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Pork Barrel BBQ – Media

 
 

Pork Barrel BBQ to appear on Fox News show Fox & Friends this Memorial Day Weekend – Sunday, May 30 at 7 am-11 am

Pork Barrel BBQ will be on the hit Fox News show Fox & Friends Live this Sunday (May 30) in New York City from 7am – 11am EST smoking and grilling some of our favorite Memorial Day and summer BBQ foods.   We will be sharing our award winning recipes and using our Pork Barrel BBQ sauce and Barbeque Dry Rub.  We hope you’ll tune in!Here are some photos from our last adventure on Fox & Friends in 2009!

Here’s the Pork Barrel BBQ team (Mango Mike, Bill Blackburn, our incredible distributor Tim Ashman, Brett and Heath) with Fox & Friends Alisyn Camerota, Clayton Morris, Dave Briggs and Rick Reichmuth !
Here we are filming one of our segments – they are trying our award winning Pork Barrel BBQ!
We arrived at midnight the evening before filming to check out Times Square – here’s the Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant group – Brett, Bill, Heath (is that a Pat Green shirt?) and Mango Mike!
 

Pork Barrel BBQ Guest Food Chat on Northern Virginia Magazine’s – Grill Warren Food Chat

Pork Barrel BBQ was a guest on Grill Warren today, a food chat sponsored by Northern Virginia Magazine.  Below is the chat:

Pork Barrel BBQ Guest Food Chat

In early 2006 in the midst of a Congressional Appropriations debate an idea was born by two fatigued United States Senate staffers who were working late and dreaming of good BBQ while Senators were arguing the merits of Pork Barrel Spending.  Those staffers were us and that idea is now a reality – Pork Barrel BBQ.  We’d especially like to thank our families and friends who have supported us in this endeavor from the lighting of the first briquette.

Our national award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and All American Spice Rub are products we are sure you will reach for when you are looking to add an All American flavor to the meats, fish, poultry and vegetables you are grilling, smoking, barbecuing, or simply cooking in your kitchen.  Made of all natural ingredients with no preservatives or MSG, our products have a tasty and tangy flavor with the perfect amount of smokin’ kick!

We are also very excited to have teamed with “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn, two of the area’s top resaurateurs, to bring the first Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant to the Del Ray Neighborhood of Alexandria.  The restaurant, which is currently under construction, will open later this summer and be in the heart of Del Ray on Mt. Vernon Avenue.

Rosslyn
What part of the pig (shoulder, butt) do you all use for your pulled pork? And where do you buy it? I want to start smoking my own at home but can’t seem to get my hands on primo pork with any type of regularity.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Pulled Pork – one of our favorite topics!!!

We’ll be competing in the 2010 World Championship of Pork BBQ’s Pork Shoulder contest next week at Memphis in May. We’ll be using the full shoulder (defined as the portion of the hog containing the arm bone, shank bone, and a portion of the blade bone) for this contest. At contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and at home we usually use the Boston butt or picnic shoulder. We rub our shoulders with olive oil and our All American Spice Rub and slow smoke them for 10-14 hours over a combination of hardwood charcoal, hickory and oak

If you are looking to get your hands on primo pork 365 days a year there is only one place to go in the Washington, D.C. area – Wagshal’s in D.C. There domestic pork is the best I’ve ever had, but if you really want to treat yourself to primo pork go with the Iberico pork from Spain (they are the only store in the United States to carry this exotic bread which gets its creamy taste from its diet of acorns). Check out Wagshal’s at www.wagshals.com and www.ibericousa.com.

Alexandria, VA
We are really excited for the Pork Barrel restaurant to open in Del Ray. What can you tell us about when it will open and what to expect at the restaurant?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
It has been a dream of ours for some time to open up a Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant and we couldn’t think of a better place to open the first one than Del Ray. We’ve been a Del Ray company from the beginning. We operate out of the basement of Brett’s house in Del Ray, Let’s Meat on the Avenue was the first retail outlet to sell our sauce and rubs, and the UPS Store in Del Ray does all of our shipping! It was a stroke of luck that our paths crossed with “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn who were looking to open a BBQ joint in the Del Ray neighborhood.

