MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Charlie Johnson is the owner and BBQ master at Q Fanatic in Champlin.
And he wants everyone to get one thing straight: BBQing and grilling is not the same thing.
“BBQ is slow smoking or slow cooking,” Johnson said. “Where is grilling is generally direct heat, direct high heat.”
It was once an old pizzeria on a Champlin corner. Now the billowing smoke is a bacon … I mean a beacon for BBQ lovers from all over the world.
“People can see the smoke coming out of them and we talked to people, they can smell it from the intersection a block away,” Johnson said. “Part of grabbing people’s sensory when they are walking up is key to getting them excited about the experience.”
Folks from every state, province and 40 countries have traveled in for a taste.
Johnson knows his way around a kitchen. He was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
“I had an Italian restaurant for 10 years and I got sick and we needed to do something. I couldn’t find a job,” he said.
So Johnson decided to take a bite out of BBQ.
“Tried to find what American BBQ is I guess, you know, and so that was kind of, I did my master’s paper on BBQ,” he said.
Q Fanatic’s menu is pretty big for a BBQ joint, just about everything made from scratch; from the staples like brisket and ribs, to the adventurous like the pulled ham Cuban, to slab bacon sandwich.
Johnson works, eats and even sleeps BBQ. He is typically at the restaurant 18 hours a day – every day.
That’s because the meat has to be cooked to perfection. And with smokers, it’s all about timing.
“I have to put things in the smoker and pull things out. All things are cooked to temperature or time,” he said. “I sleep by a timer and usually in a back booth. I just take cat naps in between.”
It might sound extreme to us, but that’s just another day at the office for Johnson.
“My goal is to try and be the best, you know, and to continue to try,” he said. “And if we aren’t the best, go find out why.”
While there’s only one Best of Minnesota, in true Midwest modesty, Johnson says, “I think the more BBQ the better.”
Click here to visit Q Fanatic’s website.