Can barbecue be haute cuisine?
When we think of where to get traditional American barbecue, likely images of backyards come to mind rather than white-linen, jackets-required restaurants. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require the same level of care and attention as other meals.
At its core, barbecue is the cooking of meat low and slow over indirect flame, requiring hours of careful attention and planning. Over the centuries, barbecue has evolved far beyond its simple origins. There are now master grillers, warring factions of style, and methods of preparation that have become an artform.
The modern day approach itself also goes far beyond slabs of meat on a plate–it has inspired entire fusion genres and is a popular addition to many other meals. There is even vegan barbecue.
And while barbecue has become synonymous with American food, its popularity has grown worldwide. Michelin now includes dozens of restaurants from across the globe in the barbecue section of its guide. Take, for example, Black Smoke–a restaurant in Belgium that prides itself on bringing “some serious BBQ’ing to the heart of Antwerp.” While Black Smoke does incorporate local influence in its dishes, it is rooted heavily on the American principles of barbecue. The menu even preaches the gospel of “low and slow.”
Or there’s Lingum in Ireland, which serves only a 10-course tasting menu (unless you come for Sunday lunch, when a 5-course meal is offered) that is both deeply rooted in traditional pillars of barbecue, and a homage to local ingredients.
With all of these factors in mind, we return to our original question: can barbecue be haute cuisine?
Haute cuisine is a French term that literally translates to “high cooking,” and often refers to the ambience of an establishment, and the consideration of the preparation, as much as the meals themselves.
So, technically, yes, it could be haute cuisine. The amount of care that goes into the preparation of barbecue would rival any multi-course meal. And, while it can be messy, barbecue is versatile enough to be adapted to a high-end establishment–even one with white tablecloths.
But, just because it can be haute cuisine doesn’t mean it needs to be in order to earn respect. In my experience, the best barbecue is the one that honors its roots and celebrates its distinct identity.
Now, if you don’t mind, I think it’s time to go fire up my grill.
Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.