We plan to be open later this summer (August/September) at the corner of Mt. Vernon Ave. and Oxford Ave. in Del Ray.

We plan to offer a menu full of the BBQ classics you’d expect to find in any of the best Que Joints in North or South Carolina, Texas, Memphis or Kansas City. Our signature menu items will include pulled pork, brisket, and pork ribs. You’ll find sides that include BBQ baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. We’ll also be serving up some of the tastiest deserts around including our signature desert – bourbon bread pudding.

We can’t wait to see you at the restaurant – make sure you seek us out and say hi!!!

Fairfax
I can’t seem to get it right. Mine just gets too dry. What’s the secret?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
There are a few keys elements to keeping your BBQ moist:

1) Get a great piece of meat (there needs to be a good fat marbling throughout the meat for large pieces of meat that you’ll be smoking for an extended amount of time).

2) Keep the temperature of your smoker at a constant temperature between 225-250 degrees – dramatic spikes in the temperature of your grill will dry your meat out quicker.

3) Keep your meat moist by injecting it before you begin the smoking process, spraying it with a liquid (apple juice for example for pork shoulder and pork ribs) and keep a water pan in your smoker (there are a number of smokers with built in water pans like the very reasonably price Weber Smoky Mountain) filled with water, beer, or juice.

4) Don’t over cook your meat – make sure you measure the internal temperature and once it reaches the desired temperature remove it.

5) Don’t cut your meat once it is off the grill, let it rest. If you cut it too fast you will loose a large amount of the meats juices leading to a dryer product.

Fredericksburg
Vinegar sauces suck. You know it and I know it.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
If there is one thing we love about BBQ sauce, it is how much passion it brings out in the folks who love it. Some like their sauce hot and others like it sweet. Some like it smoky and others like it tangy. Some swear by tomato based sauces, others vinegar based sauces, others mustard based sauces and still others swear by the unique and hard to find mayonnaise based sauces.

We currently have three sauces on the market – our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce (which was voted the 2nd best BBQ Sauce in the Nation at last years National BBQ Battle), our Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce and a Gluten Free version of our original sauce. In the months to come we plan to introduce a Spicy version of our Original BBQ Sauce, a Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce (we won’t make you use this one), and a Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce.

You can get all of our sauces online at www.porkbarrelbbq.com or at local stores including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and Let’s Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray.

Alexandria
I know… we need a good bbq place around here.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are looking forward to bringing authentic BBQ to the Nation’s Capital!! If you’re a fan of pork ribs, brisket, pulled pork and sausage we hope you’ll come down and give us a try!

We’re pretty sure you’ll find Pork Barrel BBQ to be just the place you’re looking for.

We should be open in August/September down on Mt. Vernon Ave. and Oxford Ave. in Del Ray.

Arlandria
Was just poking around on your site and saw the recipe for smoked turkey. Tell me you all are going to have smoked turkey at your restaurant year-round.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Thanksgiving has always been one of our favorite holidays and we couldn’t even begin to think of celebrating Thanksgiving without a couple smoked turkeys on the table.

We are still finalizing our menu for the restaurant and haven’t yet decided if we’ll have turkey on the menu year round. Follow us at www.porkbarrelbbq.com and on our Twitter account at www.twitter.com/porkbarrelbbq to get the latest news on the menu.

Fairfax, VA
Would I be able to buy your BBQ sauce from the store when it opens?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Our line of Pork Barrel BBQ products, which currently include our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce, Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce, a Gluten Free version of our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce and our Pork Barrel BBQ All American Spice Rub, can be purchased in the following area locations:

Balducci’s
Bloom
Harris Teeter
Let’s Meat on the Ave.
Wagshal’s
Wegmans
Whole Foods
World Market (soon)

For a full list of locations visit us at http://www.porkbarrelbbq.com/store-locations/

We’ll be announcing more retail locations soon. You will also be able to buy it at the restaurant when it opens. You can always buy it on our website at www.porkbrrelbbq.com.

