It isn’t sissified grocery store barbecue that Steve “Bubba” Coddington is smoking at Lockhart’s BBQ. It’s the real thing and it won Coddington, the restaurant’s pitmaster the praise of peers who know their ‘que.
Coddington was named a 2013 BBQ Person of the Year last month at the National Barbecue Association Conference in Texas. The award, presented by the web site Grilling with Rich, is peer-voted, his selection from nine finalists has some extra smoke.
And that’s the key to good ‘que, says Coddington, who got his first taste and smell of authentic barbecue during a deer hunt in Texas 15 years ago.
He bought a smoker when he returned home to Michigan.
“... It started as a hobby,” Coddington told The Observer & Eccentric, “and got a little out of control.”
Being out of control gave him some control over his own fate in 2007, when he was laid off by the construction. Needing work, he opened the first roadside stand in Michigan – the RSS BBQ at 26 Mile and Gratroit – in 2008 and earned a strong enough following that he was asked to be the pitmaster and given free license to create rubs and sauces when Lockhart’s BBQ opened in Royal Oak in 2010.
“From Day 1, they let me do what I wanted to do,” he told the newspaper. “And that was show people that the North has great barbecue, too.”
Coddington has 1,200 followers on Twitter – find him at @PitmasterBubba – and he often shares tips about how cook authentic barbecue. Among them: “A lot of people tend to overcomplicate it,” he told the newspaper. “Salt and pepper and smoke goes well with every kind of meat.”
Lockhart’s distinctive flavor comes from using traditional methods to smoke the meat over hickory wood, rather than using gas of electric ovens, said Lockhart’s owner Drew Ciora. One of his goals is to introduce Michigan to authentic wood-fired smoked barbecue, and he says he’s thrilled the barbecue community is “taking notice of Bubba and his contributions to this amazing style of food.”