If chefs Erin Smith and Patrick Feges were chef chat Barbies, they'd act more like the Black Widow and G.I. Joe, who on top of kicking ass in general, also just opened a barbecue restaurant. Erin's all, "hear me roar!" while Patrick smiles at her mischievously saying something like, "I hear you, babe." Just like those romance novels where the rogue kidnaps the headstrong pirate queen, but they fall in love and end up defeating the rich, stalker, bad guy. Gets me every time.
But really, if any pair had found their stride, it's these two. Their sweet camaraderie transmits to all around them, making you feel just a little bit warm inside.
The husband and wife team opened Feges BBQ (pronounced Fee-jis) this past March in the 3 Greenway Plaza food court. Patrick launched his barbecue company back in 2012, and up until now has done catering and pop-ups on the side. The Purple Heart recipient (we almost lost him) began cooking when he joined the army after graduating high school. His favorite dish to make for the troops? Bulgogi. In fact, just last week Smith introduced the Houston Press to Bulgogi Bombers, a shot of Red Bull and Bulgogi sauce, and it's delicious.
After recovering from his injuries he attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, and upon returning home to Houston, went to work at Underbelly, Brennan's, Killen's BBQ and Southern Goods. But the plan all along was barbecue.
In Houston, Feges is known for repping whole hog cooking, having learned from the whole hog master and recent James Beard Best Chef Southeast winner Rodney Scott, and it just so happens they offer it as a special on Thursdays.
Erin Smith moves quick and aims her scope high. After attending the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, she worked in New York City under Thomas Keller at Per Se, afterward spending time at Italian Wine Merchants and Mario Batali's Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca.
In Houston, she served as executive chef at both Plonk! Beer & Wine Bistro and the J.W. Marriot Downtown, including their Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge. She helped open Blacksmith and was also the culinary director for the now dissolved Clumsy Butcher group (back then, it included Hay Merchant, Anvil Bar & Refuge and The Pastry War). To get some front-of-house experience, Smith spent time honing her wine skills under David Keck and then Chris Poldoian at Camerata. And in 2016 she won an episode of the Food Network's Chopped.
You can catch Smith and Feges Whole Hoggin' in the Buff at BuffBurger on May 19. They will also attend Birthright BBQ fest on Father's Day in Dallas and the Windy City Smokeout in Chicago this summer where they'll cook alongside barbecue royalty...or just go visit them Monday through Friday at Feges BBQ.
Oh, and if the Monday scaries are gripping you fierce and you need a little treat to squeak you through the day, they serve "spiced cracklin'", among other I'm just going to eat my feelings type dishes.
Houston Press: Can I put this in your walk-in?
Erin Smith: (Pauses.) What is it?
HP: It's food, it's pasta.
ES: Oh yeah, if it were like breast milk or bodily fluids, I'd be like… no.
The Houston Press hands off the pasta to one of their cooks and returns to Smith and Feges.
ES: Don't forget the pasta.
HP: Don't forget the pasta. Can I take your picture?
Patrick Feges: Is this like for…
HP: It's for the Houston Press.
ES: (Moves closer to Patrick.) Move your leg, move your leg. This is unflattering if I'm too far in front of you.
HP: That's cute, I love it. All right, let's begin...knock-knock.
ES: Who's there?
HP: Do ya'll plan on having babies anytime soon?
ES: (Laughs.) Uhhh. Well we did have this really big baby and it keeps us up all night, and it's really exhausting, and it's like seven babies within this one. But we are also…we talk about having babies. We'll see.
PF: When it happens, it'll happen.
HP: Barbecue life is early hours…
PF: Up at four, well, let's put it this way, the alarm goes off at four, somebody hits snooze three times.
ES: So, 4:15 I wake up.
PF: (Laughs.) And then someone's gotta be here by five o'clock.
HP: Your snooze cycle is only five minutes?
PF: It's like eight minutes.
