Authentic Georgian BBQ arrives in Grand MaraisMay 31, 2023 09:19AM ● By Content Editor
By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - May 31, 2023
When you think of BBQ in the northland, what comes to mind? Grilling burgers and hotdogs, maybe some potato salad and coleslaw on the side, a bag of chips, and some ketchup. Throw in a Snickers or Jello “salad” and you have happy eaters.
When Michael Doughman and his wife moved to Cook County in February 2022 from southeast Georgia (one hour west of Savannah, to be exact), the northern version of BBQ wasn’t entirely filling the void of the food they had back home.
Fast forward to summer in 2022, and the Doughman’s son Conner and daughter-in-law Brianna (along with their at-the-time one-year-old), joined Michael in Cook County.
“My wife and I both had demanding jobs, and we were looking for a lifestyle where we could actually spend time together,” Michael said of their decision to move.
Michael worked in the medical field and his wife was a correctional officer.
The family started working as hotel managers - specifically at The Shoreline and Aspen Inn in Grand Marais. Because of where they worked, they were able to secure housing right away. But something else was missing.
“We were homesick for the food, and sitting down for a meal together,” Conner said.
This void led to the creation of Big Beard BBQ, a traditional Georgian-style BBQ food stand (and eventually food truck) in Grand Marais.
The family’s love for making authentic, traditional BBQ came originally from Michael and Conner.
“Conner and I liked experimenting with smoking meats and making our own sauce and rubs when we were in Georgia,” Michael said.
Eventually, they started entering regional cookoff competitions, and later, Conner took a job as a pitmaster at a local BBQ restaurant.
As for Brianna, she does “The stuff that isn’t meat-related”.
Brianna said she always supported Michael and Conner’s BBQ endeavors. She also loves to cook.
“I wanted to go to culinary school when I was a kid. I think I started cooking for my family gatherings around age nine,” she said.
Together, the three (along with help from Michael’s wife), made a perfect pairing for bringing traditional Georgian BBQ to Cook County.
If you think all BBQ is the same, you’re wrong.
BBQ varies by region, and each region is pretty proud of the way they do it.
The three share that Georgian BBQ is “Mostly chicken and pork, chopped, and made with mustard-based sauces.”
Another difference is that the meat is served plain, and people pour their own sauce.
The coleslaw is mayo based.
Cornbread is served fried, thin, and “lacey”. It’s aptly called “Lacey Cornbread”.
The family hopes to offer all their favorite foods, eventually.
“We’re doing things slow, so it can be sustainable,” Michael said.
“Yeah, we’re also still working full-time jobs, and have a little one,” Conner and Brianna share.
For now, they’ve been smoking meats at the Shoreline and will be fully utilizing the community kitchen at the Cook County Community Center.
They smoke the meat for 8-10 hours, and make their own gluten-free and msg-free rubs and sauces.
“We are really trying to make our food accessible for as many people as possible,” they said.
Brianna makes the sides and desserts.
Throughout the whole conversation, the trio reminisced about foods they love and hope to share at some point; their passion and love for bringing those things to the north very apparent.
Some of the items that came up were Brunswick stew, pecan pie, red velvet cake, banana pudding, and a bowl of peanuts.
Be warned, a bowl of peanuts is NOT what restaurants used to serve in bowls where people cracked the shells and threw them on the ground.
“Yeah, those are gross,” Michael said.
A bowl of peanuts from the south isn’t roasted, they’re boiled in salty brine or other seasonings.
“The shell is so soft so you can just eat the whole thing,” Brianna said. “They’re delicious.”
Along with learning about potentially new-to-some-of-us foods, the group talked about the community's excitement so far.
“The community has been incredibly excited and supportive. We’ve had people who are from the south try our food, and share how it tastes like home. That’s the best,” Conner said.
Conner also shared that the local food community has been super supportive and helpful, sharing tips and resources that can help them succeed.
“It’s been amazing.”
Big Beard BBQ will be open for now every two weeks, eventually opening once a week - with food pickup happening at the Community Center. They hope to have a presence at some of the bigger community events this summer, such as Fisherman’s Picnic.
The best way to hear about openings and place an order is through their Facebook page, which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/BigBeardBarbeque
Oh, and if you’re wondering how a family from SE Georgia is fairing in our winters, they said they enjoyed their first one.
“I practically wore shorts all winter long,” Conner laughed.