Crystal City
What bbq places did you all eat at while doing your research? Any new discoveries in VA/NC to report on? I travel up and down I95 pretty extensively and would love to hear about any worthwhile pitstops to add to my rotation.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are both from Missouri so much of our formative years in BBQ come from BBQ restaurants in the Kansas City area. Kansas City is to BBQ as this area is to crabcakes. I grew up on Gates BBQ and Arthur Bryant’s, two Kansas City legends – and one of them is still my first stop when I’m back in Kansas City. Over the years I came to enjoy places in Kansas City like Oklahoma Joe’s (they operate out of a gas station), LC’s and Jack Stack.

One of the reasons we wanted to start Pork Barrel BBQ was because we felt this area was missing the kind of BBQ we grew up on. In Kansas City there are BBQ joints on every other block and the one a local might call the worst in town would be held as a crown jewel in many communities across the country – it is an embarrassment of riches. We hope to bring a slice of what we grew up on to the DC area – there will be something there for everyone whether you fancy yourself a Carolina, Texas, Memphis, Kansas City or some other region of BBQ fan.

With our partnership with “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn of Mango Mike’s we think we’ll be able to provide the best BBQ the DC area has to offer and we hope you’ll stop in and decide for yourself if we are.

If you check out our blog at http://www.porkbarrelbbq.com/category/best-bbq-joints-in-america/ you can read some of our reviews on The Best BBQ Joints in America.

I personally got my start in BBQ thanks to my dad. I always like to say my dad is the postal worker of BBQ – rain, sleet, snow, sun, wind and winter, spring, summer, and fall he was always grilling or smoking something in our backyard as I grew up. I learned my love of BBQ from him and continue to learn both from and with him as he often joins us at BBQ contests across the country.

Centreville
What made to decide to open the restaurant in Del Ray and not any other location?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We decided to open our first Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant in Del Ray because we are a Del Ray company. When we began selling our first product (our All American Spice Rub) in December of 2008 we ran it our of Brett’s house in Del Ray. The first store to carry us in a retail setting was Let’s Meat on the Avenue (our restaurant is just across the street from Steve’s amazing butcher shop). The small business loan we got to get the company up and running was given to us by Burke and Herbert Bank just a few blocks from the restaurant site. All of our shipping is handled by the UPS Store that is on the same block as our new restaurant. It just seemed like the right place to open.

Then the stars aligned and we met “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn of Mango Mike’s and they were looking at opening a BBQ joint in Del Ray and we knew it was meant to be.

We hope to open a number of other Pork Barrel BBQ’s in the Washington, D.C. area over the next few years so we may be coming to a neighborhood near you soon!

Arlington
What makes you think your BBQ is gonna be any better than the stuff we’ve already got? (King Street Blues and Rocklands are my faves)

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
BBQ is just about as personal of a dining experience as any type of cuisine; in fact, it may be the most personal. Our goal is to provide the highest quality BBQ in the region at an affordable price.

All of the recipes we’ll be using at the restaurant weren’t developed with a restaurant in mind, they were developed on the competition BBQ circuit with the understanding that they’d be going up against the best BBQ teams and pitmasters in the world. In order to be successful at these contests we have to use the highest quality products and meats in our recipes and we plan to replicate these efforts at the restaurant.

Great BBQ is also not a thing of speed. We won’t be boiling our ribs and throwing them on a gas grill at the end or roasting our pork shoulder in ovens. We’ll be replicating our cooking methods from the BBQ competition circuit at the restaurant. For example, we slow smoke our pork shoulders for 10-14 hours.

We also think one our Ace in the Hole is our sauces and rubs. Our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce was voted the 2nd best sauce in the nation at last years National BBQ Battle. Our rubs have been called some of the best on the competition BBQ circuit by veteran pitmasters and classically trained chefs alike.

We look forward to having you visit us when we open later this summer (August/September) – we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Jefferson City, MO
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in getting your company growing in this economy?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
The idea for Pork Barrel BBQ was born on a late night while we both worked in the United States Senate. It was during a budget debate – while the Senate was debating Pork Barrel spending on the floor we were debating what we were going to have for a late night dinner and we came to the conclusion that we sure wished there was a good BBQ joint near by that we could get some food from. That night Pork Barrel BBQ was born.

