Interview with Reno 12/28/2019
Please enjoy and get to know the man behind the formulation and the brand that is SGT Hart's BBQ Sauce:
Tell me how you got started with smoking meat barbecuing?
Stems from my childhood with my dad just growing up out in the village and hunting, fishing, and trapping - we smoked and cured meat and fish, dried meat & everything else so we always had meat. We were hunters so when we moved to the city of was just something that I did spending some time with my father was just we spent a lot of time around the grill & the smokers.
I see, grew up where?
Where in Alaska?
Growing up as a young child I grew up out in the bush, a little village called McGrath and then my parents moved to Anchorage.
So you guys hunted? How old were you when you first started?
The youngest I can remember hunting with my dad well probably around 4 1/2 almost 5 years old - hunting rabbits, birds and squirrels with my dad.
So you guys just kind of hunted for sport or game hunted or?
No. We used everything we hunted; we didn’t hunt for sport, we hunted because we lived remote and we need the meat.
Dang, y’all were off the grid!
We ate what we hunted. We used the hide we used the antlers. We used everything.
So it wasn't just because you were interested in hunting it was basically survival for you and your family?
It was a way of life?(Bear in mind that where the Hart's lived is a rural Eskimo village, without much in the little market and isolated. approx 200 residents. The family had a subsistence permit to hunt)
Yeah, well for sure. Wow! So, what age did you guys start cooking together at that same age? Did you start going up because you saw him do it and you were interested?
Yeah - pretty much. When I was that age whenever my dad was around and not working on the plane or out at hunt camp. I followed him around and did what he was doing. Like every little kid - I guess my dad was my idol so I just kind of followed him around and if I saw him doing it then I did it or I tried to do it.
Hunting Camp? He had to go to a hunt camp? Like did he not already know how to-?
Well hunting camp wasn't a place to go learn. It was like the cabin up on the Innoko river or we would go wherever and set up base out of that spot to go hunting in that area.
So is it fair to say then that your dad would be the person who influences you when it comes to cooking? Who influences your cooking style in your recipes?
Some of the recipes I get from my dad like the smoked chicken, turkey, and other meats. It's the same recipe that my dad use that he taught me growing up. Now when I do the brisket - when I do a brisket, I always think about like, know the old west you know, around the round the campfire - with the hunk of meat over the fire, roasting. So I go for that - I want that flavor that's going to make me feel like I'm back there. So that's what I kind of take when I do my meats is like I want that old flavor of season flavor.
Most times I draw in flavors from different influences like, when I started with the BBQ sauce. I like my BBQ sauce with this and that in it and just meld flavors together that I would like that would bring out a more rustic flavoring.
What might somebody be surprised to know about you they should they read this article or listen to the podcast.
They'd be surprised to know about me? What surprises people is when they realize that I'm not from the south. When they taste the sauce it’s a shock! They didn't expect that influence of flavors. When they sit for a meal, they can't believe the style of cooking that I use comes from the Pacific Northwest. I usually get that based on the flavor profile of the BBQ Sauce. Then based on my "so-called" accent, it surprised people when they realize that I actually grew up in remote Alaska hunting, fishing, and trapping with my family, .
Plus all the other stuff that comes along with it. Some of the urban myths of living in an igloo or the diversity of races.
That and people are shocked that I'm white.
That too...BIG Shock! What would you tell someone who is thinking about smoking or grilling meat? What advice would you give them if this is maybe their first time ever doing it or they want to go into grilling and smoking?
Trial and error when you start don't be afraid to make the mistake I wouldn't go out and buy that you know - $200.00 slab of meat and then try that on my first go
But I mean there's times where you're going to try doing something; and be like okay I like this but I think I need to add a little bit to it or I need to maybe change the wood that I'm using. Don't smoke everything all together. The wood that you use is going to "enhance" flavors of the meat as well and that's going to help you differentiate between what you're cooking and the style that you cook the flavors so-
And why does this matter?
Different woods add a different flavor with the smoke. Some of them are more harsh like mesquite; is a very strong wood. Really the only time I used mesquite is when I do a brisket. Mainly because brisket is a thicker cut of meat and can handle it very well. Plus, like I said before I like to get that rustic flavor old west around the campfire
Makes it hearty too.
