No More Sweet Baby Rays for Me!

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You can put anything into BBQ sauce.

The sun is finally coming out, and with school letting out soon, BBQ grills are soon to follow. That’s why I was thrilled that a local chef was hosting a class on “How to Make your Own BBQ Sauce.” Chef Andy Craig is the Executive Chef of Castle Catering, and he’s a well known culinary figure in the Tri-Cities. I’ve been to several events that he’s catered (his sauces and potatoes are especially to die for!) so when I heard that he was hosting a series of cooking classes, I was super excited.

The BBQ sauce class was the last of the series (there are four classes total). On a breezy Wednesday evening I trekked down to Anthology where the class would be held, disappointed to see there was no parking in the parking lot. As I backed into a delivery entry to turn around and park on the street, Chef Andy Crag himself came out the back door and said, “You’re fine! Just park right here and you can come through the back entry!” If that wasn’t a warm enough entry, the local white wine that his assistant gave me upon taking my purse certainly was!

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My work station

I had gotten there just in time. Chef Andy had printed out a base for a sauce and gave us some tips on how to measure out and reduce ingredients for the perfect sauce. Then he set us loose, saying that nothing in the kitchen was hands off and that if we didn’t see what he needed, he’d find it. What a great guy! He was such a stark contrast to the guys you see on TV who are possessive over their favorite kitchen knives or seasonings (although Chef Andy DID say his spice blends were proprietary…but what chef doesn’t have a secret ingredient?)

I have to admit that I got off to a slow start. I was a bit overwhelmed by everyone else who was milling around me and seemed so certain of what they were going to make. Some of my fellow classmates had taken classes with Chef Andy before. There were even a couple of guys who appeared to own a barbecue restaurant. They looked like experts while I was just a little girl whose mom had taught her how to cook. As Chef Andy and his assistants floated around from station to station offering suggestions, I scoped out some of the ingredients and eventually started to think of my mom’s cooking style and her homeland, the Philippines. I started thinking tropical and picked up mangoes and garlic, ginger and sriracha sauce. Suddenly I felt like I was getting my groove. As I tossed more ingredients into my bowl, I became more confident. That’s when I remembered that some of the greatest things are made by guessing or by accident. I started tasting and adjusting ingredients and wound up with a mango ginger bbq sauce. However, I noticed that I still had quite a bit of sauce left in my bowl. That’s when I decided to be brave and toss some pineapple slices in for tropical BBQ sauce #2. After all the blending, stirring and mixing, I wound up with five jars of two different sauces that I was quite pleased with.

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After we were satisfied with our sauces, Chef Andy unveiled a cut of beef that he had been smoking for eight hours, potato salad and barbecued chicken. The meal and lesson were well worth the price! That evening I sampled the tenderest meat I had ever eaten with my custom made BBQ sauce.

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I couldn’t wait to dig into this meal! (And look, there’s the perfect spot for my homemade sauce on the plate).

The lesson, the food and the take home souvenirs were great. (Who wouldn’t want a summer worth of BBQ sauce that they made themselves?) But the best part of the evening was sampling everyone else’s sauces (and getting the opportunity to trade!) I scored a jar of smoky blueberry sauce with a classmate who was interested in my tropical blend. I tasted everything from spicy sauces to a peachy sauce that reminded me of Georgia, but the most memorable was from a young cook who decided to try Fireball Whiskey and apples in his sauce. I wish I could have traded with him, but he was rightfully protective of his concoction. (I would have been, too!)

While the experience was a little pricier than what I usually spend on a night out, I would definitely recommend it to others and do it again. Apparently, Chef Andy Craig offers a deal on Black Friday where you can buy four classes in a bundle for a discount. It’s definitely something worth looking into when the holidays roll around.

Thank you Chef Andy Craig for an awesome experience (and a tasty dinner)! I’m ready for a summer of grilling.

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My first meal using my homemade sauce. Delicious! Homemade tastes so good!

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