Review: There's Good eatin' in 'Buxton Hall Barbecue's Book of Smoke: Wood-Smoked Meat, Sides, and More'
By Tim Rutherford
For every "celebrity chef" who comes across as an overnight success, there are scores more talented men and women in the kitchen who have lived life on a roller coaster.
A chef's thrill ride is a series of emotional highs and lows, economic windfalls and abject poverty, succumbing to empty promises and outright lies and maybe, just maybe, one day they hit the big time.
What's the big time for these knife-slinging, saute line kings and queens?
Their OWN place.
Their own place allows them to explore culinary fantasy and flex often restrained skills. They command a three-ring circus of heat and flame that is at once exhilarating and systematically exhausting. We eat their food, marvel at their talent, and all the while it looks easy. They make the roller coaster look like a kiddie ride.
I was prepared to recount Buxton Hall Chef Elliott Moss' own wild ride as part of this cookbook review. Instead, buy the book -- and hear the story from his own pen. The talented pitmaster has smoke and vinegar-pepper sauce coursing through his veins -- even when he was knocking out award-winning eats at The Admiral and earning lavish praise from customers, critics and the distinguished James Beard Foundation.
He should have had a book deal then. He should have had a shot at his own remarkable kitchen then. He didn't. Instead, he jumped into the last car of the aforementioned roller coaster and tussled with financiers, emotions and ceaseless questions about his future.
Perseverance pays, the ride ends, the rewards come.
"Buxton Hall Barbecue's Book of Smoke: Wood-Smoked Meat, Sides, and More," is a solid affirmation of Moss' success and popularity. With a dependable business partner in Meherwan Irani, a successful restaurant, new found attention from Bon Appetit magazine, whose editors gushed over his fried chicken sandwich and name BHB as one of the nation's Top 10 new eateries, Moss is sitting pretty.
The 208 pages, part autobiography and mostly cookbook, captures the essence of the restaurant's menu. From Moss' signature vinegar-pepper sauce -- the foundation of his barbecue roots -- through Chicken Bog, smoked pork shoulder and ribs, this collection of recipes is in homage to the self-taught chef's passion for food, for breaking out of the usual barbecue shack recipe box.
Unlike many other barbecue joint books, Moss' presentation touches on old school pit cooking methods but its recipes sympathetically address less adventurous home cooks. The chef spends time explaining stovetop smokers and recipes are designed to be carried out indoors, without the need for an outdoor kitchen or coping with charcoal fires.
Moss devoted pages to props for key team members: sous chefs Sarah Cousler and Dan Silo and Pastry Chef Ashley Capps. He is quick to credit those closest to him for his success. No one is resting on laurels. In fact, newcomers to the skating rink turned dining room are often surprised that the smoke stained, bespectacled guy in the kitchen is Moss himself -- complete with a grease stained shirt and nursing splinters from handling a recent load of wood.
As for me, I have spent less than an hour with Moss ever. I have, however, enjoyed several hours with his food: Pulled pork, Brussels sprouts seasoned with pork drippings, Chicken Bog, and that miraculous fried chicken sandwich. I survey the dessert list on every visit, but can't face a break-up with Capp's legendary banana pudding pie -- the restaurant's homage to a 'cue joint staple.
The recipes are tried and true, easy to follow and execute. These are dishes that are honest, satisfying and rich with flavors. Moss has mastered an intuitive skill for crafting dishes that blow the minds of home cooks and can still inspire weekend pitmasters to explore their own paths. Photos are a pleasant mix of black-and-white and color. This is an effort Moss can be proud of completing. Gosh, I'm beaming with happiness for him, the restaurant and the Buxton crew.
Even if you've never smoked a pork shoulder, "Buxton Hall Barbecue's Book of Smoke: Wood-Smoked Meat, Sides, and More," will lay the foundation for you to approach smoked meats and a new repertoire of side dishes and desserts with confidence. It's a sure fire way to get a taste of one of Asheville's premiere restaurants without leaving your kitchen.
Buy the book on Amazon -- click here.
About the Author
Elliott Moss has received national attention for his innovative cooking from the New York Times, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Southern Living, Bon Appetit, Garden & Gun, GQ, and other publications. He was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2013. He currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina, where he has been the head chef at celebrated restaurant The Admiral and pop-up restaurants such as Punk Wok and The Thunderbird. He is now the co-owner and head chef of Buxton Hall Barbecue.
Friday, Oct. 7, 7-9 p.m., Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, 55 Haywood St, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Eat at Buxton Hall
OPEN DAILY: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
32 Banks Ave.
South Slope Asheville, N.C.
(828) 232 7216