likes to keep things simple and simple can be deeply satisfying.
The American Barbecue Belt in the South stretches from the Carolinas to Texas, and today Roger heads to the heart of it - Alabama. Roger meets award-winning Pit Master Chris Lilly at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, a family-run restaurant serving Alabama-style 'cue for four generations. They've got pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. But Roger's there for the legendary smoked chicken that's dunked in a unique and utterly delicious white sauce. In the coastal town of Mobile, Roger meets Alabama native Bill Armbrecht, owner of The Brick Pit. This former ship captain turned his love for barbecue into a second career and has been serving old school, Alabama-style 'cue for 20 years. Locals and visitors from across the country stop in for the chicken and ribs, but the thing everyone talks about is the pulled pork which cooks for almost 30 hours in a smoker called "The Big Red."
Roger's in charming South Carolina for two spectacular low country cookouts: a traditional backyard pig pickin' and a classic oyster roast. In the seaside town of Beaufort, Roger meets Jim Gibson who has been doing pig pickin's for family and friends for the last 40 years. Roger and Jim build the outdoor pit, smoke a whole pig and then chop and serve it with the traditional side of hash and rice. It's the ultimate lowcountry backyard barbecue. Just 20 minutes south of downtown Charleston is a 14-acre peninsula called Bowen's Island and the only thing on it is a restaurant that specializes in low country cooking. The specialty here is oysters steamed over a wood fire. Roger meets Robert Barber who is the owner of the restaurant and the island, and together they build an impressive fire to cook a massive pile of local cluster oysters.
Roger is loading up on the best brisket, pork steaks and sausages the Lone Star state has to offer. Ronnie's BBQ in Johnson City attracts locals and barbecue aficionados. Their open outdoor kitchen houses two barbecue pits, two pipe smokers and one giant burn barrel. Roger helps Pit Master Ronnie Weiershausen smoke brisket, pork steaks and sausages. Customers can order barbecue by the pound, on a plate or in a sandwich but Roger's interested in the Trash Taco. Ronnie's wife Cindy teaches Roger how they combine all three meats for this one-of-a-kind breakfast treat. At the Pecan Lodge restaurant in Dallas, dynamic duo Justin and Diane Fourton smoke some of the best barbecue in town. Roger and Justin fire up the smokers and cook brisket and pork shoulders that are seasoned with a sensational spice rub. Back at the restaurant, Roger and Diane assemble a popular sandwich called the Pit Master. It's packed with brisket, pulled pork, sausages and then topped with coleslaw, jalapenos and barbecue sauce.
Roger visits two chefs in Texas who created the craziest cooking contraptions and prove that everything's bigger in Texas. Chef Johnny Hernandez designed a massive grill for his restaurant El Machito in San Antonio and it takes fire and food to the extreme. Roger and Johnny skewer every meat imaginable -- chickens, pork and beef sausages, racks of ribs and whole goats. Housemade salsas and warm corn tortillas complete this carnivorous spread. Roger heads to Vintage Heart Farm in Stockdale to meet Chef John Russ who designed a 7-foot tree made out of stainless steel that can roast food over a wood fire. Roger and John fill the tree with quails and sausages for an outdoor feast.
Roger's on the hunt for lip-smacking barbecue ribs and he found two places where the racks of meat stack up to perfection. One is in the heart of the Mississippi and the other is in New York, that's right, the Big Apple! In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Leatha's Bar-b-cue Inn seasons their pork and beef ribs with a mysterious marinade, cooks them in an unusual upright smoker, and finishes them with a top secret barbecue sauce. Roger learns how to make these Southern-style ribs from Brian Jackson, a third generation Pit Master who continues the barbecue legacy that his grandmother Leatha created. While the American South has always been the go-to for great barbecue, cities like New York are entering the world of 'cue. At Hometown Bar-B-Que in New York, Brooklyn native Billy Durney gives his ribs an ethnic spin. The Jerk Baby Back Ribs are seasoned with the earthy, spicy flavors of Jamaica, while the Sticky Korean ribs are glossed with a sweet and savory Asian glaze, and then topped with cashews and scallions. It's a finger-licking mash-up of Texas low and slow, Jamaican Grilling and Korean-style barbecue.
When the sun's out and the warm breeze kicks in, it's the perfect time to fire up an outdoor feast. Roger's in Southern California for two unbelievable backyard blowouts. Roger meets Chef Ben Ford in Tarzana for a unique New England meets California-style clambake. Instead of burying their seafood feast in the ground, they use an old wine barrel as the cooking vessel for clams, mussels, Dungeness crabs, artichokes, corn, potatoes and onions. Hot rocks provide the heat source while fresh seaweed helps creates steam. In Chula Vista, Roger meets Francisco "Paco" Perez for traditional Mexican barbacoa which is whole lamb cooked in the ground, low and slow. Together they preheat an underground brick pit with a wood fire, and then season the lamb with a bright red chili marinade. The seasoned meat is covered with dried avocado and fresh maguey leaves and left to cook in the pit overnight. The next day, they serve the barbacoa with fresh corn tortillas, and different salsas for family and friends.
