Neil Hodgson is a Nelson-based food and wine writer
OPINION: The Under The Hood BBQ business is a fantastic success story I have been following for some time, and Michelle and Dave King’s story has taken another turn – or should I say, has taken on a life of its own.
You may remember that when I first wrote about Under The Hood BBQ in early 2020 they had been operating for about a year running barbecue courses at their purpose-designed, outdoor barbecue kitchen at home.
In 2021, I told you about them launching their own Carolina style BBQ sauce, a sauce with the right balance of spices and mustard that would work with the flavours they create during the wood-fired, slow-cooking process.
At the time they both had fulltime jobs and Under The Hood BBQ was a business they created because they love slow cooked food, especially on a woodfired barbecue. Since then, the business has grown exponentially.
From the initial barbecue courses to now including the sauce, a range of specialty rubs and online video how-to courses you can subscribe to for a one-off payment.
The latest additions to the business are a ute, van and smoker trailer fitted out to enable them to travel the country running courses, cater for events and of course, deliver their fantastic sauce and rubs to customers around the country.
All of this growth, in just five years, that started with just an Instagram page and five courses in the first year, then with catering and everything else means they have both resigned from their old jobs, with Dave retaining a part-time role so he can focus as much as possible on Under The Hood BBQ, growing the business both in New Zealand and, hopefully, soon to Australia.
While Dave and Michelle will be spreading their wings and travelling around the country, that doesn’t mean you miss out on being able to attend their courses. If you have been to one but want some reminders and cheat-sheets about the things you learned at the course, then you need to buy access to Under The Hood BBQ online courses.
For a one-off cost of just $199 you get permanent access to around four hours of content dedicated to helping you enhance your outdoor cooking experience.
This also includes an app you can download for your phone or tablet, and the professional video quality is fantastic.
Unlike searching the internet for different courses, the Under The Hood BBQ videos are organised into chapters, including seven courses and sub-sections for specific things, like how to light a charcoal barbecue for the type of cooking you want to do (low and slow or fast and hot), how to prepare different meat cuts, how long to cook different meats, fire management, and much, much more.
All of the courses run by Under The Hood BBQ, whether in person or online, are designed for backyard barbecue cooking.
“If you want to know how to cook something on your barbecue, then this is how they do it. It’s about the art of making outstanding backyard barbecue,” Dave said.
The range of seasonings Dave and Michelle produce for sale evolved from making their own for the courses and catering they do and people were asking how they were made.
“We did a lot of work to make sure they have a stable shelf life, are gluten-free and coeliac friendly but still deliver on flavour for specific meats,” said Michelle.
“We also decided to package them in shaker bottles rather than bags to make it much easier for people to use at home.”
Demand for these seasonings is huge, Michelle said.
“We launched in winter and expected it to be difficult because it wasn’t barbecue weather. We sold out our first 2000 shakers so we are gearing up for a busy summer.”
The couple are developing other products that help people cook great food at home.
Jason Heaven from Fire to Fork came to one of their courses and asked what they had to sell, according to Dave.
“We said just courses, and he told us we had to add product to sell as well.
“People want to buy things we talk about during the courses, so we have a few things like instant-read thermometers, charcoal volcanos and will add other things as we keep growing.”
Catering has turned into a big part of what they do – Under The Hood BBQ can cater for up to 500 people.
“We cater small events from about 20 people right up to our 250-person comfort level. With a lot of catering you get a small amount of protein and lots of salads, we are almost the opposite, heaps of meat and healthy amount of sides.”
If you want to check out the sort of food Under The Hood BBQ serves, then you will have a chance to do just that on October 28 at Kirby Lane in Nelson from 5:30pm until about 8:30pm where they will have a pop-up ticketed event. It will be a fixed cost, all you can eat on-site (not to take home).
Michelle says this is the first of several they are planning to run using their new, purpose-built barbecue smoker trailer.
“We’re just running in our lane, doing what we do,” said Dave.
“We can’t replicate ourselves in person, so we’re doing that with our videos and social media, we have more than 15,000 followers on various social media platforms.”
With more than 1000 people having attended an in-person course, many of whom return for a second and third course, some fly in from around New Zealand and even some international visitors “who have put us on their must-do list of things to do while on holiday, some come to New Zealand to do the course and add on a holiday”.
This is one very smart local business, owned by a hard-working couple who are totally dedicated to delivering a quality experience.
As I have read back through this column I realised it may sound a bit advertorial such is my respect and enthusiasm for this business, I can assure you it isn’t. I just love finding wonderful success stories like this to share with you.
#Lipsmacking #food #hood