Lifestyle

Dave Anderson, ‘grill master’

Dave Anderson, left, with his son Ben Anderson, getting ready for the hordes at a Mercer Island High School football game, Oct. 6. Anderson said it took five men and a week in a metal shop to build the large slow-cooking wood fired oven. - Linda Ball/Staff Photo
Dave Anderson, left, with his son Ben Anderson, getting ready for the hordes at a Mercer Island High School football game, Oct. 6. Anderson said it took five men and a week in a metal shop to build the large slow-cooking wood fired oven.
— image credit: Linda Ball/Staff Photo

It seems like Dave Anderson has been hooked on grilling for a long time. Before he and his wife, Kathy, were married, she bought him a barbecuing cookbook because he already had three Webers. That really got him started.

Anderson works for the Mercer Island School District as a special education para-pro and a bus driver. His barbecue business, Blue Ridge Barbeque, is completely separate from his jobs with the district, but he started out cooking for the lacrosse games since he was a lacrosse coach for seven years.

“Then some of the parents and kids thought this would be great for football,” he said.

So, there he is, at every game with his son, Ben, a 2009 graduate of MIHS, cooking up a storm for the concession that raises money for MIHS football. The booster club pays for the supplies; a typical game menu is a full meal for $6 that includes a choice of burger, cheeseburger or hot dog with chips and a beverage; or a la carte, with a burger, cheeseburger or hot dog at $4, chips for $1.50, soft drinks for $1.50, bottled water for $1, and on most occasions, pulled-pork sandwiches for $5.

Anderson said at the game against Bellevue on Sept. 30, he sold 400 burgers, 250 pulled pork sandwiches and 250 hot dogs, bringing in about $5,000.

Anderson’s mobile barbecue is a work of art. He calls it a slow-cook barbecue pit, because the food is never directly above flame; rather, the fire is in a compartment of its own. It was made about 10 years ago with the help of five men and a week in a metal shop.

“It’s essentially a large wood-fired oven,” he said. “It took a good year to learn to cook on it, to get everything to come out even.”

He cooks pork shoulders or briskets for 20-22 hours, ribs all day, and chicken five to six hours. Burgers take about 45 minutes, so he arrives well ahead of time to get things cooking for the hungry hordes that attend the football games.

Anderson calls his operation Dave’s Barbeque at the school, but he and Ben have been catering for six years under the name Blue Ridge Barbecue.

He said before he built the barbecue, people started asking him to cook maybe three racks of ribs, which wouldn’t fit in his old barbecues. A welder friend of his who was getting married helped him build the barbecue, then Anderson cooked at his wedding. At the wedding, more and more people wanted him to cook at their weddings, too.

Now, the catering business has become a huge part of his spring, summer and fall.

Anderson cooked for the Seahawks team lunches three or four times a season for three years. He and Ben have also cooked for the football and lacrosse banquets, Seahawks’ parties and the Laurelhurst Beach Club party in addition to many weddings and other special occasions.

Before working for the district, Anderson cooked for a crew of seven on a tugboat called “Blackhawk” for two years. Based out of Portland, the tug made runs to northern British Columbia to pick up limestone, and two to three times a year to Cedros Island located off the west coast of the Mexican state of Baja California to pick up loads of salt. He said he has never been to a formal cooking school — he is self-taught. But he didn’t like being away from his family, so he gave up the sea life.

Son Ben says he wants to take over the business eventually.

To hire Anderson for Blue Ridge Barbeque catering services, call (206) 793-7990 or email him at bluridg@gmail.com.

 

 

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