ES: It's nine minutes, I don't know. It feels like five minutes. It goes back off and you're like, "nooo."
PF: So, for me, the alarm goes off at four, as long as I'm here by five.
HP: You guys worked together at Underbelly, that's where you met, tell me about that.
ES: I fired Patrick.
PF: You wish.
ES: I tried to fire Patrick.
PF: She threatened to fire me one time because I was being an asshole in the kitchen.
ES: Yeah. He was hazing someone from Hay Merchant, I felt like it was really inappropriate. So, that's why I threatened to fire Patrick. It was fun working together actually, which is part of why we knew we would enjoy this. We knew we could tolerate each other for more than eight hours a day…let's try opening a restaurant together.
HP: Tell me you made out in the walk-in.
ES: We did.
PF: Oh, yeah.
ES: We did do that. Not, like, as often as you would think, but we did.
ES: (Punches Patrick on the leg.)
HP: (Laughs.) Umm, Patrick, what's the ideal way to cook a whole hog?
PF: I prefer to build a metal box, burn wood down to coals, shovel the coals under the pig and then about 85 percent, 90 percent of the way, flip the pig and crisp the skin. Then pull it, toss it in sauce and season it.
ES: It's really good.
HP: How big are they?
PF: It depends, I mean the one we did yesterday was 90 pounds, split. The one we did last year at Windy City Smokeout was over 220 pounds.
ES: Yeah, it was so hard to flip it. It was like, "arghhh." (Makes turning motion.)
HP: What do you guys put in the white sauce? I can't stop thinking about it.
PF: Dukes Mayonnaise. We'll just leave it at that.
PF: Nah, horseradish, lemon juice, a little bit of hot sauce, a bunch of seasonings that I can't remember off the top of my head.
PF: And apple juice.
HP: You could probably bottle that up and call it a day.
PF: That's the plan, eventually.
ES: Yeah, yeah. We want to bottle it up and then we want to call it a day. Bottle it up, sell it and be like, "all right, thanks guys, we're done."
HP: Where would you retire? The beach, the country, or the mountains?
ES: Yeah, I think mountains, but near a body of water. Like a lake.
HP: Anywhere in particular?
ES: I mean if we had the entire world to choose from, I'd probably choose like, Lake Louise.
HP: Where's that?
ES: In Canada.
HP: Oh, cool.
PF: So, like, Smoky Mountains or Montana or something. Secluded.
ES: Yeah, yeah.
HP: That's cute, guys.
PF: For me. She's more than welcome to come.
ES: But we'd also have a house on the beach somewhere.
HP: Yeah, totally, I mean you're bottling things up.
PF: Yeah, once Tilman Fertitta buys it, we'll have the money to do that.
ES: (Says to the Houston Press) Make sure that's in there, we want to drop that idea. I'm sure he reads all this stuff.
HP: Do you see barbecue heading in any trend?
ES: I think barbecue is heading away from traditional?
PF: Yeah, so especially here in Houston, you're seeing so much outside influence when it comes to barbecue. The Blood Bros., you have Harlem Road using some middle eastern flavors, because he's Armenian.
ES: And then also, not in Houston, is Valentina's. All your sides you get are tex-mex, like charro beans, Mexican rice. But they're combining that with barbecue… and it's really good.
HP: Who in the world do you most want to try your brisket?
ES: Liaaam Neeson.
HP: Liam Neeson?
ES: Yeah, probably Liam Neeson.
HP: Is that your one?
ES: There's two, but he's one of the two.
HP: Who's the other one?
ES: Chris Hemsworth. Thor. But really just, Thor.
HP: Okay, Thor with the wig or Thor once he cuts his hair?
ES: Okay, he's definitely hotter with the short haircut but he doesn't seem like Thor with short hair.
HP: Did you love Ragnarok?
ES: Yeah, all of it. And we stayed up really late one night to watch Infinity War.
HP: Okay, yeah.
