Brett HuberRed Seal Chef
I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant, I’ve done a lot of different things …
but I really wanted to do BBQ. I’ve always had a passion for it. I wanted to get away from the nose-in-the-air food a bit and get back to the roots of cooking … big, bold flavours, from scratch meals … and have (it so) families could come in and feel good about feeding their kids.
Slow food served fast.
It’s a bit of an anomaly Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Bar is doing with its southern barbecue-style cuisine.
What sets Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Bar apart from typical fast food fare is the preparation required for each order. It might take only a few minutes for an order of brisket to reach your plate, but its preparation would have started the day before when it was placed in a smoker, affectionately known as ‘Big Daddy,’ for 12 hours.
Other items, such as ribs, chicken and beef, must also be cooked for at least a couple of hours before they are ready to serve.
“Everything is about pre-planning,” says Brett Huber, who with his wife Kristi opened Jack Keaton’s in December. “We smoke the briskets and the pork butts overnight in a mixture of hickory, apple and cherry wood. It’s all about foreseeing the future — you always have to be prepared to be busier than you think you will be.”
And they have been busier than they had anticipated, with traffic about double what they expected during their first month of operation. Still, no matter how hectic things have been, Huber says the food can’t be rushed.
“Otherwise, it won’t be properly done, it won’t be tender. The big, bold flavours won’t be there. Slow and low — that’s the key.”
On our recent visit, Jack Keaton’s was indeed busy, with a lineup at the counter and most of the 84 seats filled with either young families or couples.
It took a couple of minutes to figure out our orders. Choices include traditional southern barbecue dishes such as beef and back ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork, along with other options such as beer battered haddock and New York steak. There are also a number of side orders to choose from, as well as house specialties such as stuffed jacket potatoes and chili in sourdough bread bowls.
We finally settled on brisket and pulled pork, with side orders of mac and cheese, cow chips and house cut fries.
True to the fast food experience, the food arrived within a few minutes. Within the context of what Jack Keaton’s is trying to do, I had no complaints about the meal. It wasn’t fine dining, nor was it expected to be. But the barbecue was good, filling and flavourful, and well priced at under $30 for two.
“We smoke the briskets and the pork butts overnight in a mixture of hickory, apple and cherry wood. It’s all about foreseeing the future — you always have to be prepared to be busier than you think you will be.”
Brett, who has been a chef for 20 years, has worked locally, including a stint as executive chef at Crave, on the West Coast, and also in England at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.
“I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant,” he says, explaining they started thinking seriously about opening a restaurant a year ago. “I’ve done a lot of different things, but I really wanted to do BBQ. I’ve always had a passion for it. I wanted to get away from the nose-in-the-air food a bit and get back to the roots of cooking … big, bold flavours, from scratch meals … and have (it so) families could come in and feel good about feeding their kids.”
The Hubers’ concept was to offer southern barbecue, with a target audience of people who lead busy lives but want more than traditional fast foods.
“I have two kids under three,” says Kristi, who is also the general manager of Jack Keaton’s. “I am lucky to get 45 minutes to go eat with them, so if I can feed my family good food in under 45 minutes, I think I am doing good.”
The Huber’s would like to franchise the restaurant, which is named after their two young children, Jack and Keaton.
They will also soon be licensed, and intend to retail their barbecue and hot sauces and smoked meats, and offer take-home meals through a concept called “Take and Bake.”
“(The meat) is already fully cooked. You would just need to put it on your barbecue at home to heat it up and put some sauce on it,” says Brett. “Your friends would come over and you would look like a star.”