A lot of our friends though we were crazy to be starting a business in some of the worst economic times since the Great Depression, but we wanted to prove to them and other entrepreneurs that if you have a good idea, a good product, a willingness to work long and hard, and a few people that believe in you that the free market is not only a viable means to economic prosperity, it is the best means to it.

Our biggest challenge was getting the financial backing that we needed. After looking around for sometime we decided to visit a local neighborhood bank, Burke & Herbert, and ask them for a small business loan. They listened to our pitch and believed in us and our product and gave us the access to money that we needed to take our product out of our basement and into more than 1,000 stores across the country. Our experience on Shark Tank taught us that there are many entrepreneurs who face this challenge everyday – we fell lucky to have found such a great partner in Burke & Herbert Bank.

D.C.
Was Shark Tank as nerve-wracking as it looked (the investors were so smug)?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Shark Tank was an amazing experience for us. Our Pork Barrel BBQ Sauces and Rub were in 5 stores before we went on Shark Tank and by the end of May we’ll be in more than 1,000 stores in 40 states. I think it was less nerve wracking for us than some of the other contestants because of our background as lawyers and Senate staffers. We approached it as if we were preparing for a trial before a panel of judges and that allowed us to be prepared for just about anything.

After watching all of the episodes of the show we realized we either did a good job answering Kevin O’Leary’s questions or we got lucky. He certainly became the villain of the show for many of the entrepreneurs, but he even said our BBQ Sauce and Rub was excellent!

We’re excited to be working with Barbara Corcoran, who we secured a deal with on the show. She has provided us with a lot of incite and together we are working on some exciting opportunities that we look forward to announcing soon.

If you are a fan of Shark Tank make sure you go to www.abc.com and let them know you’d like to see a second season!

Del Ray
Hey Heath and Brett, When is your restaurant supposed to open? And more importantly will you deliver?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are planning to have our first Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant open later this summer (August/September) in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria (corner of Mount Vernon Ave. and Oxford Ave.).

We do plan to have a limited delivery service to the local community. We’re still working the details of this out, but you’ll be able to find all the details at www.porkbarrelbbq.com once we open.

Hope to see you at the restaurant later this summer!

Del Ray
I am a Del Ray resident and look forward to enjoying BBQ on the Avenue. I know that there has been a lot of controversy concerning your restaurant smoke and smells. I hope that you can fit in with the rest of the community to respect existing residential neighbors. How sure are you that the restaurant will not be a nuisance to the neighbors? And, are you willing to work with the neighbors after opening to fix any problems that the restaurant may pose to their homes and quality of life? Thank you!

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are very excited about the opportunity to be in Del Ray and add to vibrancy of the community and provide a great family dining opportunity.

If there is one thing we hope the neighborhood has been able to see in the past couple months it is our willingness to work with the community. We don’t think you’ll find a better set of business owners to work with. Among the changes we have made as we listened to the concerns of the neighborhood are:

Although we originally requested a 2:00 am closing time, we’ve listened to the comments of the residents and the Del Ray Citizens Association Land Use Committee and have amended our hours of operation request to 12:00 am Sunday – Thursday, and 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday. We have received a lot of support from residents on the need for late night dining in Del Ray and these reduced hours meet that need while balancing the character of Mt. Vernon Avenue. The Del Ray Citizens Association Executive Board has voted in support of these hours of operation.

We agreed to eliminate the door on Oxford Avenue to reduce street traffic for neighbors.

We agreed to no outdoor seating on Oxford Avenue to reduce noise levels for nearby neighbors.

We agreed to have our delivery vehicle use Mt. Vernon Avenue instead of Oxford Avenue. The delivery drivers will turn off engines during deliveries. Delivery schedules will be made with the least amount of impact to traffic and the community.

