The Lock-In is Blacknight’s podcast for sharing people’s stories as we adapt to life during a pandemic. Today we’re talking to Ruairi Browne of Great Northern Larder, who have launched an Indiegogo campaign to build a barbecue venue in the Cooley Peninsula.
Click on the player below to play the podcast audio (download: 17:36; 10MB; MP3), or scroll down to watch the video.
Great Northern Larder was founded in 2017 by Ruairi and his partner Laura. “It’s mostly a sauce company”, he says – the company currently has a range of 11 sauces.
They’ve seen strong demand for their sauces and condiments as many people have used lockdown as an opportunity to explore backyard cooking. “The growth in barbecue this summer has been phenomenal”, he says.
Their next step is a plan to bring something different to Ireland: a barbecue take-away service devoted to the kind of slow, smoky cooking which produces very tender meat dishes.
“The Southern American tradition of barbecue is about big, traditionally cheap, joints of meat, the tough parts of the beef or the tough parts of the pig, and they cook them very low and very slow, over 12, 13, even 24 hours, over wood, and what that does is, the smoke and the low heat from the wood breaks down the fibres in the meat and breaks down the fat and you end up with pulled pork or very soft juicy pork brisket or fall-off-the-bones ribs. It’s all about having the lid closed, having the heat low, having a small amount of nice white smoke. It’s about patience. It’s about cooking to temperature instead of time.”
This approach can result in a certain amount of uncertainty regarding time, which means that many restaurants will have cooked barbecue overnight and kept it in a warming oven. Ruairi is keen to point out that there’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it misses out on the experience of serving food which has been cooked just right and served when it’s ready.
When it’s ready, it’s ready; when it’s gone, it’s gone
“You can’t beat the real flavour of brisket that’s just – you have to let it rest – but basically it’s fresh off the barbecue, and the way they do it in America is they just have this attitude of: we’re putting on the brisket at 4am; when it’s ready, it’s ready; you’ll get food when it’s ready to be served; and when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Ruairi and Laura have taken inspiration from Franklin Barbecue in Texas.
“The way that works is they cook their brisket overnight and, around 11am, give or take, they open the doors and there are queues two miles long down the street and you could be queueing from 5 or 6 am”
It’s not some place you would go for lunch, he explains. You take the day off and treat the experience as a special occasion.
“We’re going to bend that a little bit towards Irish habits”, Ruairi says, explaining that they plan to stagger the cooking and aim to have food ready in the evening for people after work.
It’s an uncertain time to launch a new dining experience, he admits, but he also feels that people are more open to the idea of really good quality take-away food. The Great Northern Larder barbecue will operate from converted shipping containers and will include some innovations, including a traffic-light system to let customers know when food is ready to serve. Ruairi has a background in software engineering, and he says that they will also update the company’s social media accounts so that customers will know when to come.
The entire project will cost about €30,000, most of which they will finance themselves, with the help of a bank loan. But they’re also giving Irish barbecue enthusiasts the opportunity to invest through a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. The rewards offer real value for money, he explains, including vouchers which can be redeemed when the venue opens or, failing that, they can be spent on the company’s line of sauces and rubs.
“We have t-shirts and socks, and we have barbecue lessons which are actually really good value, so we’re actually asking people to just spend money in advance, as opposed to give us money for free”
Great Northern Larder can be found online at gnl.ie, and on all the major social media platorms, and their Indiegogo campaign can be viewed available here.