On our way to the 2011 Eggfest in Santa Clara, we decided to take a small road trip to Mansmith’s Gourmet in San Juan Bautista. We had been using Mansmith’s rubs for years and wanted to pick up our latest order in person. These guys are not only veterans on the BBQ circuit, their family has been BBQing in California’s Central Coast area for generations.
It’s unusual to be a California family with such a rich BBQ history. It’s even more unusual for that family to be in the business of sharing their long history of BBQ spices and recipes and allowing the rest of the world in to experience flavors unique to California. We’re so on board with this.
Tucked away past fruit stands and pastures, we pulled up to the BBQ Outlet Store and met Juanita and John, the owners and spicemasters of Mansmith’s Gourmet. We swapped stories and checked out the store, especially intrigued by their BBQ Paste: a BBQ sauce base that creates a universe of BBQ possibilities when any liquid is added. As Jimmy Buffet says: “It was so simple, it plum evaded me…”
They took the time to answer some of my questions:
Your family has been barbecuing for generations in California. When did the family actually start barbecuing?
About 1960, as a teenager, I started on the pit crew at the San Juan Bautista Mission Fiesta where we grilled 5,000 chicken halves every year. This was an all night event. We also grilled steaks every year at the Saint Francis Retreat Center for their annual fund raising event. By 1970 I was a member of the California Young Farmers organization where I was recruited to the barbecue committee, cooking Top Sirloins, Pork Chops and Sausages for various events. In about 1985, by popular demand, we started bottling our seasonings. The catering business evolved from demonstrating our seasonings at street fairs, etc.
I’ve always been intrigued by authentic California barbecue. Since you have such a long history with it, what defines California barbecue for you?
Open pit grilling over an oak wood fire. Seasoned with local traditional herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Garlic.
Tri-tip is prominently featured in your menus and is your specialty in catering. Have you always cooked Tri-tip or is it recent (as in the last 20 years)?
We started cooking Tri-Tip about 1985. It took me about a year to perfect my technique of slow cooking over an open fire. We only cook untrimmed Tri-Tip with the fat cap still on the meat. We cook it for 2 hours, high above the fire in order to produce a rare and juicy product, seasoned of course with Mansmith’s Original Grilling Spice.
When did you first start competition barbecue?
We did a few competitions in the late 1990’s when the California BBQ Assoc. first started. There were not very many competitions in our area then and we didn’t have the time to travel, so it was not a priority with our business. We just got back into it last year and were surprised at the evolution of the sport. We only participate in 3 or 4 a year now but are having a lot of fun.
You have won an enormous amount of awards for your rubs and sauces. How has this affected the rubs and sauce you offer for sale? Are you constantly changing the formulas, or do you have more of a “don’t fix it and let everyone catch up to you” philosophy?
1991 – Mansmith’s Low Sodium Grilling Spice won “Best on the Planet” at the American Royal International BBQ competition in Kansas City.
1993 – Mansmith’s Original Grilling Spice won “Best on the Planet” at the American Royal International BBQ competition in Kansas City.
At these same competitions Mansmith’s BBQ Paste gathered numerous awards in the sauce categories. It was diluted with various liquids and entered into all 14 sauce flavor categories that were in the competition. We have since been banned from future competitions with this product due to a change in the rules.
1998 – Mansmith’s Original Grilling Spice, Low Sodium Grilling Spice, and Dry Fire each win first place medals in all 3 of the dry rub categories at the National Barbecue Conventions “Awards of Excellence” in Arlington, Texas.
Nothing needs to be fixed here! Nothing is offered until they are perfected. All new products come from the evolution of flavor profiles. Mansmith’s has the best customer loyalty in the business.
What’s next for Mansmith? Any events coming up that you want to share?
Two more Street Festival events this year: San Juan Bautista Flea Market on August 14, 2011, and the Taste Of Morgan Hill, in Morgan Hill, CA on Sept. 24 and 25, 2011 where we will be cooking our world famous Tri-Tip sandwiches.
Check their website at www.mansmith.com for all their weekly BBQ locations.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Mansmiths and have always enjoyed Mansmith’s rubs and taste profile. If I were going to name a BBQ rub business, “Mansmith” would cross my mind. As it turns out, it really is their name – it reflects the absolute authenticity in everything they do.