Sometimes passions just take over. It’s something I’ve seen happen in the craft beer industry and something that increasingly is happening in the food truck industry. Making things by hand for the people who will consume them really is a reward unto itself. For many of the people participating in the rising food truck culture, there is just one style of food they like to do well. For John Lord, whose “No” Barbecue truck opened earlier this year, that food is barbecue. After years of slow cook barbecuing with his brother, Dennis, John’s passion eventually got the better of him and he decided to upgrade to professional level equipment to match his professional level commitment.
Two kinds of barbecue
Barbecue is a subgenre filled with subgenres, and there are pretty specific designations. Not only isn’t it preferable to be great at them all, it might not even be possible. John settled upon a couple of recipes and processes that he was doing well and aimed at perfecting them:
Central Texas style beef barbecue, which is rubbed with spices and slow-roasted over oak until it is “falling off the bone”
Eastern North Carolina style pork barbecue, which features a vinegar pepper sauce. The answer to whether he makes the sweet-style tomato sauce barbecue can be found on the front of the truck, although he does have some sauces for people who absolutely must add them.
For John it was a question of serving his passion honestly. He spent years finding the right meats and other ingredients and understood that to take it to scale he needed the right equipment.
What’s in a name?
John spent a long time in the restaurant business, getting to know the operating procedures as well as many of the purveyors. There he learned two things: the first was that overthinking a dish can ruin it. The second was how to get the best meat from the best purveyors. When he decided to go pro with his hobby, he relied on his professional experience and connections to streamline his process. He also saw that when restaurants tried to be too many thing to too many people they ran into both logistical and customer service difficulties.
At the bottom of “No” Barbecue, I think, is the pride of knowing you’re good at something. Or, rather, the pleasure you get in doing things well. Generally a staid kind of guy, John really lights up when talking about the processes and the recipes. He wants you to like his style of barbecue, to give yourself over to the possibility that things will be awesome if you just will let them. Place your order and let the professionals do their jobs and give you the best meal they can. This was the mindset that was behind both the name and the attitude at “No:” Choose the food. Take the food. Eat the food. Very simple transactions surrounding a very simple menu.
“My dream was always to open up a chicken shack someplace,” he said.
Being set up on the Costa Ventosa Winery property, “No” doesn’t have the same vibe a chicken shack in, say, Chicago might, but it does draw on the sweet simplicity of making and serving fantastic food, period. Super basic food with super complex tastes, a couple of picnic tables and that is all.
Putting in the time
After years of perfecting his barbecuing methods, John set to creating the side dishes he would serve. Again, he keeps it simple and tasty: a salad-y cole slaw that will hold up the the barbecue, mac and cheese, smoky baked beans and corn muffins. Simple stuff to go or to stay, depending upon the weather and your mood. Barbecue, when it is done right, is more predictive than made to order. John has to set his beef or pork to cooking outrageously early in the morning to have it done it time for lunch. Since he still has a day job, it can make for a long tough day, but getting to do what he likes takes the edge off a bit.
“A lot of people go home from work feeling exhausted,” he said. “When I go home I feel good about being exhausted.”
This story was updated to remove grand opening info – Ed.