My son Josh was working with an international marketing firm based in Paris, France and was being sent out on various 3 to 4 month assignments around the world. Recently divorced when he started the job, it was a chance at seeing the world with little commitment to a brick and mortar existence. Not for everyone, but it did push his buttons. One of his assignments was in Santiago, Chile where he spent a fall working  and where he met Vivi and fell in love. He decided to put down roots there and continued to work for the international marketing firm remotely, however, becoming more disenchanted with the hours he had to put in with clients from 14 to 15 time zones away. This went on for a couple of years when one day he called me and asked if I would like to go with him to a BBQ school in Unadilla, Georgia. We happened to be in South Carolina at the time so of course I said yes. It turns out that he had always had a dream of becoming a pit master and when the bad vibes about his real job finally got to be too much he decided to pull the trigger.With not a lot of money to tide him over until this project got off its feet, he carefully laid out a business plan, starting doing research on finding out how he could make it work in a foreign country, the legal hurdles he would have to clear, and stay true to his vision of a truly authentic American BBQ operation in South America. The American BBQ gringo!

This is the crew. Simon has a trace of his fourth birthday cake icing lingering around his lips and he is the official taster for Josh, the guinea pig so to speak for a little modification to a rub, a new twist on a sauce or a side that has to be approved officially before making it to the menu.

Vivi is the creative force behind the menu and website design, is the link to vendors who speak Spanish way too quickly for Josh, and who on top of all that still cares for all four of them. Olivia, or Oli as she is fondly called, helps Josh on the smokers and with the customers and is the official sous-chef. This is a family business.

The smokers are fondly named Mimi and Gigi. I don’t know which one this is.

Josh did a lot of research on the smokers, the trailers to haul them around and the logistics of getting them down to Santiago. He chose gravity feed smokers which operated on the principle of indirect heat sourcing. The heat source is a dense charcoal found in South America and lasts four times as long as normal charcoal. The smoke comes from split logs of either oak or apple. The charcoal is fed into a chute and gravity is used to move air and heat through the chamber and then forces it out the smokestack. A ball valve on top controls the amount of oxygen allowing the cook to control  the amount of heat… or something like that. The wood splits are fed into the fire box below and Josh can control the amount of smoke by the size of the logs he uses…that box also collects the ash from the burnt charcoal. 

Looking the part, he has learned to rock the local scene in Santiago. He did a lot of trial and error cooking in the house, tweeking recipes, refining cooking times, massaging his rub and sauce blends, while Vivi was creating the web site, the logos and the menus. I’m not sure how long it was before he did his first catering but the reaction was hugely positive from the people in attendance and he hasn’t looked back since. Advertising really was not in the budget, but the network of friends in Santiago led to a steady stream of word of mouth referrals and life in the Chile Rawson household is quite busy these days.

Some mouth-watering ribs
This boy needs a little meat on HIS bones
Burnt ends
Final approval on brisket recipe
The sauces

It’s so rewarding when you get some good reviews. Bluegrass Smokehouse has a few irons in the fire that may help their business grow by leaps and bounds but they are taking the same route of caution and deliberative research that they employed when starting up the enterprise, a wise move I think.


Apparently Josh has mastered brisket to the point where he is putting it on the menu. Below is the recipe – not for the weak minded cuz this one takes time! Good luck!

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