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Smoke's Tim Byres on Why Good Barbecue Is About More Than Just the Food

Yesterday, we profiled Tim Byres, chef at Smoke, the restaurant in the Belmont Hotel that serves what Byres describes as "heritage inspired cuisine." (Traditional style cooking, smoking, canning a preserving updated for modern palates, served with a touch of Southern friendliness.) In the second part of our interview with Byres, we hit him with a few questions. Friday, the chef demonstrates how to make smoked sausage from scratch.

City of Ate: How would you define really good barbecue? Tim Byres: I think good BBQ is not just about the food...It involves community, tradition, and a lot of times old stories and local folklore. Really good BBQ restaurants will serve all walks of life from rich to poor all in the same room. To me the experience of ol' time restaurants makes it the best and worth the long drive and expectation.

CofA: What wine goes best with barbecue? Byres: I think sweet wines and full-flavored beers.

CofA: What do you serve the vegetarian guest? Byres: We used to have a vegetarian menu for this alone, but [now] we have so many options and focus on seasonal vegetables, [so] there is always something of interest. I like to feel out the guest and see really what it is that they are looking for and give them the best at hand. At the Beard House we had a vegetarian and barbecued tofu.

CofA: What is the strangest request you have received? Byres: Who knows? My experience is that most special requests come with some kind of "strangeness."

CofA: Tell us about your favorite secret ingredient. Byres: No real secret: Try to cook with the best on hand. I have been pretty active in canning and preserving fruits and vegetables...This is fun and can bring back summer flavors naturally in the dead of winter.

CofA: What chefs influenced you the most in your style of cooking? Byres: Really everyone I have worked for and with, I am trying to stay in the moment and just keep on becoming influenced by it all. Like I am currently in a hotel in Kentucky headed to the horse park...We will see what's next.

CofA: Why are local ingredients so important to your menu? Byres: Because any way you cut it, it tastes better and it is good for the local community. On the food side, I gave you a taste of garden fresh melon, and you said that was what you did not find at the store but wanted. It is because it was picked the same day you tasted it.....better.

CofA: What was your worst kitchen disaster? Byres: Fires are never good. All this wood cooking can become a risk if you do not pay attention. I think the worst was dormant coals that caught a dumpster on fire...I have also seen chimney fires. Safety first.

CofA: What is the best music to cook by? Byres: Currently it would be blues or bluegrass.

CofA: If you could master one sport what would it be? Byres: Fly fishing, nice and peaceful.

CofA: What are some treasures you have planned for the fall menu? Byres: Under construction.

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Steven Doyle

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