New business is simply smokin’
One of Brendan Huttick's fondest childhood memories is getting a dehydrator for Christmas.
He was eight, and dreamed of making smoked meat.
“I was one of those odd children,” he laughed. “I lived in Pennsylvania at the time. My neighbour had just run over a deer and my other neighbour was a butcher. The first thing I made was venison jerky.”
At 38, he hasn't lost his enthusiasm. Last year he walked away as co-owner of the Lemon Tree Cafe and started New Catering Concepts with former Pompano chef James Mitchell.
A side business developed after they discovered a shared love of barbecue. The pair sell smoked meats under the name Bermuda Smokehouse, at Miles Market, Henry VIII Restaurant, Rubis gas stations, Urban Cottage and the Farmers' Market.
Mr Huttick was thrilled when the industrial smoker arrived from Prague — but couldn't work out how to use it.
“The instructions were written in a small child's English,” he said. “And the temperatures were given in Celsius, which we don't do.”
It took them two days to figure it out, and Bermuda Smokehouse went into operation last October.
The machine is now their pride and joy and runs pretty much day and night smoking bacon, brisket, salmon and other meats.
“That side of things ramped up much faster than we expected,” said Mr Huttick, who moved to the island 17 years ago.
The smoked bacon is his favourite. It's made using “a Bermuda strain of pig” from Wadson's Farm. Seven days of drying and smoking are necessary to prepare it.
Mr Mitchell, 32, prefers the smoked brisket.
“Making smoked brisket is the most time-intensive process,” he said. “We get grass-fed beef from Nebraska. We season it with our special blend of spices. It goes into the smoker for 14 hours and we have to stoke the fire every 30 minutes. We don't sleep during the process. That shows our passion and commitment to our products. That brisket alone — wow!
“I was a sous chef at Pompano and had 17 people under me. Now it's nice to just put on a baseball cap, throw on an apron, go to work and smoke. Smoked salmon, bacon, brisket — if you can imagine it we can smoke it.”
Mr Mitchell moved to the island five years ago. He grew up in Washington DC where backyard barbecues were a daily occurrence.
“It was because we have so many hours of sunshine,” he said. “As a kid I just loved the smell of barbecue in the air.”
Wahoo nuggets are their most interesting product, according to Mr Huttick. They started out as an experiment.
“They have the texture of chicken and the taste of ham,” he said. “We sell those at Miles and we are at the Farmers' Market every Saturday.”
The last couple of months have been a sharp learning curve.
“When I first started, every recipe turned out excellent,” said Mr Huttick. “Then I tried to do a 14-day ham.
“I thought I would think outside the box and do it not with the picnic leg, but with the butt. This takes 14 days in a brine to do. I was so excited. I hadn't screwed anything up yet and I was sure this would turn out great.
“Unfortunately, the brine went off completely. It was a ropy brine and turned gooey. We don't mess with gooey. That went straight into the trash. It didn't smell bad but you could tell it wasn't right.”
Mr Mitchell said the hardest thing was just having patience.
“If you rush or skip any part of the process you will lose everything,” he said.
One of his biggest screw-ups turned into a new product.
“The first time I did jerky I added too much sugar,” he said. “It came out too sweet, but then people were asking about the sweet jerky.
“So, now we have one that is hot and spicy, and one that is sweet.”
Mr Mitchell said after years spent in the hustle and bustle of restaurant kitchens, they are loving working just for themselves.
“Anyone who has had our catering knows we are not the ordinary folks they are used to,” he said. “We have no problem taking a chance. It is limitless. They feel our energy and our excitement.”
• Visit their website www.newcateringbda.com or call 335-4244.