Welcome to an exciting collaboration between Stalwart Crafts and Mel, the genius behind Dark Side of the Grill. In this exclusive interview, we explore Mel’s journey from aspiring pitmaster to grill maestro. Together, we merge the worlds of culinary artistry and artisanal craftsmanship, as Stalwart Crafts partners with Mel to create a unique leather apron collection.
Discover the true essence of barbecuing and pit mastery as Mel shares his passion, precision, and love for the grill. From seasoned grill aficionados to curious beginners, let us guide you on a culinary adventure that transcends the ordinary and unveils a realm of taste, texture, and craftsmanship. Embrace the Dark Side of the Grill and ignite your passion for the flames!
SC: How did you get started in this barbecue business and what inspired you to start the Dark side of the grill?
What inspired me to start Dark Side of the Grill? Well, I’ve always been cooking, I grew up with my grandmother in the kitchen. So I’ve always loved to cook.
I’m a welder by trade. So growing up in the oil field, a way that I could get away from working was to do the company lunches, company barbecues and stuff like that. So I grabbed that bull by the horns at a young age of 18 or 20 doing the cooking, the burgers and the hot dogs for safety events, and I got really good at it. I would do it at home for fun as well. It was a big hobby, smoking meats, right?
This has been a big thing for a lot of people for a long time. And I got really good at it. One day, maybe in 2016 or 2017, there was a helper, a kid that worked in the in the wash bay. And I caught him taking pictures of my food. And I said to him, I said, why, every time we have lunch, are you taking pictures of my food?
And he says “I posted on Instagram. And I get followers from it.”
And I said Instagrams for like 16-year-old girls like what are you talking about? This is insane.
So I joined.
And I came up with Dark Side of the Grill. That was actually a play on Pink Floyd, which I’m a huge fan of Pink Floyd. And then Star Wars is like my life. So these two things it just seemed to be perfect. And in all my videos, I tried to put a light on the dark side of the grill. So I’m trying to show an easier, better way of doing what people have been doing. Maybe not explaining.
So it was just perfect.
Within a few months, I had 4000 followers, and it just steamrolled from there and I ended up here. So this is the origin story of me and dark side of the grill right there.
SC: Do you have a style of barbecue? If you do have a style? What is it?
So a style of barbecue for me if you had to pinpoint would be absolutely impossible. Because I’m Canadian. There’s no style here. There’s no set. It’s all new. It’s, you know, it’s all coming up here.
There’s no North Carolina style or Texas style. I do a bit of everything. Even far past barbecue, I get into the live fire and the grilling and hanging pull animals for live fire and stuff. It’s a mixture of Argentinian, Brazilian, Texan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Cajun, it’s just a mess of everything that I do. So every dish is different. Every meat is different.
SC: Do you have any favorite recipes that you cook over and over again?
Well, the go to in barbecue is always brisket. Anytime I ever do any kind of event or pop up, the first thing on that list every single time is brisket. And still to this day to have a brisket sandwich or a brisket taco. I’m constantly cooking them just because they’re so easy for me to do. And they taste so great.
The recipe is probably the easiest recipe on the internet. It’s salt, pepper, garlic, love and time. That’s it.
SC: What advice would you give someone who’s just starting to get into grilling, and what are the essential tools or techniques that they should know about?
If someone was just getting into grilling, my advice to them would be to start slow. Don’t tackle big fancy stuff right off the bat.
Start with chickens. Spatchcock a chicken, cook chicken wings. If you’re doing charcoal and you’re learning charcoal, you’re learning how to use wood to smoke. Use a little bit at first and see how you like it. And then build from there.
Everyone always buys something big right off the bat. They use whole logs and then they don’t like it and they quit.
Don’t do that – start small and work your way into it. When you’ve gone too far, you get too big, you know, to dial it back a bit until you’re comfortable with it. That’s my advice.
SC: How do you come up with your recipes? And is there any kind of creative process that you use? When do you know that your recipe is ready to share with your followers?
So my tricks for recipe development, and I actually I’ve never let this out before.
So, my tricks for recipe development start with a dish that just hits my head. I have chicken wings that I’ve just frosted from the freezer, and I want to do something really original. Maybe I want to do like a tandoori, apple wood smoked chicken wing.
