BBQ shuffle: Smokey Denmark and Stiles Switch
By Mike Sutter | Story and photos © Fed Man Walking | 10.24.15
► DECEMBER 2016 UPDATE: The Smokey Denmark truck is shutting down Dec. 16. The sausage company will operate as usual.
Talk with Austin pitmaster Bill Dumas, and he’ll drop the names of Texas barbecue places the way rock fans drop band names. He calls barbecue “an art, a brotherhood, a way to feed your soul.” That art is taking Dumas in new directions this month as he leaves the Smokey Denmark barbecue trailer Oct. 30 to join the team at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. Keenan Goldis, who joined Smokey Denmark in August, will take Dumas’ place at the East Austin sausage company Nov. 3.
(ABOVE: Bill Dumas and his work at Smokey Denmark.)
The move comes as Stiles Switch expands its pit capacity and dining space at the Violet Crown center at 6610 N. Lamar Blvd. The operation has expanded from one David Klose barbecue pit to four since it opened in December 2011, owner Shane Stiles said Friday, and the restaurant is taking over the barbershop space next door, because barber Tom Cockrell is retiring after six decades of cutting hair. Stiles Switch already occupies two other spaces at the shopping center, one for special events and another for storage. Dumas starts Nov. 1, working under pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick to smoke Taylor-style brisket, ribs and sausage with fellow cooks Andy Stapp and Alanmykal Jackson.
Stiles said Dumas responded to an ad on the restaurant job site Poached, posted when cook Bob Costarella announced he was leaving to open his own place in California. Dumas’ wide knowledge of Texas barbecue history and his ingenuity are welcome additions, Stiles said, adding that when he asked his team for ideas going into the Nov. 1 Texas Monthly BBQ Fest, Dumas offered two pages of cooking and presentation suggestions.
Stiles Switch ranks highly on the Fed Man Walking Top 10 Austin BBQ list, but the question remains: Why would Dumas leave a job running his own show to work for another pitmaster? “Two words, one name: Lance Kirkpatrick.” Dumas said. “I’ve been wanting to work with Lance for years.” Dumas said — and Stiles confirmed — that he and his family have been regular customers at Stiles Switch from the outset, and Dumas said that having his own Klose pit gave him something to talk about with Kirkpatrick. “One thing leads to another, and now I’m headed back over there,” he said.
(ABOVE: Lance Kirkpatrick, pitmaster at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew.)
Kirkpatrick worked for legendary pitmaster Bobby Mueller at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor for nine years, and Dumas likes that restaurant so much he applied for a job there before he got the call from Smokey Denmark. Dumas started at the loading docks, coming off what he called a hard year in 2012. He was between jobs, and he’d lost his son, Sam. He bought a Klose barbecue rig and started catering at dancehalls, learning the craft as he went. Barbecue gave him “a sense of purpose, a sense of drive,” Dumas said.
Dumas took over the Smokey Denmark barbecue trailer in June 2014, quickly making a name with his pulled pork and barbecue sauces. The trailer’s brisket began a steady improvement in August 2014 when Dumas was joined at the trailer by D.J. Ridenour, who’d sharpened his brisket game at the John Mueller Meat Co. Ridenour — who introduced brisket and pork tacos to the Smokey Denmark menu — left this summer to start his own barbecue trailer in San Angelo called the Pit.
Taking over for Dumas at Smokey Denmark will be Keenan Goldis, who joined the trailer in August. His own Goldis Sausage Co. trailer, which closed in January, was a mad scientist’s sausage lab, turning out links with mac and cheese, green curry, even apple pie, a practice he’ll continue at Smokey Denmark. Goldis will serve brisket and pulled pork, but he’s dropping tacos from the menu and adding a Sausage of the Month to complement Smokey Denmark’s traditional lineup of beef, pork and boudin sausages. November’s entry will be green curry pork, and Goldis said mac and cheese sausage could return as early as the middle of the month. The Smokey Denmark trailer is open 11-2 Tuesday through Friday at 3505 E. Fifth St.
(ABOVE: Keenan Goldis and his work at Goldis Sausage Co., the trailer he closed in January.)
I’ve seen Goldis in action, and his work landed him among my Top 8 Austin BBQ Wild Cards. His congeniality and devotion to the craft impressed me when I made South African boerewors with him for a story last year. Goldis said that Smokey Denmark owners Jonathan and Melissa Pace — who oversee an operation that’s been making sausage in Austin for almost 50 years — have shown nothing but support for his creative approach.
To Bill Dumas — who expressed gratitude to the Paces and Smokey Denmark for treating him like family — the company’s path ahead is clear. “That’s a sausage company known for sausage, and here they have the Sausage Kid. That’s something they should capitalize on. “
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(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)