“I’m a presentation guy,” says Jay, the restaurateur, “and I’m not the easiest guy to please.” Bill, the chef, declares, “I’m always sampling things.”
They seem like a great team. But these two work at different restaurants. They are competitors. Both are examples of the Rhode Island restaurant success story and both have new positions.
Bill McComiskey is the new executive chef of Rick’s Roadhouse in the Knowledge District in Providence. He was working on a 16-hour brisket that he barbecues with a dry rub and a 16-hour pork butt that is “mopped” in the Southern style with his signature BBQ sauce. “The sauce was the first thing I changed when I got into the kitchen [at Rick’s] in August,” said McComiskey.
His new signature sauce is tomato-based, sweet and smoky at the same time in the Carolina style. The chef says the sauce is especially good with baby-back ribs which he slow smokes for four hours.
A word about the term “mop.” The word refers to the sauce – a thin, watery solution that drips over meat, adding moisture to combat the drying of an open fire – as well as the tool, a small fiber mop used to apply the sauce to the meat. It’s a Southern thing.
“It looks so much better,” said McComiskey. “That’s what I like [on my BBQ specialties].”
McComiskey hails from Chelsea, Mass., near Boston. But he spent 10 years honing his craft at one of the leading BBQ restaurants in the South, Big Daddy’s in Live Oaks, Fla. While there, he developed his own sauce recipes and techniques, such as smoking eye-round roasts instead of briskets, then serving the tender beef sliced thin.
That type of cooking suits our Northern sensibilities, as opposed to barbecued alligator tail, which was also a specialty at Big Daddy’s.
McComiskey also cooked for a period of time at Disney’s Epcot in Orlando. He was not a full-fledged “cast member,” however, as he was employed by a food-service company that Disney contracted at the time. “My kids, who were little at the time, sure loved it!” he recalled. Returning to New England, the chef was most recently at The Restaurant, in Warren, before joining Rick’s last summer. He is settling into his new company, John Elkhay’s Chow Fun Food Group, and his enthusiasm for Elkhay’s corporate culture is readily apparent. “All of the chef managers [of Chow Fun’s other restaurants such as Ten and XO] are asked for their input on recipes and many other issues. It’s a great atmosphere.”
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