So then I switch over to a tandoori recipe, whether I’m going dry or I’m going sauce. And the first thing I’ll do is hit YouTube. And I’ll find a few different creators, maybe one straight in India, no English, and I’m reading subtitles. Next one will be some lady from California that’s like this is award winning, etc. I’ll watch three or four of those. Take the pieces from each of those recipes that I find what worked for me and what I think would be a good flavor profile.
And then we’ll give it a shot.
And then if it works out, I haven’t recorded if there’s something that needs changing. Now, it’s just like an OCD thing for me the next three, four days. If it didn’t work out, I’m eating chicken wings until I have it dialed in. And then when I have it dialed in, that’s when the Reel gets made, the recipe goes out. And then everyone gets it.
SC: Do you share those recipes with your family, does everybody get a chance to taste?
No one around me cooks. And that’s the true story. No one even wants to cook around me. So that’s a it’s quite, it’s quite a quite a fun thing. Like even my brother-in-law will invite me over for a barbecue. And he doesn’t want to cook. He wants me to cook the meat when I get there because everyone just – I don’t know what it is.
SC: How do you source your ingredients?
That’s that’s a great question.
So me sourcing my ingredients, the first thing I do is I start local.
And then I look for quality, as quick as I can. I have a spice merchant up here actually, that flies all around the world, a husband and wife. And they source ingredients direct from the countries that they’re from the highest quality possible and the best way to preserve them.
Same with my salts, I have a huge collection of infused sea salts and olive oils. This is a small craft company here that started in their garage. And now and this is the type of companies I like to work with. They start with their bare hands. They build on from there. The qualities there. And it’s supporting small business. It’s all tied together. The love is in every ingredient I use. That’s my thing.
SC: What are your thoughts on the Stalwart Crafts apron?
So my thoughts on the apron itself, I love how ductile it is. I love that it’s very pliable. I love when I bend over it, it doesn’t crunch. It just kind of folds and then it drops right back at it doesn’t crease at all.
It’s super easy to wipe off. So this is a part of my job, is it’s very messy, whether it be sauces or if it’s you know, splatter. I’m not getting into it. But it’s a very messy job. And I’m always into it up to my elbows all the time. And I can just take a damp rag right there, wipe it off. It’s ready to be hung.
It’s really an industry standard, it works very well with large events. I’ve catered to tons of people wearing that. And it’s worked very well as well. In my cooking, my style of cooking, I’m always over a live fire and hot charcoal. And it works as a shield between my stomach and the fire. So it’s a beautiful heat shield for that as well. And I can keep my phone in there. And I haven’t broken my phone yet. And I’m very very hard on my phone.
So it’s, I’m absolutely loving it. The quality is there. It looks fantastic. My custom logo is just perfect. So yeah, I am in love with this apron.
SC: Why did you choose to partner with Stalwart?
So the reason that I partnered with you guys was Stalwart. It’s a small company. It’s by hand. It’s super focused on quality, and the quality of the product and that, to me, speaks to everything else I do in my job and my business and my career in my events. The quality is there. The product is there, the price is there, and the people are there. And that’s something I definitely want to be a part of.
SC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
What I would love to add anybody reading or listening to this, definitely do not be shy to try new food. This is the biggest thing possible.
I cook live fire octopus all the time. A lot of people, especially the barbecue community, that give you that face like they’re not going to try it. But every single time someone has tried it, they have fallen in love with it. And now they cook it on their own.
So do not not turn down food just because it’s weird. You never know what might be become your favorite food. So don’t be shy. Try everything.
In wrapping up our awesome interview with Mel, the esteemed owner of the Dark Side of the Grill, it is clear that his expertise and commitment to the art of barbecuing are unmatched. Throughout our conversation, Mel generously shared valuable insights and tips that shed light on the intricacies of his craft.
The collaboration between Stalwart Crafts and Dark Side of the Grill has brought forth a perfect blend of culinary artistry and artisanal craftsmanship. Together, we have embarked on a flavorful journey, unraveling the secrets that lie within the grill. By exploring the Dark Side of the Grill, we invite you to embrace your own passion for grilling, experiment with flavors, and discover new horizons in the world of barbecue. Get ready to don your aprons, fire up the grill, and embark on a culinary adventure inspired by Mel and the incredible offerings of Dark Side of the Grill.
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