We previously announced a major change in the equipment we are using to cook the food. We are no longer using a wood only smoker and instead we are going to a cooker that uses gas as the heat source and only 1-3 pieces of wood per 12 hour cooking cycle to add flavor (much less than an average fireplace or backyard grill). As an extra step, we have also agreed to add special filters to the exhaust hood and install a state-of-the-art dilution fan on the roof. This technology was originally developed for use in the chemical industry and will mix fresh air with the exhaust air and then vent it above the building. These changes have added over $35,000 to the cost of the project, but we felt it was important to address these concerns on the front end of our time in the neighborhood.

We are looking forward to being a part of the community and believe these steps show just how committed we are to opening a successful business in a manner that fits well in the Del Ray community.

Alexandria
Will you all be making dry-rub ribs or does everything come out pre-sauced?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Yes, we will be serving dry rub ribs at Pork Barrel BBQ! The great thing about BBQ is how personal it is for each of us. Some of us like our BBQ dry and others like it wet. We hope to please folks from both camps.

We actually started out as a dry rub company in December of 2008. Our dry rub, which you can get at a number of area stores including Harris Teeter, Bloom, and Let’s Meat on the Avenue, was developed for our competition BBQ team and we use it in contests across America – we’ll be using it next week in Memphis at Memphis in May, the World Championship of Pork BBQ! We’re very proud of the rub and the smoky flavor it imparts on our meats!

fairfax
How is Pork Barrel BBQ different than others?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Our products weren’t originally created for the retail setting – they were developed for use by our competition BBQ team that competes in professional BBQ contests across the country (in fact we’ll be competing at one of the most prestigious events next week – Memphis in May). We created our products to WOW some of the most highly skilled BBQ judges in the world by using the best ingredients available.

Our all sauces and rubs are made of all natural ingredients with no preservatives or MSG, and have a tasty and tangy flavor with the perfect amount of smokin’ kick!

We’ll be cooking all of our meats slow and low to ensure that every bite you take your taste buds will be dancing in your mouth.

We don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your meal. We encourage you to come check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!

 

Pork Barrel BBQ Featured on Good Morning America GMA Job Club with Tory Johnson

Pork Barrel BBQ founders Heath Hall and Brett Thompson were honored to be featured on Good Morning America’s (GMA) Job Club with Tory Johnson to discuss Pork Barrel BBQ’s appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank and their award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauces and Dry Rub.  To learn more about Good Morning America’s (GMA) Job Club with Tory Johnson’s – be sure to visit http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/JobClub/.  Also stop by http://www.porkbarrelbbq.com/store/ to order your Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and Rub – it’s perfect on whatever you are cooking or grilling!

 

Looking for Love? Think Pork Barrel BBQ Award Winning BBQ Sauce and Dry Rub!

Pork Barrel BBQ was honored to be featured in the Washington Post Express as a great local Valentines Day treat!  We, of course, think BBQ Sauce is the perfect way to that special someone’s heart – so give the gift of BBQ love this Valentine’s Day with Pork Barrel BBQ!

Washington Post Express Featuring Pork Barrel BBQ

 

Pork Barrel BBQ Shark Tank Audition Video

The video that started it all!  Watch Pork Barrel BBQ’s Heath Hall and Brett Thompson on their Pork Barrel BBQ Shark Tank Audition Video. Includes special guests former Sen. Jim Talent, Rep. Max Sandlin, Rep. Ernest Istook, Media Personality Tucker Carlson and Top Chef contestants Carla Hall and Ariane Duarte.

 

Pork Barrel BBQ Shark Tank Follow-up

Pork Barrel BBQ was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank – click on the video below to watch the clip!
 

The Del Ray BBQ Boys Celebrate Their New Restaurant (and a food writer inadvertently becomes part of the story)

 

Here’s an amazing post by Jordan Wright over at whiskandquill.com!

