By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
Larry Gerber, a.k.a., Barbeque Man, started hanging out at his grandfather’s kosher meat market at age seven. His paternal grandfather and his four brothers were cooks in Europe during World War II. They learned about meat curing in France, smoking meats in Holland and fine wines in Austria, Gerber recalled.
“I would hang out there and back then my grandfather would go to the alleys and cut off the heads of live chickens and turkeys and smoke them right there that day,” said Gerber, 59, whose grandfather opened his store at 38th and State streets. His grandfather made all his spice rubs, marinade and sauces.
At age 21, Gerber, a graduate of Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, received from his grandfather an index card with the family sauce recipe. Gerber was in construction at the time but would soon follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“My biggest reward is turning my grandfather’s dream into a company that influences people,” said Gerber, the owner since 1996 of BarBeQue Man Inc.
In the catering and personal chef business for decades, Gerber can serve up ribs, brisket, chicken, turkey wings, smoked fish, prime rib, rack of lamb or Cornish game hens. He’s won many barbecue competitions and is an expert on cannabis butter and oils.
Gerber is a national expert, sought coast to coast for radio, TV and podcast interviews on anything related to the fine art of grilling and barbecues. He had a five-year run on a Chicago television show called Culinary Adventures. He has written many magazine articles on barbecue and cannabis and has thousands of Twitter followers.
Gerber’s latest venture is a new book with 125 of his 400 barbecue recipes, each cooked dozens of times, he said. Gerber is a big proponent of using kosher meat. A kosher brisket is better than prime aged USDA meat, said Gerber. He grew up in a kosher home, he said.
He offers these tips. When barbecuing always start with a quality piece, a good spice rub and a clean grill. “It should be above choice, prime is best.” You put your spice rub on top, wrap it and put it in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours. Then cook low and slow. He cooks a whole brisket for 16 hours at 225 degrees. He uses logs or fruitwood.
“That makes great barbecue. So you need to be patient and you can’t foil the meat in order to rush that process. It all must be done in a smoky environment. Same with chickens. A kosher capon is supreme. It’s got lots of fat and better flavor.”
Newly-sworn in Governor J.B. Pritzker has made legalizing marijuana a legislative priority. Here’s how Gerber makes edible pot, often for people who want to alleviate the pain of medical conditions. “You need to bake it in the oven about 30 minutes at 225 degrees, let it cool and put it in a pan with oil. The oil will remove the resin, the cannabis extract that makes people high. As a butter, it can be spread on toast, for example. His cannabis and barbecue business are independent of each other.
For information on how to purchase Gerber’s cookbook, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is http://www.barbequeman420cookbook.wordpress.com