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Andy HusbandsAward-winning restaurateur and chef Andy Husbands is the owner of The Smoke Shop BBQ, a restaurant centered around the culinary art and long-standing traditions of barbecue with five locations in Massachusetts. Andy’s passion for exquisite food and barbecue techniques led him to co-author six cookbooks in which he shares his wisdom of more than 30 years of experience working in the culinary industry.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Andy Husbands discusses how his passion for barbecue came to be
  • Andy’s story of getting into the restaurant business
  • Key skills to perfect for wood-fired cooking
  • Andy shares ways to retain fans and customers
  • A glimpse into the competitive side of cooking

In this episode…

In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen welcomes Andy Husbands, award-winning chef and owner of Boston’s famous The Smoke Shop BBQ. They discuss cooking as a passion, the thrilling nature of culinary competitions, and finding your calling in the restaurant industry. Andy also shares some of the most important skills for wood-fired cooking and tips on how to better retain customers and fans.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show, powered by Rise 25 Media. We featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world

Chad Franzen 0:20

Chad Franzen here co-host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best-in-class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combined marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at Andy Husbands is the award-winning chef, author and pitmaster behind The Smoke Shop BBQ, Boston’s acclaimed barbecue restaurant with five locations and a three-time winner of a Boston Magazine’s Best barbecue. He is the author of six cookbooks, most notably pitmaster recipes, techniques and barbecue wisdom. With a career spanning nearly 30 years in the restaurant industry. Husband serves as one of Boston’s most celebrated culinary leaders and a foremost authority on regional barbecue and live fire cooking in New England. Hey, Andy, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Andy Husbands 1:36

I’m great. How are you? My pleasure to be here?

Chad Franzen 1:38

Yeah, great. Hey, great to have you here. Hey, tell me how you got started in the restaurant industry.

Andy Husbands 1:45

So in the early 80s, I needed a job and I got a job in a bakery called Hazel’s bakery, still around in Needham, Massachusetts and grape playing Avenue. And I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I worked for this baker, he was crazy. He would be there for the morning. yelling and screaming, I was kind of assisting but I just loved every minute of it. I don’t know. You know, I love the intensity. I love making things. I love making things by hand. Hands and it just started exciting. And from there, you know, even a high school working in restaurants. And they knew that would help. My journey would go it just felt right to me. Funny thing though, my father said, when I told him I wanted to go to Johnson and Wales, he’s like, no son of mine is going to be a fry, cook. And dinner. Gotta remember this is before Food Network. I mean, Julia Child, Yan can cook frugal gourmet. Those guys were kind of around, but not necessarily. You know. Chef-owned restaurants was really a thing, though. At the time. I mean, blue. Sorry. All those was open East Coast grill. These are Boston restaurants were all open. But they were just beginning. It was like this new wave. And I just, I don’t know, I wanted to do it. My father was not into it. But no, I convinced them. And here I am today. Still doing it.

Chad Franzen 3:05

Yeah, you definitely are. So did you have any inclination that when you were working in that bakery that you would be kind of that you would kind of morph into a into a barbecue wizard?

Andy Husbands 3:17

No. And I’ll tell you a funny thing is I worked at after college, I worked for James Beard award-winning chef Chris Leisinger. He’s my mentor. And the biggest Brawl I ever gotten them. And I would push I was like very cocky. And, you know, it was challenging my mentor. And that’s kind of what you do is a mentee, that was pushing him and he really wanted me to work at his barbecue restaurant. And I didn’t want it had nothing to do with it. Nothing. I was so mad at him. And I’m like, I don’t understand why to work here. I want to work in the or other restaurant. I want to be a fancy chef. He almost fired me and it was just a serious, serious argument. And, and to this day, he will never let me live it down. But that’s what I do now is run barbecue.

Chad Franzen 4:02

So so how did you kind of get interested in barbecue?