ES: Which, spoiler al-…
HP: Don't tell me, don't tell me.
ES: He saves everything!!
HP: Would you rather be stuck in Jurassic Park…
ES: Oh! Easy.
HP: …Game of Thrones, Westworld or the Emoji Movie?
ES: Game of Thrones.
ES: (To Patrick) Because of all the hookers?
PF: (Laughs really hard) No. I feel like I'm least likely to die.
ES: (To Patrick) Did you not see the last episode? I don't think you saw the last episode of Westworld then.
HP: Is the new season out?
ES: Yeah. It's like three episodes in, I think. I'm going to wait till it's all out and then binge watch it.
HP: That's the best.
ES: Because I don't like having to wait, the old way of watching TV is… done.
HP: Totally. Who would you want to direct a movie about you, Michael Bay, Wes Anderson…
ES: I feel like it would have to be Martin Scorsese for Patrick because they are both really grumpy.
HP: Nicolas Sparks?
ES: Oh. Yeah, umm. I don't know.
PF: Wes Anderson.
PF: I can see our life being a Wes Anderson movie.
PF: The quirky, random shit that happens.
ES: I would definitely be Anjelica Huston.
HP: She's a badass.
PF: Yeah and I can be…
ES: Bill Murray. (Laughs.)
ES: (To Patrick) Wait, who were you going to say?
PF: I was going to say Bill Murrary.
HP: How are you guys doing your last names? Is it Smith-Feges? Is it Feges? Or are you Beyoncé
Jay-z'ing that for now…
PF: Well, I'm sticking with Feges. Actually, we're thinking about switching to FEGE'S.
ES: Yeah, because a lot of people make that mistake, so this way we'll just say, "you're right, we were wrong, that's how you say the name."
HP: I understand.
PF: Yeah, well it's like everyone calls it Franklin's barbecue. It's Franklin barbecue. They assume, so when they see Feges barbecue they think it's an apostrophe "s."
HP: So, they say Feges'es?
ES: Who knows.
PF: But we have one account that puts it down for our name. Our breaker boxes are labeled apostrophe "s."
ES: To answer your question, I'm Smith.
ES: Because nobody can pronounce Feges.
PF: And I'm Feges. I don't have to own her.
ES: (Laughs.) I don't have to own her? What?
HP: I don't have to own her?
They both look at Feges.
PF: Well, if you change your name, that means…
ES: Oh God. I am re-thinking all of this right now.
PF: (Laughs.) See the real question is wait till we have kids. Then whose last name do they get?
ES: I feel like we should let them decide… and I feel like I'm going to win.
PF: Yeah, I don't care (groans), it's a rough last name, Smith is so easy.
HP: Are ya'll going to get a tattoo together?
ES: I have a star on my foot… and we have not talked about getting any couple tattoo's. I feel like it's the kiss of death.
PF: She's not sold on me yet.
ES: Yeah, I'm not really committed so I don't want to…
HP: IT'S GOING TO WORK OUT.
ES: (Laughs.) We're never going to get a joint tattoo although I would like it if Patrick got my face tattooed on his body, but not my name, because really the name is what's bad luck. (To Patrick) But, if you got a tattoo of my face…
PF: Right on my ass cheek.
ES: No, like right on your thigh.
PF: Right on my inner thigh.
ES: Yeah, that way, you know…
PF: (Laughs, and looks at Smith.)
ES: If there ever were going to be any indiscretions, that woman would be like, "whose face is right there?" And you'd be like, "it's my wife, actually." She's always watching. (Laughing.) She's always judging me…
HP: This is gold.
ES: It's the Topo Chico, actually.
HP: Anything else you want to talk about?
ES: We should talk about breakfast.
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PF: We're doing breakfast.
HP: Yeah, you want to talk about breakfast?
ES: (Pauses.) "We do breakfast… so just come."
PF: (Laughs and smiles at Smith.)