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Flame and Food Star in 'Barbecue' Documentary

Ang Santos

Eating at an American BBQ is where Australian born director Matthew Salleh decided to tackle the reason why people are so fascinated with cooking food over fire.

“As Australians we have a very simple barbeque.  An Aussie barbeque is when you want to feed one-hundred people for less than a hundred dollars.  It’s cheap, quick, and you get to the beer as quickly as possible.  We’re on a road trip through Texas.  We carry the cameras wherever we go.  We started chatting and filming some pit masters there.  They have this whole, almost religious philosophy and dedication to their craft.  That’s where we realized there’s a whole lot to this barbecue than we thought; here’s another country that’s doing it totally differently.  That begged the question who else is doing it and how are they doing it?”

The film ‘Barbecue’ shows how twelve different cultures use flame to cook for family and friends.  Producer Rose Tucker says some countries techniques are a far cry from the charcoal lighter fluid cooking methods we’re accustomed to.

Credit Ang Santos / WBGO
The Indie Street Film Festival hosted a community BBQ outside of Bowtie Cinemas in Red Bank following the screening of 'Barbecue'.

“Mongloia was the most impressive.  It’s the most different to what we are used to.  They skin the animal, cut its bones and meat into pieces, and put it back inside the skin with hot rocks.  The animal then cooks from the inside and out.  They blowtorch the skin so the skin is being cooked while the inside is being cooked by hot rocks.  That’s something I’ve never seen before and just the amount of effort and work that goes into that; nothing goes to waste in Mongolia.  You’re eating every last bit of the animal.”

So what country prepares the best BBQ, a tough question for the filmmakers.

“Controversial question.  I don’t want to start World War III here, but I will say the most surprising barbeque was in Armenia.  In Armenia they have pieces of pork covered in salt, pepper, and spices.  You eat it with a shot of vodka at the same time.  That was pretty special.  It’s also the atmosphere, it’s not just the taste of the food, which is why in Australia the simple sausage on bread is pretty hard to beat,” Tucker said.

Salleh says sometimes there’s no place like home.

“Living in America now as Australians and having travelled the world for a few years to make this film, to sit in the Australian sun and have a cold beer, in some ways that was my favorite as well.  It changes daily which one was our favorite,” Salleh said.

The ‘Barbecue’ documentary is set to release on select streaming platforms in August.