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Chef Chat: Bryan Dooley, Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue

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It says something when a chef names his restaurant after himself. In our opinion, it says something good.

After Bryan Dooley spent 15 years as a chef at the luxurious Fairmont Scottsdale, he opened Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue in downtown Cave Creek. Yep, that's right, barbecue -- not chilled soups or seared scallops or reduced sake. Just straightforward, impeccably executed, good-old American meat.

"I wanted to do something a little more my style, a little more down-home," he says. Unlike the kind of food that's arranged artfully in a tower in the center of your plate, Dooley puts it in a bun, for the most part. Just the way our forefathers intended.

Not the usual fare for a chef who was trained in the classical style at one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the country, the Culinary Institute of America, which sits atop the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York -- though you can see the influence.

"I come from a whole family of great cooks," he says. "I remember my Grandma and Grandpa...they gave me the same regard for quality ingredients."

Let's just say, this is not your Dad's backyard barbeque. It's better. Chef Bryan has seriously thought about his flavors - and all the theory has paid off. Bryan, and his barbecue are a curious mix of the high-falutin' and the down-home; his meat is smoked over pecan wood (it's more mellow than hickory, he says) and his sauce is thinner and more vinegary, with one, all-important ingredient: beer.

"I like really simple but really bold flavored, American food," Dooley says.

But, though he may wish it (he says he does), Dooley is not a cowboy. In fact, he grew up in Chicago and only moved out West to attend Northern Arizona University for college in the 80s. After that, he decided to go to culinary school - just for the hell of it, it would seem.

"I was never really planning on being a chef," he says. But life happened. Dooley met his wife, Donna, at a restaurant in Texas, moved to the Valley and had two kids (they're 10 and 12 now). He's quick to smile and soft-spoken - a chef with obvious integrity to his food, for it's taste, quality and heart.

Dooley and his wife led the way in designing Bryan's Barbecue - and it continues in the same, dichotomous vein as the chef and his food. From the straightforward, throwback name to the old Western movies playing on one wall with a soundtrack of Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn playing in the background, there is certainly a healthy dose of the good ol' country in Bryan's Barbecue.

But, there is also a sleek side, with clean, modern design and a certain amount of wit. With a leaping pig over Black Mountain on his logo to specials like The Firebird, "the chicken from hell," (for that recipe, check back tomorrow) it's clear that Dooley has a sense of humor.

 

But, most importantly, Dooley is a chef who loves food and serves it with the same kind of care as he would his family. He makes a point of talking to each and every table of customers in his restaurant.

"Barbecue is one of those things that people love to talk about," he says. Good food, good conversation. That's what it's all about, after all.

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