Chef News

Chef James Fox of Big Earl's BBQ, Part Two

Yesterday we shared the first half of our talk with Chef James Fox of Big Earl's BBQ in Old Town Scottsdale. Today, we're talking smoke and the importance of a little salt and pepper.

What changes have you made since being at Big Earl's?

We used to have sausage balls, but I thought a sausage ball in a bowl was just kinda...mundane. So made them into corndogs, with my own special take on corndog batter. There's actual creamed corn in the batter so you get that extra texture. The hot wings I started brining instead of just frying so you get a little bit more flavor...depth almost. I also made chicken fried chicken wings. People kept asking for fried chicken, but it's hard to do that because we only have one fryer back there. So I just made wings in a chicken fried chicken kind of way.

That sounds like a lot of detail changes.

Yeah, just fine-tuning things was my main thing. Even the fried mac and sticks, we had fried mac and cheese on the menu but it was just a ball of mac and cheese that was deep fried -- delicious, but not refined. The ones we have now are actual sticks of mac and cheese served with lemon zest on top and a tomato jam on the side, so a little more technical.

And are you still using the same sauces and rubs by Desert Smoke BBQ?

Not the same rubs, but the same sauces, yes...for now. I'd like to possibly change them, but it's not my decision. We'll see.

Is there any one thing you'd say you've had to learn in order to do BBQ for a true BBQ restaurant?

The smoking, period. We have a humongous smoker back there and it's a challenge to work with. I'm used to smoking three racks of ribs, not fifteen. And fifteen briskets. And ten pork butts. That's the biggest challenge. Learning how to use the smoker with that much meat involved. It's definitely a process.

And transitioning from what you cooked before, what carried over well?

It's always all about technique. I used to cook ribs when I worked at The Mission, but obviously in a way different style. And things like salt and pepper. That's one of the simplest things that people don't realize [the importance of]. Adding salt and pepper can make something amazing or can make it horrible, if you add too much.

So you hate those people that put salt on their food as soon as it's in front of them?

Oh my god, YES! I'd rather not have salt and pepper on the table because it should be seasoned perfectly already. I mean, I understand you can ask for salt because you might need to add some sodium for your diet or something, I guess.

Come back tomorrow for Chef Fox's recipe for Braised Pork Belly with Peach Chutney.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria