People often refer to it as the Roots N Blues Festival, but they often forget that there’s “N BBQ” in the name, too. Soulful music calls for some equally moving food.
Someone has to provide that food to the thousands of fans, volunteers and performers who flock to the festival. These two food truck teams are just the people to do it. Here’s a step-by-step look at who they are and what goes into preparing for such a large event:
Disclaimer: MOVE likes food. This will make you hungry. MOVE isn’t liable for any hunger-related decisions you may make after reading.
Cooking 1,500 lbs of meat 2,500 - 3,000 people they expect to serve Making 500 sandwiches in an hour (previously 60-70) 800 loaves of bread “Truckload of onions” “A whole bed of lettuce”
The Grill-A-Brothers have only been in the food truck business for two months, but some students are saying their barbecue is a must-have. With a background in construction, co-owners Patrick Dierkes and Daniel Thorne, built their 19-foot-long food trailer themselves, adding in refurbished appliances to help with their process.
“In the morning, this is a bakery,” Thorne says. “In the middle of the day, it’s a vegetable cutting station. In the evening, it’s a smokehouse.”
That setup will be changing slightly this week, though, as the Grill-A-Brothers are taking on their biggest event yet.
Normally they bake their own bread in one “big bread circle,” Thorne says, but in order to make the 800 loaves needed, a baker will use the same recipe the Grill-A-Brothers do.
The Grill-A-Brothers make most of their food from scratch and have been prepping food for the entire week up to the event.
“It’s no secret,” Thorne says. “It’s actually my modifications of the first recipe out of a book called ‘The Bread Bible.’”
Thorne and Dierkes will devote most of their time to their pork sandwiches. Twenty pork shoulders will take 12 hours to cook, chicken will take 8-10 hours and ribs will take 5-6 hours in the smoker.
“There’s a point at which meat gets where it doesn’t take anymore smoke, and you’re basically just using your smoker as an oven,” Thorne says. “If you slice a piece of meat, you have what they call a smoke ring, and it will actually be a pink ring, and that’s where the smoke has permeated the meat.”
After the meat has been cooked, it breaks down in a pan until it can be crumbled up with your hands, losing about 50 percent of its weight in the process.
All the meats undergo slightly different preparation processes. The chicken is brined in a saltwater solution for up to 24 hours, which opens the pores of the chicken, allowing it to absorb the salt water, and in turn break down the tissue so it becomes moist and falls off the bone.
“If you can figure out any way to deliver sugar and salt to somebody’s mouth, they’re going to love you,” Thorne says. “All of our sandwiches are a real balance of those two.”
While the majority of their sandwiches feature smoked meat, Grill-A-Brothers will also be offering a vegetarian/vegan option at the festival, as well. Featuring house-made hummus, grilled vegetables, sliced portobello mushrooms and bean sprouts, the “Herbi” will allow a full range of eaters to find a meal at the event.
Trying a new setup at the festival, Grill-A-Brothers will have an 11-person crew to help with throughout three days. Thorne says he believes that the Grill-A-Brothers are taking barbecue to the next level, and being a vendor at Roots N Blues N BBQ will be a whole new level for them, too.
“It’s like going to Mecca,” Thorne says. “It’s really, really exciting. It’s like jumping up and high-fiving yourself because no one’s around.”
The Grill-A-Brothers will be offering a limited menu over the weekend and will feature their top sandwiches: the Tony Montana Cuban sandwich; the General Tso and Tsos chicken sandwich; the drunken pork pulled pork sandwich and the Herbi vegetarian/vegan option, which is also available as gluten-free.
Jamaican Jerk Hut
Cooking 800-1200 lbs of meat 100 gallons of lemonade 144 lbs of rice and beans Just five people working
What started out as a way to make some authentic Jamaican food from back home has now turned into a thriving business of 10 years for Rexroy Scott, the co-owner of the Jamaican Jerk Hut. The slogan, “Jerk it and they will come,” proved true for Scott when he attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City and began to make jerk chicken every Tuesday. The small weekly get-together turned into a block party that grew bigger and bigger each week.
Scott bought a tent from Walmart and rented a grill to sell his jerk chicken for the first time. It was gone in 45 minutes. The jerk chicken is now the establishment’s most popular item.
Veterans of the food truck business, Scott and his crew are bringing a team of five people to man the truck at the festival. Although it’s taken years to perfect the process, Scott stays true to his roots with traditional Jamaican ingredients.
With Roots N Blues being one of their biggest events of the year, they plan to prepare about 800 to 1,200 pounds of meat.
The Jamaican Jerk Hut will be offering its full menu at the festival, because they wouldn’t want anyone to miss their favorite dishes.
“Roots N Blues is about blues and experimentation and people trying different things,” Scott says. “Jamaican cooking is highly influenced by the Rastafarian culture, and there’s a parallel there because we have been really good at experimentation even with food, and our lemonade is an example of that.”
Scott says that their lemonade isn’t really a lemonade, but an explosion of fruit flavors. Taking fruits native to Jamaica and infusing them into the drink has made it more than just a mixture of sugar, water and lemons.
The real comfort food that people come for is the meat, however, which you can find if you follow the trails of smoke and sizzling sounds from behind the truck.
Because of their experience, Scott says they have a deep understanding of the process it takes to cook the meats.
“As much as this is a science, it is an art,” Scott says. “Wind patterns or the direction of the wind to determine when to open or close the vents, depending on how the grill is going — it’s something you kind of have to learn by doing it.”
Scott has relationships with some of the international markets in town to continue to offer authentic Jamaican food to mid-Missouri.
“There’s, like, a kaleidoscope of cultures here in Columbia with the university and that’s helped us because people are willing to try new things,” Scott says. “They’re adventurous.”