Andy Husbands 4:06

Well, as I said, I were first criticized to God forced me to work in his barbecue place. But to be honest, I was 22 Now at this point, I never had real barbecue and real barbecue coming out of the pit. It’s just amazing. I never really had anything like that. I grew up in Seattle. I didn’t know. You know, and this is a gimme A’s barbecue wasn’t there’s no Instagram, you know? So I just saw like, my buddy was working there. And then me and my buddy opened a restaurant was like a fancy restaurant in town for like 20 years before I’m on this path now. And I opened this restaurant, my buddy we bought him out after a year wasn’t what he wanted to do. And we didn’t talk for a while and we there was this barbecue competition coming up and we just said well, why don’t we Why don’t we do that kind of like we wanted to get back together and there was a reason to go be together was do this barbecue competition. We thought we’d come in and kill it. You know, professional staff, we know what we’re doing. We got murdered, but had the best weekend ever. Lots of bourbon, lots of custom, lots of laugh and lots of competing, lots of losing. We didn’t care. We had the best weekend. And we’re like, we want to do this. We want to compete. I’m not going to give you the full story because it’s beautiful, wonderful story, but it takes forever. Fast forward 15 years, we became the first non-southern team to win the World Championships of Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tennessee. So you know, like any sport, a lot of practice and a little bit of shenanigans.

Chad Franzen 5:36

Is it more nerve-racking or exhilarating to participate in those cooking competitions?

Andy Husbands 5:40

Oh, it’s exhilarating. I love it. I love it. I love it. And I guess I should answer you fully answer your other question, which was how did they kind of how did I get here which is owning restaurants. I had my other restaurant which was fancy, you know, change your menu every two-week kind of restaurants, farm-to-table stuff. And I was like, I done it for I don’t know, at the time. 17 years, I was ready for something new and know what it was but I was ready to do something new. And I I have a friend and some other guy, Brian Lessor and I, we partnered, we decided like, let’s do something and let’s do something multi unit. That was it was to do something. And we were gonna do an izakaya a Japanese pub, raucous Japanese pub, which I love. I love izakayas. The question is, is what I know about cooking izakaya. And the answer is nothing. And when I knew this wasn’t like I was like, Oh, I can do this. And they’re cuisines, easy I do would be difficult. I was actually starting to take classes from a buddy of mine, his name is Yugi. And it was hard. And it wasn’t I wasn’t passionate about it. But I wasn’t as passionate about cooking. And I could feel it that it wasn’t what. And I’m glad you know, my partner said why aren’t we doing barbecue and I had never thought about it. And I’m like, let me give me two weeks to some research. And I thought about it. And I’m like, Yeah, I mean, let’s do it. That’s how I get here. Yeah, so

Chad Franzen 7:04

you’ve so you got interested in barbecue, you’re into it. And since then, you’ve been recognized on multiple occasions for your prowess. You’ve won multiple competitions. What is it that so unique or special about your barbecue?

Andy Husbands 7:18

Barbecue, I think it’s about passion. It says, you know, Nobody cooks a brisket for themselves. Right? And so it’s kind of the thought that barbecue is the friendliest food out there. You know, it’s the food of celebrations, family gatherings, graduations, weddings. So we, you know, I just, I think we, you know, we have got to see how we do it. It’s our team, it’s the most important thing about it is our team. We have an amazing group of people that I work with, I get to work with. And everybody’s really passionate. So we really try to show that craft and passion. You know, we’re kind of a goofy barbecue restaurant that we have New England’s largest American whiskey list, which is pretty cool. Over 400 labels. Really strong team, as I mentioned, and you know, I mean, it’s good recipes and a lot of research did a lot. So lots of research and and, you know, so there’s a little bit of everything.

Chad Franzen 8:18

There are there kind of different instincts that you have to have when it comes to woodfired cooking than you would maybe in a regular kitchen.

