Just call him “The Pitmaster.”
Nolensville-based barbeque specialist Patrick Martin is headed to New York City to serve as a pitmaster at the seventh annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.
In the world of ‘cue, this is the equivalent of being named, say, a judge for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, as the BBQ festival is expected to lure more than 125,000 lovers of this beloved brand of pork presentation.
In fact, Martin has been honored as the first barbecue pitmaster from Tennessee to cook at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. The owner of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint will join 13 other of the nation’s most skilled ‘cue specialists at the prestigious festival.
When asked if he’ll incorporate some type of training regimen before heading to Manhattan, Martin said flatly, “I’ll answer that by quoting the late, great Waylon Jennings: ‘This ain’t no dress rehearsal.’”
“It’s the big time.”
Indeed it is, despite the fact that New York City seems no more a BBQ town than Nashville is a place for kosher delis.
“New York is the biggest melting pot of people in the world, and it’s chock-full of folks who appreciate great barbecue,” Martin said, squashing the stereotype. “It’s the Big Apple, it’s the big time, and I can’t think of a better stage.”
Martin will take that stage well prepared, as the veteran BBQ specialist has taken 20 years of industry experience to perfect his signature style: West Tennessee whole hog.
“It started with a grill when I was real young,” he said of his hog-related background. “My dad and both grandfathers were very regimented in that we did not own a gas grill or use lighter fluid. We had a Weber and a charcoal chimney with newspaper to get it started.”
Martin recalled a time on the deck with his pop grilling ribeyes.
“I said, ‘Dad, Billy Long’s daddy uses a gas grill and doesn’t have to do all that stuff to start the fire. Why don’t we get one of those?’ Looking back on it, his answer was very telling: ‘We don’t do that; we do it this way.’”
After graduating from high school in Corinth, Miss., Martin journeyed to Freed-Hardeman University, a private Church of Christ-affiliated college in Henderson, Tenn. The town is surrounded by quality ‘cue emporiums.
“I started hanging around those old barbecue joints and got hooked,” he said.
Years later, Martin speaks the language of the hog.
“The deal is there are just some things in which the right way is the only way,” he said. “Bacon should be made with a dry cure — not a wet cure. Moonshine ought to be made with white corn and not sugar. Baseball should only be played with wooden bats.”
With West Tennessee whole hog, Martin cooks the entirety of the swine instead of individual cuts of meat. The process for both is similar, involving very low temperatures (190-200 degrees for 24 hours or so).
“But the skill lies in cooking your larger cuts such as shoulders and hams without drying out your smaller cuts such as your loins and belly meat (from which bacon is derived),” he explained.
Martin said he admires Jim ’N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, taking cues (weak pun intended) from the respected chain.
“If you are going to be in the barbecue business and be anything other than a single store, I think you have to emulate the model they have set,” he said. “They have awesome food, stunning service and great atmosphere. They have grown without compromising who they are or the quality of their food. When you are at one of their locations, you forget that there is more than that one location you are in. That’s very tough to do.”
Martin would like to both grow his business and undertake some world traveling to sample BBQ.
“I would like to [travel] when I have the time and the money,” he said. “That may be a little while though, as all my money is tied up in the restaurant. Right now, I’m broker than a redneck trailer window.”
Still, Martin has managed to sample some exotic BBQ fare.
“Internationally, some of my favorites are “babi berguling” which is Balinese-style (Indonesia) roast pig that is unreal. There is a floral taste, almost sweet, because of the banana leaves you use in the process. Slow-roasted goat, also known as chivas, is one of my favorite things to eat. There is a stigma with goat. But, I’m telling you that when it’s done well, you’ll eat it like it’s your last meal before heading to the gas chamber.”
As to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, Martin said his primary objective is to “have fun.”
“That being said, it’s also important to use this opportunity to promote and grow the Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint brand locally. We’ve been open almost three years, and I feel we still have a long way to go in terms of brand awareness. We’re still an unknown commodity to a large part of the Nashville market.”
Martin said serving as a pitmaster at the festival is like a barbecue sandwich, coleslaw and baked beans dream meal come true.
“To be recognized among your peers and mentioned with the pitmasters at this event is as big as it gets,” he said. “Guys like Kenny Callaghan, Ed Mitchell, Chris Lilly and Mike Mills — these guys are legends in the world of barbecue.”
Patrick Martin has now reached BBQ legendary status himself.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
7215 Nolensville Road