Published: September 6, 2012
One of my favorite aspects of the barbecue culture is that barbecue pitmasters, restauranteurs and sauce makers all have their own unique stories on how they fell in love with Barbecue and outdoor cooking. Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ is no different. Ray grew up in Chicago and after high school spent 25 years in the family business of trucking. In 2000, Ray decided that the family trucking business had run its course and he wanted to try something new and exciting. He naturally turned to barbecue and grilling being that was his passion since 1982 and had already been participating in BBQ competitions and cookoffs, Ray decided to take the ultimate leap and turn his hobby into a career, and as they say the rest is history.
Since turing his hobby into a full-time job, Ray has accomplished has had some amazing achievements. He has published six cook books and is on the verge of completing his seventh, and also is the “Spokechef” for the Big Green Egg grill and smoker, the National Pork Board, and he has served as an executive chef in multiple barbecue restaurants. More recently Ray was a contestant and a finalist on the Food Network special: “Chopped: Grillmasters,” In addition to writing and promoting Barbecue all around the world, Ray has appeared on various t.v. shows including the NFL Network; Home and Garden TV; The Discovery Channel, NASCAR and the Martha Stewart Living on Sirius and has been featured in People Magazine; Food & Wine Magazine; Maxim Magazine; The Wall Street Journal; USA Today and Men’s Journal Magazine just to name a few.
I recently had a chance to talk to Ray a couple of weeks ago about his passion for cooking and also for barbecuing and grilling. The one major part of his story that stood out was the the fact that Ray is always looking for that next big adventure. He likes the challenge and when something is presented to him he “takes the bull by its horn’s” runs with it and once he achieves and complete’s the challenge its time to move on to conquer the next.
I personally had a chance to observe him from a distance at the 2011 Memphis in May World Champion Barbecue contest. The one thing that really stood out to me while observing him, was that whoever showed up at his tent and started to chat with him, it seemed to turn in a very long conversation.
One of the first questions that I asked Ray about was what was the driving force behind his 6 different cookbooks. I expected a very different answer than what I actually got. Ray responded saying that “he wanted to create something a bit different. There are a lot of hero barbecue cookbooks out on the market. I wanted to really focus on creating unique recipes that a diverse audience will enjoy.” Ray continued: “…every different grilling cookbook has a different theme to it, and that is how I like it, it also gives me an opportunity to be creative and to grow as a chef.” We further talked about the development of his books from the first one to the most recent cookbook. “When I first started writing my first cookbook, I had some trouble…” Ray admits, but goes on to say, “I found out that over time, I started to speak to others and explain recipes the same way that I wrote and then it became extremely easy and enjoyable to write more cookbooks…. I actually found the whole process really enjoyable which made me want to do more books…”
Over the course of the conversation, Ray and I discussed many different aspects of this barbecue and grilling passion, the one aspect that really stood out was how he admits that he considers himself a chef that happens to just cook over a hot open fire. Ray considers him self a “chef” and someone who just enjoys on the weekend firing up the grill, and trying a new recipe every time. He also says that he enjoys just staying home at nights cooking, developing and making soup [which by the way is his favorite food to toy around with] and enjoy a nice beer.
Food Network’s Chopped Grillmaster Edition was “…definitely something that challenged me. It was also insane at every turn… the show really required you to think on your feet and also brought out who you really are as a chef, pitmaster or whatever you want to call yourself…” Ray said about his most recent adventure, “… it was something that I enjoyed doing and something that I would never try again…”
With the remaining time that I had, I asked Ray what I thought would be a standard question that I always ask: “What do you like most about barbecue?” I have asked a lot of people the same exact question, and while each person’s answer is similar but different, Ray replied to me with a different take on a very familiar answer: “I like the barbecue because is not all about the food it is about the culture also, the legacy of the family. When you walk into a true barbecue restaurant, you can really sense the history, the tradition of the place in addition to the amazing smells of smoked meats…” but he didn’t stop with that he pointed out the fact that, “barbecue brings us back to the cave man days and it is truly the original way that we cooked our foods, over a open flame with a pit for a very long time.”
While I have always thought about the deep history and roots of grilling and barbecue it wasn’t until Ray opened my eyes to the that fact out that men and women have grilling in our DNA, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Grilling is apart of us, it has been woven into our culture, our personalities and our family traditions, it is truly part of us in ways that we can’t even explain or touch upon.
Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ is truly a unique individual full of the passion, the drive and the courage that we all have inside us, but he has taken this passion for cooking outdoors, and for BBQ to a whole new level.
You can follow all of Dr. BBQ’s amazing adventures by following him on Twitter.