I grew up in Albany, Western Australia, the eldest (and smallest at 6 feet 4 inches) of three sons to a hard-working, German – Polish single mum, in a time when being a single mum was more about “struggle” rather than “finding yourself” and sinking margaritas while the kids are in day care. As the product of hard work and sauerkraut and a distinct lack of flamboyant culinary ability, it is a fucking miracle that I ended up with such an intense passion for everything food has to offer. Miracle or not, I love it. I live it, I breathe it, and I embody it. I’ve been called obsessed, neurotic, ridiculous, insane and obscene (all by my wife) with the intensity that I feel for food, but it completely pays off.
Despite my isolated upbringing and sauerkraut sodden childhood, I now lead a team of renegade bastard cooks into battle every day at my restaurant in Lismore, New South Wales. From my vantage point in the kitchen, I order, wheedle, cajole and instruct my team, administering light floggings as required. A well-olive oiled machine, we weave our magic to regularly feed 300+ people a day on my Southern Fried chicken and smokehouse BBQ menu. As is the want of the kitchen, at the end of the night, we all gather after service to decompress; and I sit back and think to myself “This is the shit.”
I am fortunate enough to be in the best profession in the world. Sure, the long hours and 50 C (120 F) degree kitchen heat in the middle of summer mean that I may have a severe electrolyte deficiency and a standing prescription for chaff cream every December – February. And my inundation with people using the vernacular of the sailor means that I will never be able to work in primary schools, but I still reckon it really is the best shit ever. That’s what this thing is all about. It’s about how my love for food and particularly BBQ and fried chicken, has taken over my life. How I gambled everything I had on starting a restaurant to run it how I wanted to run it. Without owners second-guessing my menu and trying to run my ship (I should add also, without their stacks of cash, a definite downside!). It’s about how if you believe in something and work your arse off then it will all work out. And if it doesn’t, then I know how to make a fucking good meal that I can cry into.
Gray “Big Red” Stockdale
Creator of this 2nd rate food blog.
Founding member of Pit Crew BBQ, competition BBQ team.
Co-owner (with my wife, Jennee) and chef / pit master at the Stockpot Kitchen – Smokehouse BBQ and Fried Chicken in Lismore, NSW.
Co-owner (with my wife, Jennee) and chef at Big Red Brand.
Author of “Red, Hot & Smokin’”, published by New Holland Publishers