Yeah, gives it that hearty flavor. Mesquite is too strong for poultry, pork and those types of meats. It’s just too strong (of a flavor) . I don’t want that harsh flavor or that hard flavor smoke. With other meats I tend to want sweeter, like the fruit woods, you know the cherry, the apple. Ribs I like to mix pecan and cherry. Poultry I always use apple when I do poultry. Pork depends on if I'm doing you like a pork butt or chops or loins, I’ll use Hickory I might mix hickory and apple. It’s just a matter what you're cooking in the flavor that you think you want out of it let that influence the wood that you use, but just don’t cook everything all with one wood all the time.
If you weren't grilling, smoking or anything to do with food, what would you be doing instead?
What is it that you do for your job?
I still work for the Department of the Army
So if you weren’t cooking, formulating the barbecue sauce and if you working your job what would your dream thing to do?
I like cars, so probably lots of driving. Driving sports cars and I like the four-wheel drive as well so, it might be a little off roading somewhere. Ultimately, I’d probably like to have some property somewhere - just to be on my property and you know have a big smoke pit setup a little smokehouse. I would like to live like how I grew up, however I know you’re (me) more of a “city girl” so I need to be somewhere where we were close to a city within a certain amount of time you know probably less than an hour. I don’t think you would enjoy having to fly 3 hours to the city. But I would like to have that ability. Just a simpler lifestyle.
What do you do when you are not grilling or cooking in reality?
I spend a lot of time in the gym
That's pretty much it really you I was like I'm not working and I'm not cooking I'm in the gym.
Three to five words that would describe your cooking style?
Flavorful - Rustic - Heartfelt (Authentic)
What's the last dish or meal that you created by accident or through improvisation without knowing ahead of time and what did it turn out to be?
When I made the etouffee, I was making gumbo. I didn't know (how to) I just knew what I thought it would taste like and what I like when I go out and order Gumbo. I like my Gumbo with this in it and that in it and you got to have the okra, you got to have you know, sausage, chicken, shrimp; I had everything in it that I knew was in gumbo. However, I didn't know I was supposed to cook the rice separately - so I put it in the gumbo and I kind of used too much so instead of a gumbo which is kind of like a soup or a stew, I ended up with basically a Cajun-style etouffee. But it was good and everybody else ate it.
Well you didn’t eat it, you’re picky.
True, I am very particular.
But, everybody else ate it and loved it. It did not last lets just put it that way. I mean it was gone in like 2 days.
Yes, it was in a huge pot I remember.
Everybody was eating it for dinner and having seconds and thirds and then somebody had it for breakfast and I mean it was gone by dinner the next night I mean all of it.
Name a dish that represents who you are as a Grill Master.
I don't know it seems like everyone always thinks about the chicken - i don't know- that's my dad's recipe so I guess you know there's really not much to that one I think it's kind of a toss everybody seems to like the ribs a lot the way that I'm do them is a little different
I think that would be a good one because your ribs are a process and you're the same way you're an analytical and you're a process and when people get to know you it is a process because they go through all the motions: from this guy is intimidating and then they know what to think of you and then they end up getting to know you and liking you so yeah the ribs being a 2.5 day process is very much like you it takes time I would agree with the ribs.
Alright now RAPID FIRE! Alright get ready
Hobby or Career
Favorite barbecue dish
Most creative dish
Most Challenging recipe
Brisket….I had never done that before and I had to make my own seasoning the right way.
Most Challenging cut of meat.
I don’t know
Favorite time of year to grill: Summer, Winter, Fall, or Spring
All of the above
Depends on the meat
What would be your last meal and who would you want to join you?
A meal with me (LONGEST PAUSE)
Are you sure?
I know...probably because I know you like it and since it would be the last time I would be making it. It would probably be the pulled pork (LOL)
Okay, now for real?
If that person was dead or alive, (long pause) my dad.
What would you like to have served, because you wouldn’t have to make it
Have you cooked moose before? Yourself...on the grill?
Is it easy to cook?