Bryan Dooley Dishes on His Favorite Food Smell (It Isn't Food) and How He Became a BBQ Boss

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See also: Silvana Salcido Esparza Dishes About Eating Iguana and Whether She Is or Isn't a Badass See also: Jeff Kraus Explains What's Cool About Food Trucks, Waxes Nostalgic for S.O.S. and Names Four Over-Hyped Food Terms He Wishes Would Go Away

Bryan Dooley Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue 6130 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek 480-575-7155 www.bryansbarbecue.com

This is part one of my interview with Bryan Dooley, the chef-owner (and barbecue master) at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue in Cave Creek. Come back tomorrow for part two!

Bryan Dooley became a chef in the way so many chefs do: He grew up around people who loved to cook and who made good food the focal point of every family gathering. Raised in Illinois, he spent entire summers at his grandparents' place -- a 170-acre former Boy Scout Camp with woods to roam and a lake to fish. His grandmother gardened, canned and made jams -- as well as the barbecue sauce that would glaze his grandfather's hickory-smoked, Southern-style pit barbecue.

But Dooley -- who was just as artsy as he was outdoorsy, strumming his ever-present guitar and writing poetry as proof -- thought he wanted to be a photographer, and to that end, he attended NAU, where he earned a fine arts degree. Working on the family farm after graduation and feeling unfulfilled, he met a CIA-grad chef at his cousin's wedding who noted Dooley's obvious interest in food and suggested he enroll at the CIA in Hyde Park.

After gaining restaurant experience at a seafood restaurant in Galveston, Texas -- where he was thrown on the grill but wound up mastering just about every job in the restaurant -- Dooley attended the CIA, applying for chef jobs in the Southwest upon graduation. He landed a line cook gig in the kitchen of the Marquesa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort and stayed at the resort for 13 years, moving from various restaurants to banquet and back again, working different stations (including saucier and garde manger) and never tiring of the learning.

But when he broke his leg, which gave him the opportunity to slow down and think about what he wanted to do with his life, he figured out (with a little nudge from his wife, Donna) that he wanted his own restaurant. As residents of Cave Creek (which Dooley loves for its distinctly Western flavor), the Dooleys knew what their small town needed: good barbecue. They opened Bryan's to rave reviews in 2008, and Dooley published his own cookbook Stories and Recipes From Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue in December 2011. Favorite food smell: Wood smoke, definitely! Hmm, not really a food smell, I guess, unless you are a beaver or a termite, but I'm sticking with it.

What got you interested in barbecue?: Helping my grandfather cook the ribs when i was a kid. The whole long slow process of building the pit and burning the wood and the hours of cooking outside was always intriguing to me.

Did you research a lot of BBQ restaurants around the country?: Barbecue research has never really interested me -- technique, yes. Style, no. I've really just tried to do my own thing, There's a lot of barbecue in this city, but none of it tastes like mine, and I'm proud of that!

What do most people not understand about BBQ?: The great thing about barbecue is that I think most people do understand it. It's one of those foods that stirs up childhood memories of family, the ultimate American comfort food! It's also one of those foods that people are most opinionated about.

The wood you use and why: Pecan wood because it creates a soft smoke that does not overpower the flavor of the meat. It's also readily available in this area.

Weirdest thing you ever ate: I'm an adventurous eater and nothing really scares me. Well, actually, meatloaf scares me.

Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House James Porter of Petite Maison Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Chris Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge Chris Curtiss of NoRTH Arcadia Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles

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