A culinary passion: Joel Autry’s BBQ sauce

June 2013 Posted in Other
Joel Autry’s new business: ‘Where There’s Smoke BBQ Sauce.’

Joel Autry’s new business: ‘Where There’s Smoke BBQ Sauce.’

By Brenna Wiegand

There was a time when Silverton resident Joel Autry could hardly boil water.

He started hanging around kitchens “doing a lot of watching and listening.” His best training came from The Joy of Cooking cookbook – that and the fact that he just loves “playing in the kitchen.”

What it boils down to for Autry, food is love.

He’s excited to be able to bottle that passion to share with others. And it can’t get any better than that.

For years, people have told him to bottle his custom barbecue sauce after sinking their teeth into his signature-barbecued ribs. He got the same feedback while owner of Silver Grille from 2007 to 2009.

During a vacation in Mexico last summer, Autry realized it was time. In October he began production of ‘Where There’s Smoke BBQ Sauce.’ Local artist Debbie Mattson created a semi-caricature of Autry for the label and former resident Bart Banks did the graphic design.

“I just started making it and I sold some through my Facebook contacts,” he said.

The first business to stock Autry’s barbecue sauce was Howard Hinsdale Cellars Wine Bar and Bistro on Water Street.

“We wanted to feature his barbecue sauce and rub,” Howard Hinsdale said. “We started putting them on the baby back ribs we serve every Saturday night and they became very popular – probably because a lot of people in town know Joel and were interested in his efforts to put this new sauce on the market. And then of course when people have a chance to taste it they want to know where they can get it.”

Combining what Autry showed him with the Traeger cooking method, Hinsdale instituted the baby back Saturday nights last Christmas.

“It’s been quite successful,” Hinsdale said. “People really enjoy the recipe, the fact that Joel’s from Silverton, and the fact that it’s a family recipe, so it’s going to take off pretty nicely.”

Hinsdale doesn’t know the sauce’s secret ingredients and he’s hoping Autry will keep that a secret. He is hoping Autry’s sauce will be a success and he will start selling his barbecue rub, too.

Autry’s barbecue does his Louisiana grandfather proud.

“He had a barbecue in his backyard made of cinderblocks. It had three levels and was 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. We’d be barbecuing all day long. I was influenced by all that Southern cooking and all the culture that goes along with it – all that stuck with me,” Autry said.

Though he purchased the Silver Grille just before the economy plummeted, he considers the experience – highs and lows – excellent training for his current venture.

“When we were closing, I sat in the back corner one day and looked over the place and said ‘I did it.’ In just two years I learned a lot of valuable lessons you can’t replace with anything,” he said. “I see it as a beginning.”

The praise he often hears about his 23-ingredient sauce is that it is balanced in such a way that it complements the food versus masking its flavor. People use it in many ways (such as a dip for their French fries) but when Autry grabs the tongs it’s all about the meat.

“Whether I grill something or smoke it, I brush the sauce on in the last few minutes of cooking and just kind of let it caramelize and get attached to the meat,” he said.

Pouring his secret recipe into 16-ounce jars sounds easy – until he went to start the business. He’s learned there are many requirements to start a food busines.

“I have a passion for making sauce and seeing people enjoy it,” he said. “I don’t have a passion for accounting, though I do enjoy the sales and marketing.

“What makes it easy is that after all these years I still like it and I can really talk about it – how I use it and all the different things I’ve done with it; I can talk about my history with the sauce and history with food and the influence of my family,” he said. “You’re selling a product you believe in and all you’ve got to do is show up and people will see that.”

Orville Roth saw the sauce in April and on May 22 Autry delivered 50 cases to Roth’s warehouse. Now instead of half-gallon batches Autry’s putting out eight gallons at a time in a commercial kitchen. Slowly and steadily around his full-time job as an insurance underwriter, Autry is gearing up for the next big order. The sauce is available at the Silverton Roth’s store.

“I decided that I wasn’t going to overextend myself financially to do this because then the enjoyment starts going out of it – and I’ve committed to myself I’m going to enjoy this,” he said.

He’s grateful for a community with business leaders who believe in working with local entrepreneurs.

“As an independent, we can talk to people who are starting a new business without going through the bureaucracy and management of the big chains,” Roth said. “So when Joel came in and presented this we said ‘Hey, we’re just the people who can give you some distribution so you can get the product started. …as long as he gets a start with Roth’s and the product sells and shows some movement he’ll be fine – and he will be – it’s a good product.”

The sauce also is sold at The Farmer’s Outlet, a Dallas butcher shop and at the super hip Boys Fort in downtown Portland.

“I didn’t expect to be at this point this quickly,” Autry said. “I really don’t know what to say about it except I’m just really grateful that it’s happening and I feel myself ready for more. Once in awhile I’ll step back and I just feel this rush come over me,” he said. “It’s that feeling of accomplishing something.

“I don’t ever want to reach a point in my life where I don’t have the desire to accomplish something new and different – just having these little adventures at different points in life.”

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