The Del Ray BBQ Boys Celebrate Their New Restaurant (and a food writer inadvertently becomes part of the story)

 Jordan Wright

Whisk and Quill – http://whiskandquill.com/?p=1039

October 20

I arrived early on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray last week. Brett Thompson and Heath Hall, creators and owners of Pork Barrel BBQ were setting up the tables, pitching the tent and catching up with old friends and supporters in anticipation of the day’s groundbreaking ceremony for their new restaurant venture. In July I wrote about the “Del Ray BBQ Boys”, as I had nicknamed them, for localkicks.com after meeting them and sampling their delicious wares at National Harbor’s Food and Wine Festival. NBC News Washington had picked up my story and it had skyrocketed to tens of thousands more “eyes” on it.

Thompson walked over and said, “This restaurant is all because of you and your story about us. We want to thank you.”

Stunned, I stammered, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, “Mango” Mike read your story on us,” he revealed. (“Mango” Mike, of the eponymous restaurant on Duke Street.) “He googled it up and that’s how he found out about us and offered to back us in this restaurant.”

Of course it was also because back in September they had appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank series and considerably more people had come to know them and their story as former Hill staffers and Virginia-based entrepreneurs.

I looked around at their dream come true. On hand were Alexandria’s Mayor, Bill Euille, Vice Mayor, Kerry Donnelly, Councilman Frank Fannon and Linda and Steve Hubbard, dressed in their UPS chocolate brown and gold uniforms, who own the fulfillment center, where over 1,000 bottles and jars of Pork Barrel BBQ’s fabulous sauce and rub are shipped to eager customers around the country. Everyone came ready to cheer on the boys. Restaurant backers “Mango” Mike and Bill Blackburn, arriving in their massive gold touring bus, were doing the meet-and-greet, while pork smokers wafted waves of heavenly barbecue aroma over the crowd of supporters who milled around with neighborhood business owners and Del Ray’s artsy crowd.

Breaking ground in Del Ray with ABC's Shark Hunt film crew  - photo by Jordan Wright

A couple of local newspaper publishers doing their own event coverage added to the eclectic local crowd along with a “P-O-R-K” fan club made up of four skinny half-naked pig-snouted students from Bishop Ireton High School, all eager to be in on the celebration and tasting. It was the usual set up for a groundbreaking. Golden shovels and giant scissors gleamed in the warm September sun.

But one thing was different…stunningly noticeably different…from any other ribbon cutting in any other town in North America, or the world for that matter.

Because, for this small groundbreaking ceremony for two nice guys in business for less than a year, taking place in a small suburb of Alexandria, Virginia across from the local farmers market held on Saturday mornings in a dentist’s parking lot, Hollywood was on site to cover it. Big time!

ABC’s Shark Tank film crew had shown up full tilt with cameraman, soundman and microphones to record the event for a later show in the boys continuing success saga; and invitees, who knew about the planned coverage in advance, were checking out the action…playing it cool for the cameras.

 

Photos of Pork Barrel BBQ on Fox and Friends!

Things have been a bit busy at Pork Barrel BBQ – but under the better late than never approach, we wanted to share some photos of our adventure to New York with the awesome folks at Fox & Friends!

Here’s the Pork Barrel BBQ team (Mango Mike, Bill Blackburn, our incredible distributor Tim Ashman, Brett and Heath) with Fox & Friends Alisyn Camerota, Clayton Morris, Dave Briggs and Rick Reichmuth !
Here we are filming one of our segments – they are trying our award winning Pork Barrel BBQ!
 
We arrived at midnight the evening before filming to check out Times Square – here’s the Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant group – Brett, Bill, Heath (is that a Pat Green shirt?) and Mango Mike!
 

Former Senate staffers launch barbecue company – TheHill.com

Former Senate staffers launch barbecue company – TheHill.com

Former Senate staffers launch barbecue company

By Kris Kitto – 09/23/09 06:49 PM ET

It was 1 o’clock in the morning, and Heath Hall and Brett Thompson were in Russell Senate Office Building Room 493, watching yet another debate over pork-barrel spending.

All they could think about was barbecue from their home state of Missouri.

Sadly, they were eating Armand’s pizza — again — one of the few late-night options on Capitol Hill. As the lawmakers droned on, Hall and Thompson lamented the limited barbecue offerings in Washington.

It was then that the pie-in-the-sky idea hit them. Pork Barrel BBQ — that would be a good name for a barbecue company!

