“Opening a restaurant during COVID has had its challenges,” says Heritage Barbecue pitmaster Daniel Castillo. “We’re still trying to do stuff, not only for ourselves but there’s other people in this hospitality industry that need help as well, that’s when this O.C. Smoke Kitchen came about.”
O.C. Smoke Kitchen is a leg of the LA business that’s dedicated to serving hospitality workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. At one event, Castillo and his team make 800 smoked pulled pork tortas for unemployed workers. The tortas are made from 40 smoked pork butts, which is about 360 pounds of pork. The pork is then pulled apart, and added to a roll with avocado, refried beans, salsa, and sausage.
Castillo reminds us that most of the country is feeling the effects of a meat shortage, so he and his team try to get creative with the proteins available to them for everyday operations of Heritage Barbecue. After receiving a full packer’s cut brisket, Castillo resolved that “just because this isn’t prime or wagyu doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be as great.” He and his team make it with a brisket roulade — which is a brisket stuffed with mushrooms, caramelized onions, mirepoix, rosemary, garlic, thyme parsley and bourbon, rolled up, seasoned and smoked.
“We make Central Texas barbecue work here in California because it’s something that hasn’t been done in a restaurant form,” says Castillo. “We’re introducing a lot of people to things they haven’t had before as far as barbecue goes.” One of these unique dishes comes in the form of a bourbon smoked ham, cured in a bourbon barrel from Texas for 14 days and glazed with a bourbon from Texas as well.
Other dishes Castillo takes us through is his red and green chorizo sausages and a cheesecake baked in the smoker, a dish which is completely unique to Heritage Barbecue.
“The community wants us probably more open than anybody, so they’re rooting for us and we’re really trying to get open for them so they can get their barbecue,” says Castillo. “Being one of the few craft barbecue destinations in southern California, I want to push the boundaries of what American barbecue can be.”