Andy Husbands 8:26

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, what’s yeah woodfire cooking was a cookery which to me is the best type of cookery. I mean, start you know, when I was a young grill, cook learning to work grills, live fire grills, I had, I had been a grill chef always that’s kind of where I got put into. And so working like month views, and these were like, gas fired, like boilers and grills. All good, but they’re consistent. Generally, you kind of have some hot spots, but with fire, what you learn is that you whatever this is my favorite part. When it’s at its best, it’s at its worst. Meaning when it’s at its best, it’s at its apex and it’s about to jump down. So now you need to build it hotter so your instinct is not to make a fire hotter because you’re working over it but you need to you’ll train yourself to learn that or the rotisserie chickens when they used to be when they were ready they would drop their fat and then you’d have drop in your arms and and burn your arms and you weren’t a love that because you knew that was the chicken was ready. So yeah, get these instincts that you know when you learn this better flavor. It’s so great. I wish everybody would do wood and charcoal. To me it’s the coolest way to cook.

Chad Franzen 9:36

Do you have any? I don’t know stories or kind of learning experiences you had while working with fire

Andy Husbands 9:43

I mean I’ve got so many burned stories that have put you to sleep but um no you know just classic stuff I remember talking to talking does standing on my patio my trademark 647 which is my my first love of restaurants that I opened and talking to some, some guests that on the patio and I had a quart of ice like a flare and I need to go. And I ran back there and the whole kitchen erupted in flames. It was the most craziest thing ever. But what’s cool about it is we had trained for it. So like our team knew exactly what to do, how to handle it, how to put it out, and how to clean it up very quickly. So we, you know, I just thought that was neat that the like, they didn’t really need me to write back there. They knew exactly what to do. And I was loved. There’s a chef who once said, you know, chefs yell when they hadn’t prepared their teams for what’s to come. And I think coaches too, right. But if, if you’ve prepared your team, they know exactly what the play is. And they will see be successful. So it was super cool to see that that action happened.

Chad Franzen 10:49

Great, great. Hey, I hear you’re looking to kind of you have a movie in mind about your barbecue journey. You’re looking to have something like that produced. Can you kind of give us an idea of some elements of that?

Andy Husbands 11:01

Yeah, it’s not. I mean, I got I got a script. Script, but I got I’m pretty good. I think of Miracle on Ice. You remember that movie? Oh, yeah. So that’s, the Americans beat the Russians, Miracle on Ice meets Moneyball meet Swingers. And basically, it’s about Chris Hart. And I who’s just hearts, our team leader on the barbecue team. And how we went about building a team. And winning doing something that everybody said was impossible. And that was becoming the first not overnight, becoming just winning the World Championships of barbecue, which nobody ever says is no way of doing the team could do this. And we did it. It’s very interesting how we do primarily, you the way you win a sport is by practice. So practice, practice, practice. So lots of practice. Chris will tell you a story that, you know, he cooks so much barbecue that his neighbor’s dog would need it. You know, because it’s just you just have so much barbecue practice. The other ways we did it through technology. We did a lot of logarithms, and figured out stuff. We did it through science. We did a lot of molecular cooking. You stuff like meat, glue, and all different sulfates, nitrates, MSG, all this stuff, which is all legal and everybody uses it. And we built an incredible team, which is kind of the swingers part of a group of you know, six friends who love each other and love to drive each other crazy. And it’s wild experience of highs and lows and fistfights and, and marriages and divorces and and just all sorts of things that happen for to this team to eventually, you know, drive down 18 hours and win the World Championships of Barbecue. You know, it’s pretty

Chad Franzen 12:52

cool. Yeah, yeah, very cool.

Andy Husbands 12:54

One of the, if I just say one quick story, one time we went to the World Championships nine times you have to qualify nine times before we win the World Championships, right? Maybe it’s eight times I can’t remember. I think there’s like the first time we were there. And these young ladies came over and just started talking to us. And there’s just they’re like, Oh, you’re from the north, blah, blah, blah. And then they started giving us lots of drinks. Like, yeah, this is great. We’re hanging out with them. Come to find out. They were from our competitors team. And they were there to get us super drunk, which we absolutely fell for and came in very close to last the first year. We were there. Just a couple of you know, northern knuckleheads didn’t know, you know, and they’re like, coolest ones, though.

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