Chef Chat, Part 1: Ray Busch of Ray's Real Pit BBQ Shack

Houston's most aromatic gas station is the Shell on Old Spanish Trail in Central South. It's right next door to Ray's Real Pit BBQ Shack, a brand-new restaurant that's been pumping out mouthwatering smells and authentic Texas barbecue since January 12. Eating Our Words caught up with Houston native Ray Busch: sheriff's deputy by day, barbecue chef man and co-owner by night.

EOW: How did you first start barbecuing?

RB: Actually, I started on one of my side jobs. I was working with the sheriff's office, and I used to work a lot of nightclubs for several years. I'd see guys out with the barbecue trucks. My mom always taught me to cook on my own; she always wanted me to learn how to cook. So I really enjoyed cooking. This has been one of my passions for a long time. So I used to watch those guys, and I said, Yyou know, I ought to try this." I started cooking around the house with barbecue. My friends said, "Man, this is good enough to sell. People would buy this."

EOW: How do you manage to be both a sheriff's deputy and be here all the time?

RB: It's not easy. It's really not easy. But Maxine [Ray's co-owner] is good; she can handle it. I work from 5:30 to 1:30, I'm here by 2. I just pray and keep going. In another eight, nine months, I'm going to retire. And then I'll be able to do this full time.

EOW: Can you explain the difference between Texas barbecue and other styles?

RB: I know in Kansas City, Detroit, they don't really smoke their meats. They grill them over direct heat, where a fire is coming directly up. Like you'd grill doesn't take as long, it cooks rather fast. Whereas Texas barbecue, and what we do, we slow-cook it. We take our time; we don't rush it. If you rush it, it changes the whole thing.

EOW: What else affects the flavor?

RB: The first thing it starts with is the choice of a grade of meat that you purchase. There's certain brands that we know are very good and have a very good reputation. Then, the seasoning and the way that you season. Some people season and put their barbecue on right there. You need to let it marinate for a day or two and really let it get in. The process after that of slow-smoking it, getting it to the perfect temperature before taking it off. We try to take it off at the perfect time.

Come back tomorrow to find out which NFL player works at Ray's, and hear Ray reveal the secret of meat massages.

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