Three years later, Hall and Thompson, both 35, have guided their fledgling company on a path neither one imagined on that seminal night. They have won prestigious taste awards and appeared on national television on account of their barbecue rub and sauce, and are poised to expand their sales and open a restaurant in Alexandria.

The duo got perhaps their biggest boost earlier this month when they appeared on ABC’s new show “Shark Tank,” which puts entrepreneurs before a panel of potential investors. Pork Barrel BBQ came away with a $50,000 investment from New York real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran (though Hall’s ego may have taken a loss, as Corcoran prefaced her offer by telling him, “I can’t look at you without picturing you in a pig costume”).

Hall and Thompson’s barbecue dream has meant spending hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy spices for flavor experimentation, pulling pork at 3 a.m. to prepare for event tastings and working grocery-store sample tables on holidays — all while holding down full-time jobs.

“I cooked, I calculated, a half-ton of pork over the last two and half months,” said Thompson, sitting with Hall last week at an Alexandria coffee shop just steps from the site of the restaurant. The two were headed to New York shortly thereafter for an appearance on the Saturday edition of Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” morning show.

Thompson was Sen. Jim Talent’s (R-Mo.) legislative director in the Senate, Hall a legislative assistant.

But the two lost their Senate jobs when Talent was defeated in 2006. Thompson now works as a lobbyist at IGR Group, and Hall is a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

Though the food industry provides an unlikely segue for departing congressional staffers, both Thompson and Hall have personal histories that give sense to their latest move.

“I was the kid that had the lemonade stand that would stay out after dark for the extra $5,” Thompson said. He went on to start two other small companies — a cake business in college that catered to parents looking for something sweet to send their homesick co-eds, and a music recording company he started after college.

Hall, meanwhile, has always loved food. He comes from a family that enjoys cooking, and he once had an idea for a restaurant in high school after burning a pot while making his famed queso dip.
“My mom said something like, ‘You’ve got to come clean this scorched pot — you guys did it,’ ” he recalled. “And I was like, ‘Oh, “Scorched Pot,” ’ ” — though that restaurant never
materialized.

Despite Thompson’s early entrepreneurship and Hall’s gastronomical interests — he at one point considered culinary school — they both pursed politics.

Thompson met Talent as a high school sophomore and shortly thereafter began volunteering on his first campaign for a House seat. He worked for Talent through college and law school. When his boss landed in the Senate in 2002, he followed.

Hall interned for John Ashcroft, then a Missouri senator, while in college and returned to Washington after law school, at which time he also won a spot in Talent’s Senate office.

The senator quickly caught on to Hall’s love of food. Hall is known to grow several varieties of tomatoes outside his Washington home, and Talent once e-mailed him during a plane trip over a South Iraq tomato field to tell him he’d found a place where Hall could work after the Senate.

Once they left the Senate, they began experimenting with spice rubs, inviting friends over for their “Kitchen Cabinet” tastings.

Former Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Texas), with whom Thompson now works at IGR, was one of the early fans.

“I’m from Texas, and I know barbecue,” Sandlin said in a phone interview. “It’s like politics in this way: You need a good product, hard work and a little love — and I think they have all three.”

Sandlin has shown up so frequently at Pork Barrel BBQ’s tastings that Hall and Thompson have begun to refer to him jokingly as their international chairman. Sandlin has also been sending the rubs and sauces as gifts to friends and family.

Apparently Talent is a fan, too. On the Pork Barrel BBQ website, one customer testimonial reads, “I used the All American Spice Rub to grill chicken for my teenage daughters — they said it was the best chicken I have ever made — I’m a customer for life!”

The comment came courtesy of a Jim from St. Louis. Talent is from St. Louis and has two daughters. (Hall and Thompson laughed as they admitted that this was Talent.)

Pork Barrel BBQ continues to ride its wave of success. It won the Taste of Del Ray (Alexandria) 2009 People’s Choice Award earlier this month and placed second in the Best BBQ Sauce category and fourth in the Pulled Pork category at the Safeway National Capital BBQ Battle in June. The products are now available online and in 65 stores in four states and Washington. And the Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant, being launched jointly with the owners of Alexandria’s Mango Mike’s restaurant, is set to open in spring 2010.