Like a moth to a flame, nothing grabs Roger's attention like a raging wood-burning fire. After the flames subsides and the smoke clears, there's a spectacular feast that everyone can dive into. Roger heads to Bigmista's Barbecue & Sammich Shop where husband and wife team Neil and Phyllis Strawder spread their smoked meat love in Long Beach, California. Roger and Neil torch the smoker until it's scorching hot, and then load it up with beef briskets and pork butts. Back in the kitchen, Roger and Phyllis roll up their sleeves and build unique barbecue sandwiches. Sweet soft squishy buns are stuffed with succulent barbecue. In Door County, Wisconsin, Roger is bowled over by the area's legendary fish boil. At the Old Post Office Restaurant, Boil Master Jeremy Klaubauf cooks local white fish, potatoes and onions in a cauldron... by engulfing it in flames.
Roger attends the 100 year anniversary of the St. Mary Magdalene Church Picnic in Owensboro, Kentucky. Several thousand pounds of meat will cook over 100 feet of fire and smoke. Roger helps hundreds of volunteers to load and light three massive barbecue pits with wood planks, pallets and straw. Then it's all hands on deck to prep, cook, flip and mop sauce for mutton, pork butts and chickens. Thousands attend this annual fundraiser. There is even a drive-through for folks who prefer to take their 'cue to go! Holy smokes, it's an epic barbecue event that will leave everyone speechless.
California's wine country is the perfect place for an outdoor cookout. The weather is gorgeous, the wine is simply divine, and the food is down-right delicious. Roger has been invited to two parties - a pig roast in Paso Robles and a surf and turf grill-out in Healdsburg. Once a year, Tablas Creek Vineyard hosts a huge party for members of their wine club. To complement the wine, they'll roast a swine. Executive Winemaker Neil Collins designed a contraption that can cook a whole pig over a wood burning fire. As a side dish, onions and sweet potatoes are cooked directly in the coals. Healdsburg is famous for their wineries, their olive oils and a historic landmark called the Dry Creek General Store. It's hard to miss it because there's a monster grill parked right out front. In the summer months, they load up the grill and prepare amazing feasts. Roger helps Chef Gia Passalacqua fills an eight foot grill with Dungeness crabs that have been rubbed with a chili pepper sauce, and they also hang legs of lambs that have been rubbed with a Mediterranean spice paste. It's a tasty surf and turf barbecue.
Roger visits Faith's Farm in Bonfield, Illinois for an awesome feast cooked on three different fiery contraptions. Roger helps three chefs orchestrate a festive Latin and Mexican-inspired meal. A whole lamb slowly roasts on an asado cross. Boar steaks are grilled on a repurposed windmill. And pig skins are fried until puffy and crisp in a wood burning oven and stove, and then finished with a smoky Mexican chocolate glaze. It's a three-alarm fire for a three-star, farm-to-table spread.
Chef Roger Mooking is grilling steaks and chickens in California, and smoking a bounty of seafood in Illinois. High heat for meat and low smoke for seafood. Roger begins in Orangevale, Calif., to meet restaurateur and caterer Steve Dougherty who specializes in Santa Maria-style barbecue. Roger and Steve season tri-tip steaks and chickens with Cajun spices, and then line them up on the racks of a giant portable grill. In Chicago, Roger visits Calumet Fisheries, an 80-year-old seafood smokehouse where he helps fish smoker Javier Magallanes load up salmon, trout, whitefish, sable and sturgeon, and smoke them to perfection.
Chef Roger Mooking is in Puerto Rico where the weather is hot, the view is smoking and the food is a fuego! It's his first time visiting Puerto Rico and he's inviting friends along for the ride. Roger begins the eating adventure with fellow Canadian, Chef Chuck Hughes. They'll fill up on pork at La Estacion, a former gas station-turned-barbecue restaurant that's located in Fajardo. Owner and Chef Kevin Roth transformed a truck into a smoker and grill and that's the main star of his outdoor kitchen. Roger and Chuck help build and light a fire, and rub down a whole pig with spices to make lechon, a Puerto Rican specialty. Roger heads over to the other side of the island and meets local chef Tino Feliciano. Tino takes Roger to a popular roadside eatery Rancho Carbon Express. Chickens are stuffed with sofrito, rubbed with adobo and then cooked on rotisseries.
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