Chef of the Month:John Snedden of Rocklands Barbeque

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John Snedden. Courtesy Rocklands Barbeque.

Each month, Evan Caplan speaks with a
chef of a Georgetown-area eatery. Earlier in
June, he chatted with Jon Snedden, owner of
Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company.
Rocklands, which opened its first location
at 2418 Wisconsin Avenue in 1990, is still
serving juicy, wood-smoked meats at that
original spot. Snedden founded the company,
later opening two Northern Virginia
locations. Most days, he finds himself at the
Wisconsin Avenue restaurant, overseeing
operations, refining recipes and going at the
business whole hog.
What is your specialty and why? How did
you come to do BBQ?
John Snedden: My specialty is cooking
with wood for barbecue and grilling. It’s a
passion that’s been part of my life from an
early age. As I’m one of six kids, our family
grilled out most nights in the summer to give
my mom a break in the kitchen.
What’s your favorite dish?
JS: My “go-to” item is the whole
barbequed pork butt that we have to make
chopped pork for sandwiches and platters.
When that 10-hour-smoked piece of meat
comes off the pit, oh my — delicious. It’s
like butter.
What’s the best part about working in the
food industry?
JS: I’ve always liked to cook because I
love to experience the flavors and textures of
eating and drinking. To take a piece of fish,
meat or vegetable and make it into something
delicious is very satisfying. Plus, the industry
is about people and relationships, on both
sides of the counter.
What does it mean to you to cook in
Georgetown?
JS: Washington, and Georgetown in
particular, is a very vibrant community
that’s family-oriented and diverse. Our
guests include locals, tourists, diplomats,
students and government leaders — all
bringing a sophisticated culinary experience
and expectation to bear.
Tell us about your famous sauce.
JS: Oh, the secret sauce! I developed it
through my high school and college years.
I say it’s a cross between a Carolina and
Florida sauce. It’s made using a tomato
base with a vinegar presence, four types of
pepper and sautéed onions. Most sauces lean
on the sweet, which we do not. It’s delicious
on everything, like pork, beef, chicken,
vegetables and fish, and my wife even puts it
on her eggs at breakfast.
We hear your recipes have been used in
the White House.
JS: Yes, we have given the White House
chef our recipe and method for grilled jumbo
Gulf shrimp served with a horseradish
mango chutney. It’s a delicious dish, and I
know it was served at the first state dinner
in the Clinton administration.
What’s something no one knows about
you?
JS: Barbeque is still my favorite food and
I can eat it virtually every day.
What should people try at your restaurant?
What makes it unique?
JS: Our use of only wood to cook, grill
and barbeque meats, fish and vegetables
really creates a delicious meal. My favorite
items are our spare ribs, beef ribs and
chopped pork.

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