Hall and Thompson have finally answered that question about good, local barbecue that they pondered as Senate staffers in 2006 — to the point that it has become their lives. Will they ever get sick of eating barbecue?

Said Hall, “Never.”

 

All Eyes On: Heath Hall – TruLife

All Eyes On: Heath Hall – TruLife

All Eyes On: Heath Hall

By: Emma Mueller

Posted: 9/24/09

Oink. Oink. Oink. No, it isn’t H1N1 that has people talking. Pork Barrel BBQ, co-founded by Truman alumnus Heath Hall, has been gaining quite the buzz lately.

Hall, an employee of former Missouri Senator Jim Talent, created the company along with Brett Thompson in the winter of 2006. Not only will they open a restaurant in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va. this spring, but Pork Barrel BBQ also holds the No. 1 spot for barbecue on Twitter with 18,000 followers.

Hall said the idea for the business resulted from a late night craving for some barbecue during a Senate budget debate.

“While the Senate was debating pork-barrel spending projects and earmarks, we were debating what we were going to have for dinner that night,” Hall said. “I had pizza for about four or five nights in a row and, coming from Missouri, I was like ‘Man, wouldn’t it be great if there were a barbecue restaurant somewhere in the neighborhood?’ There wasn’t anything good in the neighborhood, so we started thinking ‘Pork barrel spending, pork-barrel barbecue.’”

Hall turned his small glimmer of an idea into a successful establishment. Pork Barrel BBQ consists of two products: a barbecue sauce and an all-American spice rub. The products are made with all-natural ingredients and contain no preservatives or MSG. Hall doesn’t classify Pork Barrel BBQ sauce as one particular style, but instead said it reflects his roots: politics.

“We’ll be able to bring a little bit of all the styles of barbecue to the restaurant,” Hall said. “Obviously, Brett and I being from Missouri, we are kind of schooled in the Kansas City style, but we want to be able to hopefully let them [the customers] recall some memories of their favorite [barbecue] restaurant back home.”

The restaurant will feature sauces from all regions of the country, not just the Kansas City influence.

“We’re going to have Carolina vinegar sauce and a Carolina barbecue sauce,” Hall said. “Our original sauce I would classify somewhere between the Kansas City and Texas style sauce. It’s a smoky, tangy sauce. It’s got a little bit of heat, but it’s not super hot. We’re going to be doing a hot sauce, a sweeter sauce and a mango-chipotle barbecue sauce.”

In addition to their brand new restaurant “Pork Barrel BBQ” opening this spring, Hall and Thompson were featured on the ABC show “Shark Tank,” which allows entrepreneurs to pitch their idea in front of five investors in the hopes that their idea will be backed financially by one or more of the investors.

“It was really a shock to us when we got an e-mail and a call from Mark Burnett Productions saying that they’ve been following our company,” Hall said. “Three weeks later we finished about 50 pages of paperwork, a five-minute audition tape and got the call back from them that they were interested in us coming out. It was a pretty interesting experience.

“The opportunity for this level of exposure was something Hall said he never thought he would achieve. Hall said not only did they have their very own Hollywood star trailer, complete with their names on the door, but he and Thompson also were sworn to secrecy for two months until the show aired.

“Out of the five sharks, we ended up getting a deal with Barbara Corcoran, who is a real estate mogul from New York,” Hall said. “She gave us $50,000 for a 50 percent stake in the company, and we’re really excited to work with her. She’s a real shark, a real go-getter. We’re still trying to finalize everything, but we’re sure it’s going to be a great partnership.

“Even with all the new opportunities that have resulted because of one late night idea, Hall always has had a love for food, especially barbecue.

“My dad has always been known as the post office guy of barbecue,” Hall said. “He’s always barbecuing in rain, sleet, snow, summer, winter, fall, spring. It doesn’t matter, he’s always out there on the grill. So a lot of my love for barbecue came from him.”